Beginner's Guide to Reading Science Fiction and Fantasy plus Benefits of Buying Used Novels
If reading fiction is an exercise in empathy, allowing you to see the world through the eyes of someone else, science fiction and fantasy raises the stakes. You're still looking through someone else's eyes, but the world you're seeing may be a faraway planet, an alternate timeline, a magical and mysterious location, or even our own familiar world, modified a little. Also, someone else could have four, eight, or no eyes at all.
People have a lot of misconceptions about science fiction and fantasy, such as that it's only for geeks, that it's all about spaceships or elves, that the writing isn't very good, and that everything is a door-stopping 18-book series. But we're here to tell you that isn't the case. Because the genre has changed so much in the last ten years, we chose to focus this year's NPR Summer Reader Poll on favorite science fiction and fantasy films from the last ten years.
"We're in the thick of it right now. We are the center of attention, "One of the judges on this year's survey, novelist Tochi Onyebuchi, states "I mean, there are more writers of race. There are more writers who identify as LGBTQ. There's a lot more diversity in terms of demographics... You're seeing a lot more stuff that looks different, not just in terms of the skin color of the characters on the page, but in terms of the architecture of these books as well."
So, whether you've been a longtime fan or are new to these weird places, we've got the basics of what defines Science Fiction and Fantasy covered, as well as some good recommendations to get you reading plus benefits of buying used novels.
What is the definition of science fiction?
Science fiction is a subgenre of speculative fiction, which is an umbrella word for all works of fiction that contradict our reality's common laws, such as fantasy and superhero stories. Science fiction differs from other genres in that it bases its narratives, world-building, and other elements on scientific fact and theory.
While some authors incorporate verified scientific facts and theories in their fiction, others use more hazy science. In certain occasions, science fiction has been able to foretell future technological wonders and improvements. Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and even Gene Roddenberry (creator of Star Trek) articulated then-unproven scientific principles and functions in such convincing ways that they inspired future scientists and creators.
The roots of science fiction are a widely discussed topic among academics and literary critics, although most people can agree that the publication of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein in 1818 created science fiction as we know it today. Because of the originality of its compelling narrative, Shelley's novel has continually delighted, terrified, and enthralled readers in the 200 years since its release.
Despite the fact that Frankenstein is largely a gothic horror story, it varies from its predecessors in one important way: the monster was produced through science rather than magic. Monsters and villains were traditionally depicted as supernatural or magical entities up to this period. Shelley never explains how her monster came to be, but she makes it apparent that the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein, employed scientific theories and experimentation to bring the dead back to life. Her novel was one of the first to examine humanity's relationship with technological progress. Even the Universal film adaptation of her novel Frankenstein, released in 1931, opened the way for science fiction films by introducing the concept of "the mad scientist," which would go on to become a mainstay of the genre.
In a nutshell, science fiction is fiction that either investigates humanity's connection with technology/scientific breakthroughs, as in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot, or uses a science fiction framework to provide social criticism, as in Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness.
Typically, science fiction novels investigate alternate universes or histories in which technology has had a significant impact, resulting in utopias, post-apocalyptic landscapes, or dystopias, such as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Others, like Robert Wise's 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still, provide societal criticism by exploring the repercussions of humanity encountering unknown worlds or civilizations.
In literature, what is fantasy?
Fantasy, which comes from the Greek ϕαντασία, which means 'to make visible,' is a type of narrative that focuses on fantastical aspects (the fantastic). This can include magic, the supernatural, alternate worlds, superheroes, monsters, fairies, magical creatures, mythological heroes, and anything else that an author can conjure up. The magical or supernatural components of fantasy serve as the plot, setting, characters, or overall storyline's foundation. Fantasy is now popular in a wide range of media, including film, television, comic books, games, art, and literature, but it has always had a stronghold in literature.
When it comes to science fiction and fantasy, what's the difference?
Science fiction, unlike fantasy, focuses on scientific fact and theory to provide answers. A puppet boy is brought to life through the application of magic in a fantasy story like Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio, with no explanation of what magic is or how it works. A robot is brought to life and given human feelings by his scientist creator in a science fiction narrative like Osamu Tezuka's Astro Boy. Science is present in science fiction. Magic is present in fantasy. That is the distinction.
So, what makes you want to read science fiction or fantasy?
...because they're awe-inspiring? No, for real: The best science fiction and fantasy evokes awe at the scope of these imagined universes, the depth of human imagination that can create such alien worlds and make you believe in them completely, the visions of deep strangeness hidden within everyday life on Earth, and how humanity might behave in places we've only ever imagined. These tales reflect on what all of this means for us, the dreamers.
Is there anything more I should know?
In general, a reader should be aware of two types of science fiction: hard scientific fiction (hard SF) and soft science fiction (soft SF) (soft SF).
The tie of the narrative to the technology or science of the setting will be emphasized prominently in hard SF novels. The author will use chemistry, physics, and other theories to make the science as accurate as possible, and this knowledge will be crucial to the plot. A work that provides a thorough, in-depth explanation of how a spaceship operates, or the geological composition of its home planet, for example, will almost certainly be classified as hard SF. In summary, hard SF will emphasize the science aspect of its story.
Soft SF is the polar opposite of hard SF. A soft SF fiction might include a spaceship, but it won't tell you what kind of fuel it runs on or how it works because that information has little to no influence on the plot. Soft science fiction novels also tend to emphasize social sciences (sociology, psychology, etc.) above natural sciences (chemistry, physics, etc.). Both categories have their own sub-categories and sub-sub-categories, but these are the two most crucial distinctions to be aware of for novices.
