I have a confession to share with all of you. I’ve barely read any science fiction and fantasy books recently.
Since I’m a sci-fi writer and a longtime fan of these genres, I’m regularly immersed in thoughts about wizards, robots, aliens, spaceships, science experiments gone wrong, and all of the other tropes you can expect to find in them.
Science fiction and fantasy ideas show up in my dreams, tweets, and random conversations with my spouse, family, and friends.
Most of the time, I love living this way. I’ve read so many different series velw that I can quickly pick out how certain contemporary writers were influenced by tales that were published decades or centuries ago. One of the things I like to do when I’m standing in line or waiting for something is to try to pick out similarities between various universes that I hadn’t thought of yet.
Some authors take careful note of usual patterns in these genres only to figure out how to disrupt them at a critical part of the storyline. It takes a thorough understanding of how science fiction and fantasy stories typically play out to bend the audience’s expectations of how an adventure should end or how a hero is supposed to behave without alienating your readers.
My favourite storytellers are the ones like Douglas Adams who tiptoe across this line perfectly from the first scene to the last one.
With that being said, there can be a lot of repetition in any genre after you’ve spend many years exploring it. I know some people who truly enjoy the familiarity that comes with diving so deeply into this subject, and I completely understand where they’re coming from even though I don’t always feel the same way.
You see, spending time reading other types of stories only reinforces my love for science fiction and fantasy.
Taking Breaks Is a Good Thing
The nice thing about wandering between genres is that it gives the reader a chance to try something completely new. The romance and horror genres might both write about an abandoned graveyard, but the ways they used that setting would be nothing alike.* but A thriller’s approach to a herd of runaway horses threatening to trample the main character would also be nothing like how a traditional western would solve that problem.
To give another example, a few years ago I began reading mysteries because I was curious about that kind of storytelling and hadn’t read much of it in the past. Needing to pay attention to every little detail of the plot in order to figure out who the murderer was as soon as possible changed the way I approached other genres. If you assume every odd detail might be important later on, it’s much easier to predict how a story will go when the author drops hints about future plot twists.
I also never would have guessed there would be so much crossover between mystery and science fiction, but to my surprise I found a lot of books that couldn’t be easily pinned into either category. This isn’t something I would have ever figured out if I’d stuck to a steady diet of pure science fiction and fantasy.
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of young adult and non-fiction books. The young adult genre reminds me of what it felt like to be a child or teenager. Most of the non-fiction books I read are about history or science which are two topics that can be very useful for educational reasons as well as for eventually coming up with new ideas for my own stories. The longer I spend in these other genres, the more I begin to miss the ones I read most often.
The good news is that the science fiction and fantasy landscape is gigantic. My to-read list is still incredibly long, and it includes still includes a decent number of famous authors I’ve been curious to try but haven’t gotten around to yet. It will be nice to chip away at this list once my break has ended. I’m already beginning to feel the first stirring of interest in magic and technology, so I suspect I’ll jump back into my regular routine soon.
*I have accidentally stumbled across one or two romantic horror tales in the past, though, so in those rare cases it would depend on whether the characters were preparing to fall in love or fight monsters.
How often – if ever – do you take breaks from reading your favourite genres?