I compiled the list. The criteria are authors of science fiction or any sub-genre.
I find that the best science-fiction writers are among some of the most creative writers ever. These authors made my list. I have read the people I have listed. Most will disagree, but these are my favorites.
1. Ray Douglas Bradbury (August 22, 1920 – June 5, 2012) was an American fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery fiction author. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) and the science fiction and horror stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles (1950) and The Illustrated Man (1951). Bradbury was one of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers. He wrote and consulted on many screenplays and television scripts. These include Moby Dick, and It Came from Outer Space. Many of his works were made into comic books, television shows, and films.
2. Isaac Asimov (born Isaak Yudovich Ozimov; circa January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was prolific and wrote or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards. His books have been published in 9 of the 10 major categories of the Dewey Decimal Classification.
Asimov is widely considered a master of hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke; he was regarded as one of the “Big Three” science fiction writers during his lifetime. Asimov’s most famous work is the Foundation Series; his other major series are the Galactic Empire series and the Robot series. The Galactic Empire novels are explicitly set in earlier history of the same fictional universe as the Foundation Series. Later, beginning with Foundation’s Edge, he linked this distant future to the Robot and Spacer stories, creating a unified “future history” for his stories much like those pioneered by Robert A. Heinlein and before produced by Cordwainer Smith and Poul Anderson. He wrote hundreds of short stories, including the social science fiction “Nightfall”, which in 1964 was voted by the Science Fiction Writers of America the best short science fiction story of all time. Asimov wrote the Lucky Starr series of juvenile science-fiction novels using the pen name Paul French.
Asimov also wrote mysteries and fantasy, as well as much nonfiction. Most of his popular science books explain scientific concepts in a historical way, going as far back as possible to a time when the science in question was at its simplest stage. He often provides nationalities, birth dates, and death dates for the scientists he mentions, as well as etymologies and pronunciation guides for technical terms. Examples include Guide to Science, the three-volume set Understanding Physics, and Asimov’s Chronology of Science and Discovery, as well as works on astronomy, mathematics, history, William Shakespeare’s writing, and chemistry.
3. Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS (Sri Lankabhimanya Arthur Charles Clarke) (16 December 1917 – 19 March 2008) was a British science fiction writer, science writer and futurist, inventor, undersea explorer, and television series host.
He is perhaps most famous for being co-writer of the screenplay for the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, widely considered to be one of the most influential films of all time. His other science fiction writings earned him a number of Hugo and Nebula awards, along with a broad readership, making him into one of the towering figures of the field. For many years, he, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov were known as the “Big Three” of science fiction.
Clarke was a lifelong proponent of space travel. In 1934, while still a teenager, he joined the British Interplanetary Society. In 1945, he proposed a satellite communication system — an idea that, in 1963, won him the Franklin Institute’s Stuart Ballantine Medal and other honors. Later he was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1946–47 and again in 1951–53.
Clarke was a science writer, who was both an avid populariser of space travel and a futurist of uncanny ability, and wrote over a dozen books and many essays (which appeared in various popular magazines) on these subjects. In 1961, he was awarded a Kalinga Prize, an award given by UNESCO for popularizing science. These along with his science fiction writings, eventually earned him the moniker “Prophet of the Space Age”.
4. Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. Often called the “dean of science fiction writers,” he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre in his time. He set a standard for scientific and engineering plausibility, and helped to raise the genre’s standards of literary quality.
He was one of the first science fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. He was one of the best-selling science fiction novelists for many decades, and he, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke are often considered to be the “Big Three” of science fiction authors.
A notable writer of science fiction short stories, Heinlein was one of a group of writers who came to prominence under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Jr. in his Astounding Science Fiction magazine—though Heinlein denied that Campbell influenced his writing to any great degree.
Within the framework of his science fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of personal liberty and self-reliance, the obligation people owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought. He also speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices.
Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master in 1974. He won Hugo Awards for four of his novels; in addition, fifty years after publication, three of his works were awarded “Retro Hugos”—awards given retrospectively for works that were published before the Hugo Awards came into existence. In his fiction, Heinlein coined terms that have become part of the English language, including “grok” and “waldo”, and speculative fiction, as well as popularizing the terms like “TANSTAAFL”, “pay it forward”, and space marine. He also described a modern version of a waterbed in his novel The Door Into Summer, though he never patented or built one. Several of Heinlein’s works have been adapted for film and television. In Chapter 3 of the novel “Podkayne of Mars” he anticipated the cell phone, 20 years before the technology was invented by Motorola.
5. Orson Scott Card (born August 24, 1951) is an American novelist, critic, public speaker, essayist and columnist. He writes in several genres but is known best for science fiction. His novel Ender’s Game (1985) and its sequel Speaker for the Dead (1986) both won Hugo and Nebula Awards, making Card the only author to win both science fiction’s top U.S. prizes in consecutive years. A feature film adaptation of Ender’s Game, which Card co-produced, was released in late October 2013 in Europe and on November 1, 2013, in North America.
Card is a professor of English at Southern Virginia University, has written two books on the subject of creative writing, hosts writing bootcamps and workshops, and serves as a judge in the Writers of the Future contest. A great-great-grandson of Brigham Young, Card is a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). In addition to producing a large body of fiction works, he has also offered political, religious, and social commentary in his columns and other writing.
6. Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr. (October 8, 1920 – February 11, 1986) was an American science fiction writer best known for the novel Dune and its five sequels. Though he became famous for science fiction, he was also a newspaper journalist, photographer, short story writer, book reviewer, ecological consultant and lecturer.
The Dune saga, set in the distant future and taking place over millennia, deals with complex themes such as human survival and evolution, ecology, and the intersection of religion, politics and power. Dune itself is the “best-selling science fiction novel of all time” and the series is widely considered to be among the classics of the genre.
The photo is Frank Hebert, Jr. I met him at a conference in the late 1970s where he was a speaker.
References: Wikipedia articles on the authors.