If you think you’re not into science fiction, I get it. Maybe you’re picturing laser guns and spaceship battles and nine-foot tall aliens.
Maybe you think science fiction is a bit simple. A bit stupid. For kids. Or for boys. Maybe you think it’s not real literature. Or maybe you’ve been turned off by the apparent never-ending movie and/or TV franchises of Star Wars and Star Trek.
Or maybe you’ve just never got into it and there’s no particular reason for that. After all, no one reads every single genre, and sci-fi could have passed you by in the same way the horror genre has largely passed me by.
But, whatever the reason, it’s not too late to get into science fiction if you never have before. If you’re still not sure, let’s take a look at why you should read it.
Science fiction asks the important questions
At least, the really good, life-changing science fiction does. Questions like: who are we? Where is humanity heading? What does it mean to be human, and does it even matter? What happens to humans in an automated society? How do we change when our whole lives are online? Are we alone in the universe, and what happens if the answer is no? Where do we go after Earth, and who makes the cut?
If you’ve ever had thoughts like these, then science fiction is for you. And if you’ve never thought about that kind of thing, then it’s probably only a matter of time — because soon science fiction will become science fact.
As the years pass and the climate crisis worsens, question of what happens when Earth becomes uninhabitable will be urgent. Automation of the workforce is barely a blip on most politicians’ radar, but it’s happening — and right now, science fiction is the place where the ramifications are being discussed.
So, where you do start in your science fiction journey? It’s a tough question, and recommendations are hard because science fiction is, believe it or not, a very diverse genre.
If you want to read what started it all — and like a dash of horror with your sci-fi — then Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein might be a good starting point. If feudalism in far-future galaxies sounds more your thing, then Dune by Frank Herbert — often voted the greatest science fiction work ever written — might work for you. For an intricate, meditative work on gender then Ursula K. LeGuin’s masterful The Left Hand Of Darkness is a must-read. If you want a side of humour with your space travel then Douglas Adams and The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy won’t steer you wrong, and if you prefer a combination of action, musings on the nature of humanity and the occasional narcotics-inspired freakout then pretty much anything by Philip K. Dick would surely do the trick.
I could go on. I have not even touched upon the classic cyberpunk of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, or Neal Stephenson’s ever-more-prescient Snow Crash, or George Orwell’s cultural touchstone 1984.
The point is: whatever your interests or literary preferences, there is a science fiction book out there for you — even if you think you don’t enjoy sci-fi. You just have to go and find it.