Lately it seems I’ve come across more and more people who love science fiction, yet their total exposure to the genre is through film and television. They’ve watched every episode of Star Trek, seen more Star Wars movies than I have, they’ve seen Farscape, and Torchwood and Firefly. (Every single one of them adores Firefly.)
They have never read a science fiction novel that wasn’t a spinoff from a television series or a movie or a computer game.
These people love science fiction as much as I do, and most of them are far more fanatical. They go to conventions, they join forums to talk about their favourite shows/characters, and they meet up with fellow aficionados. Some of them are even writing novels. Good novels.
I just wish there was a way to steer them toward science fiction books. There are some stories out there they’d love.
I wouldn’t steer them toward the grand masters from the golden age of science fiction. They were good for their time, but that time isn’t now. I’d start them with what they’re enjoying at the moment. Light military science fiction. John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, Tanya Huff’s Confederation series, maybe even Louis McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan books. Then I’d go on to some of the more modern day classics. Some early Connie Willis. Finally I’d move on to some of the more thought-provoking or deeper science stories. Vernor Vinge, Paolo Bacagalupi, Elizabeth Bear and others.
Except, no matter how much I coax, I can’t convince these fans to read them.
Fantasy doesn’t seem to have the same problem
People who are introduced to fantasy via the movies, however, often graduate to other books.
I wonder if this is because a lot of fantasy you get on television and film comes from books anyway. The three most obvious being Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and A Song of Ice and Fire.
Many fantasy readers start off with the movies, graduate to the books and before you know it they’re waxing lyrical about Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson and Joe Abercrombie.
Don’t jump in at the deep end
Unlike fantasy, science fiction created new stories for the new media. There are a few standouts that came the other way, like BladeRunner, but I’m generalising here. And let’s be honest, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (the story that spawned Bladerunner) is probably not the first story you would give someone to introduce them to science fiction as a novel. You need to ease into it gently.
Easing into it is important. Not everyone wants heavy science in their fiction, at least, not at first. If you ask the people who have been introduced to sci-fi through media-related material what they like about it, I’m sure that most of them would say the characters, the action and the humour.
They need stories with those same characteristics.
There are dozens of stories just like that in novels that these fans would love.
If only they would read them.