Sci Fi Meets Mystery: Detecting in Future Time

TS-512327828 Sci Fi Mystery-candles

By Katherine Sharma

In previous posts, I focused on mysteries set in past historical eras, but some mysteries leap into the future, and this marriage of science fiction with mystery has attracted best-selling authors and awards.

caves of steelStart with sci-fi titan Isaac Asimov, who wrote Caves of Steel back in 1953 to prove to his doubting editor that mystery and science fiction were not incompatible genres. The result: On an overpopulated future Earth, a New York City police detective, who dislikes his arrogant Spacer superiors and their robotic companions, is sent to the Outer Worlds to track down the killer of a Spacer, aided by a robot partner made in the likeness of the murder victim.


adromedaThe Andromeda Strain, by best-selling Michael Crichton, is a techno-thriller rather than a who-done-it, but it’s a great puzzle pitting a hero bacteriologist and his flawed team in a race to decipher clues and stop a murderous alien “biological agent” released by the crash of a military satellite before they are destroyed by a quarantining nuclear blast.


yiddishMeanwhile, Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union is set in a “temporary” Jewish settlement in Sitka, formed after Israel’s imagined collapse in 1948 and now about to revert to Alaskan control, where homicide detective Meyer Landsman investigates the murder of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, and runs afoul of old forces of faith and evil.


the cityThe City & The City, by China Mieville, is a police procedural involving a psychic journey across borders as two detectives in neighbor cities, one in the decaying city of Beszel and one in the vibrant city of Ul Qoma, are drawn by a woman’s murder into an underworld of nationalists intent on destroying the rival city and unificationists seeking to combine them.


demolished manFinally, Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man won a Hugo back in 1953 yet seems strangely apropos today: In the year 2301, guns are only museum pieces, and benign telepaths sweep the minds of the populace to detect crimes before they happen, so murder is virtually impossible–until Ben Reich, a psychopathic business magnate, devises a scheme to eliminate the competition and destroy the social order.


There are just too many options to note here, so check out


Katherine Sharma’s family roots are in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. But after her early childhood in Texas, she has moved around the country and lived in seven other states, from Virginia to Hawaii. She currently resides in California with her husband and three children. She has also traveled extensively in Europe, Africa and Asia, and makes regular visits to family in India. After receiving her bachelor’s degree. in economics and her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan, Katherine worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor for more than 15 years. She then shifted into management and marketing roles for firms in industries ranging from outdoor recreation to insurance to direct marketing. Although Katherine still works as a marketing consultant, she is now focused on creative writing.