Sci-Fi Novels/Short Stories about Overpopulation Index

Extrapolating the social ramifications of an overpopulated world is a theme in science fiction (especially from the 60s and 70s) which particularly interests me.  Not only can an overpopulated world make a fascinating backdrop to a straightforward plot (Robert Silverberg’s The Time Hoppers) but can also serve as the motivating superstructure of an entire novel (John Brunner’s monolithic Stand on Zanzibar).

 An overpopulated world is often characterized by a breakdown of existing cultural and moral barriers, the “mechanization” or increasing “programmability” of mankind, societal good increasingly aimed at production or reproduction, landscapes plagued by extreme pollution (disease, extinctions, etc), and of course, a protagonist with traditionalist philosophies (for example, remembering the allure of “working the land” in the past less-populated world).

A few works below concern overpopulation on alien worlds…

I’ve decided to compile a list (updated as I discover more) of sci-fi books and movies (my review in bold) which feature overpopulation in some form or another.  I’ve listed them by release date.


Science Fiction Novels/Short Stories

Miriam Allen deFord, “Throwback” (1952), 4/5 (Good)

Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel (1954), 4/5 (Good)

Miriam Allen deFord, “One Way” (1955), 4/5 (Good)

Robert A. Heinlein, Tunnel in the Sky (1955), 4/5 (Good)

Frederik Pohl, “The Census Takers” (1956), (unread)

Robert Silverberg, “Why?” (1957), 4/5 (Good)

Robert Silverberg, “Force of Mortality?” (1957), 3.5/5 (Good)

J. G. Ballard, “The Concentration City” (variant titles: “Build-Up” and “The Disaster Area”) (1957), 4.75/5 (Very Good)

Robert Silverberg, Master of Life and Death (1957), .25/5 (horrible)

Robert Sheckley, “The Minimum Man” (1958), 4.25/5 (Good)

C. M. Kornbluth, “Shark Ship” (variant title: “Reap the Dark Tide”) (1958), (unread)

Robert Bloch, This Crowded Earth (1958), (unread)

Alice Glaser, “The Tunnel Ahead” (1961), (unread)

Anthony Burgess, The Wanting Seed (1962), (unread)

J. G. Ballard, “Billenium” (1962), (unread)

Lester Del Rey, The Eleventh Commandment (1962, revised 1970), 3.75/5 (Good)

Frederik Pohl, “The Deadly Mission of Phineas Snodgrass” (1962, revised as “The Deadly Mission of P. Snodgrass”, 1970), (unread)

Jane Roberts, The Rebellers (1963), (unread)

Brian W. Aldiss, Earthworks (1965), rating: 3.5/5 (Average)

D. G. Compton, The Quality of Mercy (1965), rating: 4/5 (Good)

Harry Harrison, Make Room! Make Room! (1966) (unread)

Keith Roberts, “The Deeps” (1966) 4/5 (Good)

Roger Zelazny, The Dream Master (1966), 4/5 (Good)

Philip E. High, The Mad Metropolis (1966), (unread)

Kit Reed, “At Central” (1967), 5/5 (Near Masterpiece)

Clifford D. Simak, Why Call Them Back From Heaven? (1967), rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Robert Silverberg, To Open the Sky (1967), rating: 3.5/5 (Good)

Robert Silverberg, The Time Hoppers (1967), rating: 2.5/5 (Average)

Louis Charbonneau, Down to Earth (1967), rating: 2/5 (Bad)

Irving A. Greenfield, Waters of Death (1967), rating: 1/5 (Terrible)

Harry Harrison, “A Criminal Act” (1967), (unread)

James Blish and Norman L. Knight, A Torrent of Faces (1967), (unread)

John Brunner, Stand on Zanibar (1968), rating: 5/5 (Masterpiece — my all time favorite sci-fi novel)

Robert Sheckley, “The People Trap” (1968), rating: 4/5 (Good)

Brian W. Aldiss, “Total Environment” (1968), (unread)

Kurt Vonnegut, ‘Welcome to the Monkey House’ (1968), (unread)

James Blish, “We All Die Naked” (1969), rating: 4/5 (Good)

Raul R. Ehrlich, “Eco-Catastrophe!” (1969), (unread)

Roger Zelazny, “The Eve of RUMOKO” (1969), rating: 3/5 (Average)

Joanna Russ, And Chaos Died (1970), rating 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Dean R. Koontz, Anti-Man (1970), (unread)

James Blish, “Statistician’s Day” (1970), (unread)

Don Pendleton, 1989: Population Doomsday (variant title: Population Doomsday) (1970), (unread)

Kate Wilhelm, “Where Have You Been, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?” (1971), 3.5/5 (Good)

Maggie Nadler, “The Secret” (1971), (unread)

T. J. Bass, Half Past Human (1971), rating: 2.5/5 (Average)

Harry Harrison, “Roommates” (1971), (unread)