Where should you begin your Science Fiction and Fantasy reading?
On Fragile Waves, by E. Lily Yu
It's the story of a family escaping Afghanistan, consisting of a mother, father, sister, and brother, who are attempting to reach Australia. It is really realistic, yet the daughter of this family is haunted by the ghost of a girl who drowned on the voyage. And that haunting presence becomes intertwined into her experience of being in the offshore immigrant processing center — which consists of a slew of horrifying terms that all refer to the same thing: horrifying human rights violations. It's all about being uprooted again and over again, and it explores that through enchantment, haunting, grief, and poetry.
Finally, it's about how stories can help us get through terrible moments, but also about how they can be insufficient for the job, and you need something else. I desperately want people to read it because I believe it will make the world a slightly kinder place if everyone reads it.
This Is How You Lose the Time War, by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone
It's enchanted. It has a lot of room. It contains love letters. It includes everything. I believe this book is almost unrivaled in terms of sheer originality, because I had no idea you could achieve the things Max and Amal did in this book. I just didn't realize there were prose possibilities. This Is How You Lose The Time War is a book that, in many ways, defies many of the dogmas about how to write that emerge from more draconian corners of — whether literary or non-literary realms — read it.
The Goblin Emperor, by Katherine Addison
This is one of my all-time favorite comfort reads. It's set in an empire controlled by elves in a world that seamlessly blends magic and technology (there are airships, but you can also converse to the dead). Maia, an impoverished banished half-elf, half-goblin who is the Emperor's last and least likely heir, is being raised in the provinces by a bitter elven tutor who despises being put out there. So, of course, skulduggery occurs, and Maia ascends to the throne and must navigate the dangerous imperial court. Which he performs with a new sense of grace and power.
It's fascinating to watch him learn not only how to rule well, but also how to relate to others equitably. This is a beautifully constructed world with a pleasant and positive story at its core.
Buying Used Novels
Purchasing a book is analogous to shopping for a bibliomaniac; the experience is as enjoyable as reading the book. Nothing beats strolling into a bookshop as a book enthusiast; we may see a lot of books that capture our eye, but we only buy a handful due to various considerations.
We can read a book in a variety of ways, including as an e-book, borrow a book, or borrow a book from a library and return it after reading it, but having a book is a new level of satisfaction. Few books remain in your mind for the rest of your life, and having them in your library is an academic aim. You may end yourself spending all of the money set aside for a rainy day on books, despite the fact that you have not completed many of the books on your list. We've all been there, so it's not just you. That's when we started looking for used novels.
You've been wondering if old books may provide the same level of enjoyment as new books. This is an article that you must read. Continue reading to learn about a few convincing reasons to buy a used novel rather than a new one.
Benefits of Buying Used Novels
1. Buying Used Novels Gives You the Pleasure of Reading No Longer Printed Books -
A few exceptional books are no longer published; having them in your collection is a source of great pride. Exploring second hand book stores is the only way to appreciate reading them. Finding a rare print of that book you were looking for among the dusty stacks of the second hand used novel store gives you the impression of discovering a one-of-a-kind antique exotic sculpture. It's wonderful!
2. Low-cost and accessible used novels -
You may get old used novels for half the price of new ones. You can save money and buy additional used novels with the money you save by purchasing them. Unlike the quiet, gleaming book stores, second hand book stores allow you to haggle. You are free to use all of your haggling skills and purchase as many old used novels as you desire.
3. The Pleasure of Exploration with Used Novels -
It's just as exciting to locate the books in the stack of used novels as it is to go down the bookshop aisle. The second hand bookstore is a treasure trove of surprises; you never know what book you'll find next. Sometimes you locate a title you had almost given up on, which adds to its uniqueness and makes the experience more enjoyable. This enormous delight of discovery is unlikely to be found in neatly arranged book stores. You may leave a second hand bookstall without discovering the book you intended to buy, but you will never leave without being astonished by the odd prints you find.
4. The Old Used Novel’s Warmth and Allure -
Used books, like wine, improve with age. With as many hands as it has passed through, you get as many stories to enjoy with each turn of the page. E-books can't compare to the feel of a paperback, and new books can't compare to the joy of smelling a gently used novel. With each page, you'll get a peek of the previous owner. This relationship you have with this individual; you don't know who is invaluable, which you only get with old used novels, may have circled or highlighted their favorite sentence, which may also be your favorite.
5. Used Novels Enhance Environmental Protection -
With the global climate change catastrophe at the forefront, it is critical to assist the planet in any way possible and reuse all feasible items.
Having said that, purchasing an old gently used novel reduces the number of new prints, so lowering paper consumption and benefiting the environment. Our goal is to minimize carbon emissions in every way feasible, and everyone of us should make every effort to achieve that goal. You may help by reusing books and reducing the number of new books printed.
6. Books, Books, Books, Books, Books, Books, Books, Books, Books,
Books, whether new or ancient, are books. You don't treat them any differently than everyone else. The efforts required to purchase a second hand book may differ from those required to purchase a new book, but they are equivalent. While you spend money on a new book, you devote all of your time and effort to locating a book that you want in a used bookstore. You don't have to treat a used novel with the same care as a new one, but if you love them both equally, you'll want to take excellent care of it.