Techno-thrillers tend to have a broad scope in the narrative, and can often be regarded as contemporary speculative fiction—world wars are a common topic—and techno-thrillers often overlap, as far as the genre goes, with near-future science fiction. To the extent that technology is now a dominant aspect of modern global culture, most modern thrillers are 'techno-thrillers', and the genre is somewhat diffuse. The category of technothriller blurs smoothly into the category of hard science fiction; the defining characteristics of technothriller are an emphasis on real-world or plausible near-future technology and a focus on military or military-political action.
Michael Crichton and Tom Clancy are considered as the father of the "modern techno-thriller;" Crichton's book The Andromeda Strain and Clancy's book The Hunt for Red October set out the type example which defined the genre, although many authors had been writing similar material earlier. Nigel Balchin wrote earlier examples of similar stories during the 1940s. Other early examples of techno-thriller, written before the category had been well defined as a subgenre, include Fail-Safe (1962) by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler, The Penetrators (1965) by Hank Searls (writing as Anthony Grey); Tree Frog by Martin Woodhouse (1966), North Cape (1969) by Joe Poyer, and Firefox by Craig Thomas' (1977), later made into a movie, and Shuttle Down, by G. Harry Stine (writing as Lee Correy) (1981).