Gordon R. Dickson, The Outposter (1971), (unread)

Robert Silverberg, The World Inside (1971), rating: 5/5 (Masterpiece)

Max Ehrlich, The Edict (1971), (unread)

Ursula Le Guin, The Lathe of Heaven (1971), (unread)

Dan Morgan, Inside (1971), 3/5 (Average)

Frank M. Robinson, “East Wind, West Wind” (1972), (unread)

Kurt Vonnegut, “The Big Space Fuck” (1972), (unread)

Marion Zimmer Bradley, Darkover Landfall (1972), 3/5 (Average)

Andrew J. Offutt, The Castle Keeps (1972), (unread)

Thomas M. Disch, 334 (1972), (unread)

Michael Elder, Nowhere on Earth (1972), (unread)

Edmund Cooper, The Tenth Planet (1973), (unread)

Colin Free, Soft Kill (1973), (unread)

John Jakes, On Wheels (1973), (unread)

Michael G. Coney, Friends Come in Boxes (1973), 4.25/5 (Good)

Stanislaw Lem, The Futurological Congress (1974), 4.5/5 (Very Good)

John Hershey, My Petition for More Space (1974), (unread)

Alan E. Nourse, The Bladerunner (1974), (unread)

J. G. Ballard, High-Rise (1975), rating: 4.5/5 (Very Good)

Evelyn E. Smith, Unpopular Planet (1975), (unread)

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Time of the Fourth Horseman (1976), (unread)

George Guthridge, “Dolls Demise” (1976), (unread)

William Walding, “Triage” (1976), (unread)

Mark Adlard, Interface (1977), (unread)

Colin Kapp, Manalone (1977), (unread)

Axel Madsen, Unisave (1980), (unread)

Philip José Farmer, Dayworld (1985), (unread)

Philip José Farmer, Dayworld Rebel (1987), (unread)

Barry B. Longyear, Sea of Glass (1987), (unread)

David Brin and Gregory Benford, Heart of the Comet (1987), (unread)

Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Stephen Barnes, Legacy of Heorot (1987), (unread)

Philip José Farmer, Dayworld Breakup (1990), (unread)

David Brin, Earth (1990), (unread)

Charles Harness, Lunar Justice (1991), (unread)

George Turner, The Destiny Makers (1993), (unread)

Charles Stross, Accelerando (2005), (unread)

Brian Aldiss, Finches of Mars (2013), (unread)


Science Fiction Anthologies

Future City (1972), ed. Roger Elwood, rating: 3.25/5 (Average)

No Room For Man (1979), ed. Joseph D. Olander, Martin Harry Greenberg, Ralf S. Clem, (unread)


Science Fiction Movies

Michael Campus, J.P.G (1972), (unseen)

Richard Fleischer, Soylent Green (1973), rating: 6.75/10 (Average)

Neill Blomkomp, Elysium (2013), (unseen)

15 thoughts on “Sci-Fi Novels/Short Stories about Overpopulation Index”

  1. Some are quite terrible — for example, Silverberg’s Master of Life and Death. I highly recommend Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar, Ballard’s High-Rise, Silverberg’s The World Inside Compton’s The Quality of Mercy, and Joanna Russ’ And Chaos Died…

    Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Well that tears it, I need to get a copy of Stand on Zanzibar! And I realize this is a douchey thing to do (soliciting opinions) but I wrote a dystopian story based on overpopulation and water depletion (Source). Any interest in taking a look at it?

  3. I’m trying to locate a short story I read 30 years ago about a public relations guy who is hired to help the government develop a program to reduce the population. He comes up with several ideas promoting sterility, suicide, etc. but the program works a little too well & things spiral out of control with mass suicides, death-cults & the like. In the end he’s left with the last group of people on earth who are counting on him to mate with the last females to repopulate the earth. I remember the last line of the story was “I don’t have the heart to tell them I’m sterile”. I also remember that the President of the USA now dresses up like Uncle Sam (lol). It was a fantastic story & I wish I could find it again. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  4. I’ve one to add — the short story “The Tunnel Ahead” by Alice Glaser. Think an alternative version of “The Lottery” in an extremely overpopulated earth.

  5. Sometimes make SF references in my econ blogs. Need help recalling author/title of a short story plot I remember. In an overpopulated world parents take kids to a fair and they pay by taking a random chance on death. Kids keep asking for more stuff.

  6. Hi,
    What was the title of the SF short story with this scenario?
    Humankind had split into a seafaring group that lived by fishing and never returned to the land, and a land-bound group that had developed a culture of murder and mayhem to deal with a massive overpopulation problem, with its seminal figure presented as a kind of anti-Hugh Hefner.
    Seems to have been inspired by Calhoun’s experiments on overpopulation in artificial rat and mouse colonies.

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