Thursday, October 13, 2016

Science Fiction for Reluctant Science Fiction Readers

Ringed Planet. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 25 May 2016. Accessed 29 Sep 2016.
Science fiction can be an acquired taste. Some readers grew up on it; others never quite saw the appeal of stories involving time travel, alien contact, space exploration, or the ways in which these concepts can be used to explore moral and intellectual debates. But if you’re a reader who’d like to ease their way into the genre, there are a few great places to begin.
~Tobias Carroll, "Science Fiction Books For People Who Don't Read Science Fiction"

Judging by the amount of articles you can find online titled with some variation on "science fiction novels for people who hate science fiction," or "for people who don't usually read science fiction," it seems that this genre can be a bit of a hard sell - kind of funny, considering that big and small screens are dominated by Star Wars, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and the like. But some of science fiction can be daunting - probably you won't want to dive into "hard science fiction" unless you like your science fiction to emphasize the science, for instance, and unless you have someone knowledgeable to guide you, subgenres like "space opera" might be confounding (although "alternate history" and "post-apocalyptic" are pretty straightforward). There are folks out there who think that genre fiction is "lightweight stuff;" there's an argument for cultural differences factoring in for those who are not interested in the genre. Ultimately, though, you could say that "[r]eal science fiction is as close to an intense discussion of philosophy as you can get while still reading fast-paced, page-turning fiction." Science fiction is asking some big questions, after all - "what does it mean to be human? What’s our place in the universe? Do we matter? Are we alone?"

Most of us have asked ourselves these kinds of questions. Why not try some science fiction next time you're at the library? Check out the list below, compiled from several lists "for people who don't read science fiction" - you might have already read one or two (or a book by the same author), and not even realized it. We've included each book's subgenre just to give you an idea of  the plot - "science fiction" with no qualifier usually means literary fiction, although sometimes it indicates a humorous bent.

The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell [social science fiction]

Shards of Honor [eAudiobook] by Lois McMaster Bujold [space opera]

Never Let Me Go by  Kazuo Ishiguro [science fiction]

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell [experimental fiction]

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger [time travel]

Slaughterhouse-Five: Or, The Children's Crusade, A Duty-Dance With Death by Kurt Vonnegut [military science fiction]

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes [time travel]

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin [social science fiction]

Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy [social science fiction]

China Mountain Zhang by Maureen F. McHugh [science fiction]

The Player of Games by Iain Banks [space opera]

Gun, With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem [science fiction]

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood [dystopia]

To Say Nothing of the Dog, Or, How We Found the Bishop's Bird Stump At Last by Connie Willis [science fiction]

The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon [alternative history]

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel [apocalyptic fiction]

The Children's Hospital by Chris Adrian [apocalyptic fiction]

The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi [apocalyptic fiction]

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber [science fiction]

Embassytown by China Miéville [social science fiction]

Brown Girl in the Ring by Nalo Hopkinson [science fiction]

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