Sci-fi enthusiasts, help please! Here is your chance to evangelize by telling a newbie about the incredible joys of reading sci-fi. And, for readers interested in getting into sci-fi, this is for you. Let’s talk about sci-fi for newcomers to the genre or those out of the loop.
My Background. Growing up, I was discouraged from reading sci-fi for who-knows-what. My family was religious but also had their oddities. My father is a narcissist and when he doesn’t understand something, it’s wrong. Therefore, outlawed. His authority was final (or what he likes to think).
Say, we’re watching Star Wars and the whole time he’s apathetic because he isn’t into it, so he has this passive-aggressive tone of “why are you into this?” the entire time. We ignore it. Now, we’re at the scene at the scene where the Millenium Falcon jumps into hyperspace, and we’re talking about the physics. His ears perk up because he has a Master’s in Physics and here’s a topic he knows well about—but unfamiliar with the extended imagination of sci-fi. He asks about it but as we discuss it, he feels out of place because he isn’t the “expert” in the room. His fragile ego is bruised. Most people would either move on, admit they’re not into scifi or Star Wars, or like learning something new or interesting. A narcissist cannot understand that people are different and have their differences, because other people are simply extensions of themselves or pawns/accessories to control. So, my father thinks that watching Star Wars or any sci-fi is bad TV. He then bans it for all of us. Any questions will only lead to fights, drama.
My mother wasn’t controlling in the same way. She assumed that I don’t like sci-fi, because she doesn’t. And dismisses it as weird, trashy, or poor literary quality. Yet, I’ve found her paperback romances and witnessed her watching Bold and The Beautiful. Go figure!
Then, there’s religious fanaticism. At one time, my family decided to become born-again Christians—pentecostal-charismatic to be exact. I was the last one to be converted. Now, I left religion behind me. Back then, I was discouraged from sci-fi. It’s one of those cults where your involvement, friendships, and entire life revolves around the church. Friendships with outsiders was discouraged, as well as anything “secular.” For instance, purity movement was pushed on me and that wasn’t just limited to sexual abstinence. Purity is about keeping away from any secular influences whether it be watching Friends, going out to a bar for a drink ‘cuz demons can use that as an opportunity to attack you and turn you into an alcoholic, hanging out with non-believers or even Christians from other churches was frowned on, and of course avoiding secular sci-fi that often supposedly has an ungodly agenda.
Looking back, I wonder how I put up with that! I don’t know how it’s possible to live with such constant fear. It eventually got exhausting. Like my narcissistic father, church people around me considered what they didn’t understand as “demonic.” Everything outside their safe bubble was spiritually dangerous.
The girls in my Christian circle were obnoxious for their try-hard godly femininity image projection. And you can guess that interest in sci-fi didn’t fit. I had nothing in common. I was surrounded by individuals who ask questions like, “Do women write sci-fi?” Ugh! Talk about sheltered.
I didn’t attend their Christian school (that resembled the one in Saved) but instead local public school. Through school, I read short stories in classes and novels. I have read classic sci-fi and other novels as a teenager. Since childhood, I had a fascination with astronomy and the endless possibilities of vast space. The mystery of space is beautiful and fascinating. I still watched Doctor Who. During my undergrad, we read Ursula Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, which my old pastor dismissed as an agenda of a feminist wanting to push ideas that go against God’s design of male and female genders.
Then, when I became a freelance editor, I discovered that I love editing speculative and science fiction. I appreciated the world-building aspects. Four years ago, at the Grub Street yearly writers conference, The Muse and The Marketplace, I had conversations with writers who mentioned that their favorite part of sci-fi was talking about controversial topics or critique society in a different context such as otherworldly planets.
I’m now wanting to explore more. If you too are unfamiliar with sci-fi, let’s talk. And to those sci-fi enthusiasts, please share recommendations.
I posted two videos below for others like me interested in getting into the genre. The first one tells you about different sub-genres in the sci-fi/fantasy genre.
Here’s what I’ve read or seen, not necessarily my recommendations.
Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Not technically scifi, but inspiring science writing. His speech “The Pale Blue Dot” is very humbling! Everyone should listen to this. There’s something about knowing the vastness of space. Pondering about the universe and its endless possibilities stretch the imagination. I want to print his words out with the picture and post it in my office room as my daily meditation or “prayer.”
Cosmos series TV. Highly recommended. Learning about astronomy is “a truly humbling, character building experience.”
Doctor Who series.
Classic Doctor Who
The Misfits (I love British scifi TV)
Frank Herbert’s Dune (meh! didn’t get into it)
Ursula LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness
Peter Watt’s Starfish* (meh! boring writing at times because the characters were too flat)
Linda Nagata’s Vast
H.G. Wells The Time Machine and War of the Worlds
Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles
Andy Weir’s The Martian and Artemis
I’m going to explore space operas, urban sci-fi, and magic realism. I like the idea of magic being portrayed as something ordinary than sensational. I’ve read literary magic realism of Wayetu Moore, Karen Russell, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Go ahead and tell me your suggestions. Since sci-fi is forward-thinking, I’d rather read contemporary sci-fi and then go backwards to classic sci-fi. As a curious reader, I’m open to all kinds. I don’t read horror or stories with flat characters, because I find them boring. Stories with interesting characters hook me.