Reading as a SciFi Writer: Belatedly learning the classics

Is it strange that becoming an aspiring science fiction writer did not result from being a science fiction fan? I’m sure all writers in this genre have their own path, but as I go deeper and deeper into things, it seems I’ve been missing just about every amazing concept presented in classic stories over the last century or so.

If I’m being fully honest, I actually didn’t decide I wanted to write science fiction until just under a year ago. Oh, I wanted to write for much longer than that, of course. However, I never realized my stories fit into that category. I thought they were perhaps “adventure” or “time travel” or “satire” works, but it wasn’t until I found The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that I realized that my ideas could be in the pile under the likes of H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Isaac Asimov. 

Okay, I’m bluffing. I didn’t know much about those authors before I started writing, and would it be annoying if I told you I first realized I liked Asimov upon reading a nonfiction book of his on chemistry? While I’m on a confession roll, I might as well further admit I’m not a huge fan of Jules Verne’s work (so technical and overly obsessive with details, in my opinion), and I greatly prefer H.G. Wells. How funny to later learn that the two were not fans of one another!

Anyway, now that I seem to understand what science fiction really is, I’ve realized I’ve always wanted to write in this genre. For instance, I have a trilogy I’ve been turtling through for a few years now that began as an attempt to write a semi-classic fairy tale about a far away kingdom in another galactic realm. After whittling away all “magic” via plausible scientific explanations, I still hadn’t realized that what I was writing was science fiction, but my heart must have been guiding me along anyhow.

Here’s where Hitchhiker’s came in: I wanted to write a satirical story involving the direction of human space exploration given the current state of Western society (American, mostly). After reading Hitchhiker’s, I had both the validation that space and satire could be mixed well and the revelation that what I was writing was considered science fiction. Hello, life. Meet “direction”.

So, now I’m catching up on all the classics that every lover of the genre has been familiar with for ages. The coolest thing so far? Okay, two coolest things:

  • In Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Barsoom series (A Princess of Mars et al.), the main female heroine is named Dejah. My name is Dacia! Having grown up with no one able to pronounce my name (it’s Day-sha) and having never been able to find my name on any of those pre-filled kid toy racks, it’s pretty cool for my (almost) name to be part of a classic like that.
  • I learned that the so-called “Dyson Sphere” posited as the explanation behind Tabby’s Star’s strange dimming light would more accurately be named a “Stapledon Sphere”. Olaf Stapledon first described the concept in his novel Star Maker, a book I’m starting to read this very night, actually.

I’m in the middle of a course on science fiction presented by The Teaching Company though their “Great Courses Plus” streaming service, so my reading (and watching) lists are getting longer by the day. Also, Audible is enabling me to consume to my heart’s content when more earning-driven tasks demand my eyes be diverted from books.

Here’s what I’ve got on the burner for the next couple of weeks:

  • Olaf Stapledon: Star Maker, Last and First Men
  • Current Issues: Forever Magazine, Clarkesworld Magazine, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Analog Science Fiction and Fact
  • Isaac Asimov: The Foundation Trilogy
  • Kim Stanley Robinson: Red Mars, Green Mars, Blue Mars
  • Arthur C. Clarke: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Rendezvous with Rama

What’s on your list?

-Dacia

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