Top 10 Opening Lines in Science Fiction and Fantasy

Great first lines grab the reader by the balls—eyeballs, that is. That line shows the reader a peek at what your story is going to be about.  It’s your chance to set the tone, voice, theme, setting, etc. Is it going to be high fantasy or poetic cyberpunk? Is it set in a world unlike ours? Is it ironic or whimsical? Think of that first line as your opening “we’re not in Kansas anymore” salvo.

Here are my favorite opening lines in science fiction and fantasy novels:

  1. “The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to a dead channel.”

    Neuromancer, William Gibson.


  2. "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking 13.”

    1984, George Orwell.


  3. "It was a pleasure to burn.”

    Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury.


  4. "Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."

    Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams.


  5. "All children, except one, grow up."

    Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie


  6. "The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette."

    The Princess Bride, William Goldman


  7. “What’s it going to be then, eh?” There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry. 

    Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess.


  8. "In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”

    The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien.


  9. “Marley was dead, to begin with.”

    A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens


  10. “Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening Hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.”

    The Golden Compass, Philip Pullman

Ok, A Christmas Carol isn’t technically considered SF/F, but it does have ghosts in it.

What are your favorite opening lines?  Any genre.

10 comments:

Leah Cypess said...

SO many. But since I must choose:
"Now I have to start lying." SPLIT, by Swati Avasthi

Carol Riggs said...

Nice compilation! I just recently re-imagined my first line for my light sci-fi (it needed it). It's much stronger now, and gives a step into that unknown and diff world.

The only line I can think of off the top of my head is Susan Fletcher's DRAGON'S MILK: "Something was wrong." Simple, yet effective. (it's fantasy, tho that line in itself doesn't show the genre)

Monica Zepeda said...

"Today I'm going to meet a boy, Jane Purdy told herself, as she walked up Blossom Street toward her baby-sitting job." - Beverly Clearly, Fifteen

(I memorized this one as a kid and still remember it.)

Diva Schuyler said...

"The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say." ~Patrick Ness, The Knife of Never Letting Go

Love this list! Makes me want to revisit some of these amazing reads.

Matthew MacNish said...

Love your selections! We used to play a fun game on Twitter, #betterfirstlines, where you remix famous first lines to make them funny.

So Neuromancer would be:

"The sky above the port was the color of television tuned to the Bravo channel.”

Or 1984 might be:

"It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were on strike.”

Anyway, good stuff, thanks!

Katie L. Carroll (KT) said...

I have to add M.T. Anderson's Feed:
"We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck."

Angie Smibert said...

How could I forget Feed? One of my favorite books! And I love the Knife of Letting Go line. Haven't had a chance to read the book yet.

Nisa said...

Christmas Carol totally counts, I say! That is an awesome collection of incredible beginnings.

Jessi said...

I peered into the deep-sea canyon, hoping to spot a toppled skyscraper.
Dark Life by Kat Falls, a very good YA dystopian novel.

Henry Jordan said...

It sounds hilarious to me when I remember the first ever novel of my life which I read, it was Bram Stoker's Drakula. LOL!

The Equation Book