I grew up reading science fiction. Though I read various styles within the genre and within related genres, I prided myself on reading what I snobbishly called “the serious stuff.” I preferred stories that were not about space battles. I generally gravitated toward authors that dispensed with action and instead concentrated more upon ideas and character. Some of my favorite writers were Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Arthur C. Clarke, Phillip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin, to name a few.
I recently ran into an old friend whom I have known since childhood. We both started reading science fiction in our teens. He still mostly reads it. I can envision a slightly different life reading path where I mostly did the same.
Up until my early twenties I read mostly science fiction and history. The science fiction had a great impact upon me (As did the history, but that is a different blog post). These works opened up my mind to big ideas, and whetted my interest in dynamic plots and compelling characters.
These books presented many diverse viewpoints. With that, I was most influenced by authors like Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clark, who seemed to espouse a secular, rationalistic, anti-militaristic, pro-science and pro-space exploration message. These authors, as well as those with differing viewpoints, have influenced my thinking to this day.
During my college years, I began to yearn for books of other types. However, it was the themes of life and death, questioning humanity’s place in the universe, critique of society, etc., that I first encountered in science fiction books that whetted my appetite for other types of works.
I think that one can read solely science fiction and still read mostly meaningful and worthwhile books that are full of ideas. Some of the great works of literature even fall within my definition of science fiction. These books, written by authors such as Ursula K. Le Guin, George Orwell, H.G. Wells and Yevgeny Zamyatin, among others, can easily fit within the great literary cannon. There are also a lot of really good science fiction that may not reach the level of great literature, but that are full of compelling ideas and that are more than worthy reads.
However, as I discovered, despite the value of science fiction, there is so much more out there. In order to fully appreciate the richness of human literary art and thought, it began to dawn upon me that I needed to expand my horizons. Thus, I chose to explore both classic and contemporary literature of other sorts.
My life decision to expand my reading interests years ago leaves me scant time for reading science fiction now. In recent years, I have occasionally reread some noteworthy science fiction books from my youth, and I have read a few classics that I missed earlier in life.
As I have been thinking about the genre lately, I will likely devote some additional reading time to science fiction, including, perhaps, some contemporary authors. I have not read anything by these newer writers. There are a lot of worthwhile science fiction books out there and ignoring the genre makes no sense to me.
Yet, reading time will continue to be scarce and my reading of these books will, in the long run, be less frequent than I like. With that, I am determined to devote a little more time going forward to the genre. Science Fiction played an important role in my intellectual and emotional development, and it will always be a genre very close to my heart.