I'm trying to understand how big the influence of translated SF is in the English speaking world. Part of the question is which is the single most influential work from outside.

So, which story or novel that was not originally published in English has been most often cited in other works, as measured by number of citations in Google Scholar?

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    Honorable mention shoutout to Čapek's Czech-language play "R.U.R.", which introduced the word "robot". A virtually unknown work, but the word is so common in SciFi that I feel it deserves mentioning.
    – Plutor
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 17:27
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    The Little Prince. Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 18:13
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    @RoddyoftheFrozenPeas - is Exuperie (sp?) SciFi? I mean it has some SciFi trappings, but I'm unsure he himself classified Little Prince as such. Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 19:50
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    You mean "how small the influence of translated SF is in the English speaking world", especially when you compare to the massive influence of English language SF translated in others.
    – MatthieuW
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 10:19
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    <deleted comments> Folks, let's skip the whole 'is the Bible fiction?' discussion, this isn't the site for that.
    – user1027
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 15:27

9 Answers 9


I'm pretty sure Jules Verne is going to be a frontrunner of this. He wrote originally in French, and is the second most translated author in the world (after Shakespeare and just before Agatha Christie). He has had a major influence on Science Fiction for more than a hundred years, with multiple screen adaptations.

EDIT: The question asked for a work. It's hard to choose between his most popular science fiction works (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Journey to the Centre of the Earth; From the Earth to the Moon) and I can't find sales figures for each, but if I had to guess it has to be 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

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    Can't argue with choice of Jules Verne, was going to suggest him myself. As a distant second, maybe Karel Čapek, especially his R.U.R and War with the Newts?
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 17:30
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    Great answer. Verne's work is so ubiquitous and accessible that it's easy to forget he wrote in French.
    – Plutor
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 17:30
  • When I first posted, saw yours beat me by 6 mins. Must have been composing answers at the same time and yours posted first. Have to give you an upvote.
    – Stan
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 19:28
  • But yours is more complete. So you get an upvote too. Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 19:56
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    The question actually asked for a work rather than an author. I guess it would be 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 10:35

I would guess it is the works of Stanislaw Lem. "Cyberiad" has been translated into English, widely published, and widely cited. "Solaris" was made into a Hollywood movie.

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    When I read contemprory SF, I recognize more Lem than Asimov - because Lem dealt with cybernetics back when that was the term for Computer Sciences, and wrote about transhumanism before that was a word.
    – mart
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 19:52
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    Did the Cyberiad really influence English SF much?
    – b_jonas
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 20:46
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    Came here to say this. Stanislaw Lem is the most important non-English SF author of the 20th century. Clearly Jules Verne is the most important non-English author of the 19th century.
    – Warren P
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 20:53
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    @user14111, we are talking about non-English writers. While Asimov was born in Russia, he wrote in English. And Heinlein is as American as apple pie.
    – Dima
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 14:14
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    I thought since the question talks about "English-speaking world", it was clear that "English authors" is a short-hand for "English language authors", not only authors from England.
    – Dima
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 21:13

Consider Jules Verne. Considered by many to be one of the 'Fathers of Science Fiction', his works started being translated into English in 1852. According to the Wikipedia article, he's the second most translated author in the world since 1979, and was probably the most translated during the 1960's & 70's. Unfortunately, the article doesn't provide numbers on the translations by story/novel (and I don't know where that information could be obtained) but think about how many folks have read classics like '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea', 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' or 'From the Earth to the Moon'.

He is the most translated novelist in the world (148 languages according to UNESCO) see NAJVS


Not sure if Pierre Boulle would count. Although the book La Planète des singes wasn't particularly popular outside of France, the various Planet of the Apes films which were (loosely) based on it have been extremely influential.

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    +1 | I am going to have to agree with you, Daniel. Verne is no doubt an undisputed world traveler but the Planet of the Apes is no joke for a movie series both in its original format and the recent upgrade for invading the mindspace of science fiction fans. Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 20:54

If think Karel Čapek with his play R.U.R influenced SF quite heavily with his univrsally recognized word robot.

  • The War with the Newts is also very good; personally I find it more enjoyable than R.U.R. Haven't read anything else by him. Is Absolute at Large any good?
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 10:33
  • Unfortunately, I've read only War with the Newts, so I cannot be of help here.
    – jnovacho
    Commented Oct 29, 2013 at 10:41

Even though the question is tagged as "written", a 1927 film "Metropolis" by Fritz Lang definitely deserves a mention, being an exceptionally influential work of Sci-Fi and seen by a considerable number of people.


With Jules Verne and Stanislav Lem the best known non-english SF writers of the 19th and 20th century respectively, some earlier notable SF writers who were eventually widely circulated in English include:

18th century:

Ludvig Holberg Danish/Norwegian author publishing Niels Klim's underground travels in 1741. Describes a solar system inside the earth with several inhabited planets. Widely published in several european languages

Voltaire French writer and philosopher who wrote the 1792 short-story Micromégas where Earth is visted by two aliens from Saturn and Sirius.

17th century:

Johannes Kepler German astronomer writing Somnium between 1620 and 1630. Contains detailed descriptions of how the earth would look like from the moon.

Cyrano de Bergerac French dramatist who wrote Comical history of the states and empires of the moon, published posthumously in 1657. Arthur C. Clarke credited this novel with the first description of rocket-powered space flight and the ramjet.

2nd century:

Lucian of Samosata (AD 125 - AD 180) a Syrian satirist writing in Greek, who wrote True History a satire of contemporary works which manages to include space travel, aliens and interplanetary warfare.


We by Yevgeney Zamyatin (Russian, 1921), influenced e.g. George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Ayn Rand, Kurt Vonnegut. That's quite a long reach.

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    Yes. Though "We" was first published in english, so it was not so much translated as written by someone with another mother-tongue. Other notable examples include Isaac Asimov who was born in Russia and who's mother-tongue was jiddisch. A mirror-reverse is the Sri Lankan author Arthur C. Clarke. He lived there from 1956 until his death in 2008 though his mother-tongue was of course english.
    – Abulafia
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 22:13
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    @Abulafia: Written in Russian. First published in English only because the Soviet censors banned it. According to Wikipedia the first English translation was by Gregory Zilboorg.
    – user14111
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 22:25
  • Ah ok, my mistake!
    – Abulafia
    Commented Oct 30, 2013 at 22:28

Some sort of "honorable mention" for Arkady and Boris Strugatsky's Roadside Picnic which turned into, among other things, the Tarkovsky film "Stalker", and their book Monday [Begins|Starts] on Saturday (which is more soviet-science-fantasy)?

Heavily influential on me, at any rate. Pretty small sample size.

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