For as long as I could remember, I was guilty of dismissing Science Fiction as frivolous, if not tacky reading. I was convinced that it would contain all characters called Beep Boop 123 or Zphldiznmike and have generic plot lines difficult to relate to. I dwelled instead between the pages of Classic Literature and Contemporary Fiction with many vacations to the shores of Crime and Mystery, and I was happy.
That was, until my brother bought me Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein for Christmas. I was less than enthused, but I really try to read recommendations. This was the gateway drug to my beloved niche of Science Fiction, which I call Early to Mid-20th Century Sci Fi. There is probably a better categorical name, but I am still a newcomer!
Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick and Arthur C Clarke have become pillars that I worship at. They generally write from a period just after World War II, and a lot of the fiction extends expectations and predictions as to what life would look like in the era that we now inhabit. The writing and narrative lends itself in the same way as a lot of the classic literature I was used to, a la Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, which let me dip my toe in with comfort.
The writing is rich and beautiful, and I was fascinated and satisfied, in a way, to compare our modern time to what these writers expected from the future all those years ago. The characters are complexly drawn, and still relatable as we currently sit on the brink of new technology at all times. We are still the humanity that could reach deep into the galaxy, could go to war with robots, could be wiped out by alien forces and buy the farm. These works are philosophical, beautiful, haunting and comedic. They encourage forward thinking, demand empathy with their characters, and are no less entertaining for it. They are diverse and wonderful; some will have you yearning for the future they describe, and some will break your goddamn heart.
So now, readers, I implore you. Read Science Fiction. Just try it out, take it for a test drive. It doesn’t have to be the same sub-genre that I prefer, however I do think it a good starting point for literary enthusiasts that mainly read Classics.
If you are interested in some of the readings that drew me in, here a couple favourites:
Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
The Martian Chronicles – Ray Bradbury
Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein
Stranger in a Strange Land – Robert A Heinlein
2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthur C. Clark
Slaughterhouse 5 – Kurt Vonnegut
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep – Philip K. Dick
I, Robot – Isaac Asimov