I can’t remember a time before I discovered the wonders of science fiction. In my mind, it is the ultimate genre for embracing the freedom of pen and paper and is filled with so much diversity that no one should discount it with a blank refusal. For the technologically minded, there’s hard science fiction, described to a point of near realism. Yet under the same umbrella, you find novels which border on the realm of fantasy and appeal to an entirely different audience.
Thanks to my dad, I was somewhat raised on science fiction. His shelves in the house were always a treasure trove of adventures and one that I’m still working my way through now. From him, I gained a love of classic science fiction and the novels which shaped the genre.
Epics like Dune by Frank Herbert and anything written by the likes of Isaac Asimov or Phillip K. Dick defined what we now think of as science fiction. They created the tropes and from their early work thousands of new novels have emerged. In science fiction there is so much fresh content to enjoy alongside a wealth of classics, that I always look forward to finding my next journey.
They are perfect indulgences when you have the time on your hands to commit to a slow burning plot
Within the genre, you are also never constrained to just the novel. Especially in recent years, there has been a bombardment of new trilogies and series to explore. Here, The Expanse novels by James S. A. Corey spring to mind. Often they are considered science fiction’s answer to A Song of Ice and Fire and they offer the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in a long running saga. Series of this scale always include beautifully constructed worlds with lively populations and they are perfect indulgences when you have the time on your hands to commit to a slow burning plot.
One of my favourite series is Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels. Each can be read as a standalone story yet reading them as a complete work gives you a real understanding of this futuristic world. It’s full of artificial intelligence and spaceships, action in some novels and philosophical debate in others. It is a series which really encapsulates everything science fiction has to offer.
But then aside from novels and series, there’s also the wonder that is the short story. Collections of short science fiction stories are possibly my favourite thing about the genre. Within the space of perhaps four hundred pages, you can go on countless adventures in alternate universes, timelines and realities. There is a marvellous skill in being able to construct such a well-rounded story in the matter of only a few pages yet this is a genre where the talent is never lacking. One of my favourite collections is The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury. Each story stems from a wonderful – or horrible yet equally fascinating – idea but also manages to satisfy the reader with a directed plot and conclusion.
Authors like Paolo Bacigalupi and Margaret Atwood have even forged a new sub-genre in Cli-Fi (climate fiction) whose stories focus on natural disasters and are each a warning of what may lie ahead for humanity
I think some people like to disregard science fiction as being childish or too far from reality but the emergence of speculative fiction should surely have put these arguments to rest. The dystopia is a common form of a science fiction novel and one that offers deep political insight and criticisms of the real world through a futuristic setting. Science fiction is such a powerful genre in this regard. So even if you’re looking for that deeper subtext, science fiction can always provide while also relating a moving story. Authors like Paolo Bacigalupi and Margaret Atwood have even forged a new sub-genre in Cli-Fi (climate fiction) whose stories focus on natural disasters and are each a warning of what may lie ahead for humanity.
I honestly can’t say enough in favour of science fiction. Whether you’re looking for an Earth-based futuristic adventure, a galaxy spanning space opera or something decidedly weirder that will mess with the logical parts of your brain, it’s the perfect genre to satisfy the inquisitive, questioning mind. There are so many sub-genres that you never run the risk of depleting the supply. Hollywood has glamorised so many science fiction classics and brought them to new audiences yet you would be depriving yourself if you didn’t follow up on the jewels that the film industry has so far overlooked.