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Sci fi basics

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I'm a sci fi nitwit, but one of my female teenage characters insists on a love of all things sci-fi (I can't seem to picture her any other way). So the research begins...

Any suggestions? Could be books, magazines, favorite web sites. What things would every sci fi fan know (and love)?
#1 - July 12, 2011, 11:07 AM

People mean different things when they say "sci fi." There is "hard" sci-fi, which really is SCIENCE fiction, informed by and true to science, and Asimov is the master. There's speculative fiction, which is a broader swath of work that isn't especially science-based. Bradbury, miscellaneous futuristic and dystopian books, etc., all fit in here. It's not a black-white, and people can argue about where, say, Star Trek belongs. But people who identify themselves as sci-fi fans will have a sense of what they like within the gamut, have strong opinions it, etc. For example, many fans of Asimov will scorn the less science-driven authors.

To my mind few people who like speculative fiction identify themselves as sci fi fans anymore. It's anecdotal, but I know tons of Firefly/Buffy/Star Trek/Star Wars fans and most of them do not describe themselves as sci fi fans.
#2 - July 12, 2011, 11:24 AM

I guess what I'm saying is that if you want this character to be believable, he or she won't just say "I love sci fi," and like everything sci fi. He or she will have more specific taste.
#3 - July 12, 2011, 11:26 AM

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There are a lot of people who consider themselves "sci fi" fans but have only been exposed to sf TV and movies, not books. I find a lot of people referencing Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and Star Trek, but who've never heard of Heinlein, Zelazny, Nancy Kress, Asimov, Ursula LeGuin, etc. So I think Kurtis is right, you have to figure out what kind of fan this person is -- what brought her into the SF world? Lots of people consider comic books to be SF, and cite Batman or even the recent X-Men and Iron Man movies.

I would say there is almost nothing that every sci fi fan would love and know. The realm of SF is so huge and we tend to be an opinionated bunch. I have friends who love DR. WHO but hate Star Trek, who despise comic books, but love hard SF novels. It really depends on your flavor of obsession. You'd be better off picking just a few areas of SF geek culture, and getting to know those, imo.
#4 - July 12, 2011, 11:40 AM
Above World, 2/2012, Candlewick
Mirage (Book 2), 3/2013
Horizon (Book 3), 4/2014

Thanks to both of you. It's much easier to have a narrower place to start. And to know that there's not one magical sci fi viewpoint.
#5 - July 12, 2011, 01:12 PM

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You might read Lisa Yee's WARP SPEED (fun read anyway), to see how she grounds her characters in their fan-dom. Also, the Nebula awards will give you the industry's take on the best of the year.
There is also a Golden Duck Award for young adult fiction and a children's award

#6 - July 14, 2011, 07:30 AM
How Things Work (Publications International, 2006)
Bugs & Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter (Boyds Mill Press, 2010)
Touch the Earth (NASA, 2009)


There are some good magazines that will help give you an overview of the genre as a whole. Britain's SciFiNow should be at most newsstands, and is a great place to start. They have features on movies, TV, books, comics, games, etc.
#7 - July 14, 2011, 12:16 PM

Grady Hendrix

A few lists that might be just what you needed to get started.

In terms of the standard issue sci-fi/fantasy fan who grew up in the US in the 20th Century, this is pretty much the canon:

The Guardian does a giant list that attempts to be the first step in establishing a consensus canon. They're a bit heavy on the British authors, but it's a good list in general:

io9 can be annoying, but they have some good lists. Here's their list of the best sf of the decade:

Their 25 classic sf films:

And 20 sf novels that'll change your life:

Hope that helps!
#8 - August 23, 2011, 03:47 PM


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