Science fiction for non science fiction readers

If you read science fiction and fantasy then you are in a minority group in the literary world.

I’m sure many of you science fiction fans have been to parties or gatherings and the conversation has turned to books or literature and someone has asked you what was the last book you read? You answer and then you get that ‘look’. You know the one, that blank stare that’s a mixture of confusion and disdain, bordering on pity.

I hate that look. Just because I’m not reading what someone considers real literature they think I can’t hold an intelligent conversation. When in truth it is they that look at literature through a very narrow lens.

To help people who have never read science fiction here are a few books they can read to test the waters.

Red Mars (1992) by Kim Stanley Robinson. This is the first book in his Mars trilogy but it is a good book to try since there are no faster-than-light spaceships, aliens, ray guns or the like. This book is grounded in reality and real science. It is science fiction but quite plausible as well and with today’s focus on global warming and other environmental effects it is quite relevant as well.

Timescape (1980) by Gregory Benford. This is a personal favourite of mine. Taking place in two time points; the future, 1998, is trying to warn the Earth of 1962-63 with tachyon burst messages in Morse code about the impending doom of Earth, thereby trying to alter the past in order to change the future. The book is filled with several Cold War tropes and does have a distinctly scientific bent, but there is nothing that would be inaccesible to any reader.

How Few Remain (1997) by Harry Turtledove. This alternate history book perhaps should not be classified as science fiction, but a book where the Confederate states win the American Civil War should appeal to a great number of people. This book then opens up to an entirely alternate view of how the world proceeds. These ‘what if’ books are tremendously engaging and entertaining.

The Terminal Experiment (1995) by Robert J. Sawyer. Written at the beginning of the internet boom this book explores life, death, and immortality when three identical experimental computer personalities escape from their computer into the electronic wild. This book could be more correctly described as a mystery, but the use of science and scientific details firmly plant this book into the science fiction genre.

Fahrenheit 451 (1953) by Ray Bradbury. Guy Montag is a fireman. As a fireman it is his job to start fires. More specifically he burns books. Books that have been deemed illegal by the government. But Guy Montag is also a rebel who pilfers and hides these illegal books in order to memorize them. This is an excellent book that is becoming alarmingly relevant once more; especially with the release of altered classic books on the horizon.

These books and others like them should help non science fiction readers ease into the genre. Then perhaps they will have a greater appreciation of science fiction literature.

2 thoughts on “Science fiction for non science fiction readers

  1. I always suggest something by Octavia Butler, “Kindred” unless they like horror-ish stuff, and then I go with “Bloodchild.” I think that Kindred is one of the most accessible s-f books out there for non-s-f fans. And when you delve deeper, she’s written some of the baddest hardest hard sci-fi out there (eg, “Lilith’s Brood” or “Seed to Harvest”). As for Kim S. Robinson, I don’t think I’d suggest “Red Mars” as a starting place (if only because of the length), maybe one of the Three Californias novels, or “Antarctica” for a newbie. I like the post a lot though, please don’t get me wrong! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go delve into your archives, I love finding a new blog!


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