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The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 020): What Was Your Gateway Genre Novel?

In episode 20 of the SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester asks the SF Signal panel:

Q: Everyone had to start somewhere – What was your gateway genre novel? Did you ever read it again? Did it still have that same magic as the first time?

Our panel this week:

Tell us what your gateway genre novel was – leave us a voicemail!

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About Patrick Hester (527 Articles)
Patrick Hester is a writer, blogger, podcasting dude, Denver transplant and all around Functional Nerd. Don't hate him cuz he has a cool hat.

19 Comments on The SF Signal Podcast (Episode 020): What Was Your Gateway Genre Novel?

  1. My gateway books to the science fiction genre was the Star Trek novelizations by James Blish.  These short story collections led to Asimov’s Foundation Series and I, Robot.  These books led to authors like Clarke, Niven, Ellison, and others.

    I tried to read The Hobbit back in middle school and failed miserably to get beyond the first twenty pages.

  2. Not sure I actually had a gateway novel… Its more that I sort of fell into love with Fantasy over a couple of years when I 1st developed a passion for reading despite my dyslexia.

    If I had to name any particular novel its probably the Hobbit which was read to us in primary school by a teacher who loved the book, the fact that I can remember this now and even picture her reading the book to me suggests how strongly it affected me despite the fact I couldn’t read then (it was about 5 years later that i actually learnt to read).

  3. p.s. have read it several times since, and whilst its a book aimed at kids, its not a particularly easy book to read.

  4. Star Trek novelizations for sure. I blew threw as many as I could get my hands on while working a slow paced third shift job. Running to the bookstore before my shift began to get another was a routine I had. In a panic after realizing there was nothing ST related at the store that I hadn’t read – I picked up Stephen Baxter’s Ring. I never looked back. 

    I have read it again. I love it. If I had picked up something else then I don’t know if I would fell in love with the genre like I did. It still makes any list I come up with about my favorite sci fi novels.

  5. My Doc Savage count in the podcast was slightly off. For exactness there are:

    – 182 orginal stories (put out by Bantam in 92 singles, 15 doubles and 13 omnibus editions);

    – Philip Jose Farmer’s Escape From Loki, which is a WWI origination of Doc and his men story;

    – seven volumes by Will Murray, printed in the early 90s (with more to come, it appears).

    Complete list at


  6. My uncle gave me a copy of Dune in 3rd grade.  I remember reading it and not understanding one word in ten, but I knew it was important.  Plus, massive sandworms and underground cults are interesting to all nine year olds.

    I was outta genre for a while, and then rediscovered in in high school with Timothy Zahn’s Angelmass, about particles captured on the edge of black holes that force the wearer to tell the truth.  It had that good ol’ sensawunda that has kept me hooked since.

  7. Heh, this was the topic of my first Forces of Geek column, which you can find here.  It’s funny to post this now when I was about to announce that I am leaving FoG at the end of the year, mostly for good reasons.  If anyone needs a columnist/blogger/curmudgeon for anything, drop me a line!

    I should add that previous to what I discuss in that column I was a big fan of Burroughs, and that it was the proximity of his books to Terry Brooks’ The Sword of Shannara that made it catch my eye in early 1980, and led me down the primrose path to Tolkien, and a whole new universe.


  8. Heh, reading this more carefully, if I have to specify one, I guess that it should be The Hobbit, which was read to us briefly in the 5th grade in Florida.  I loved the first few installments, but then the teacher was ordered to stop reading it to us for some reason.  Shortly after that I was put in a fundamentalist Christian church school, and became a fervent follower (I was a child evangelist for almost two years), and its wonders faded for me, but looking back, the seed of that story returned to me later, after we got kicked out of the church and my world collapsed, and I picked up Burroughs (because of the Frazetta covers!) when we returned to the real world.  That really is where it all began. . . .

  9. Alfred Bester’s Stars My Destination (Tiger, Tiger for you brits).  Read it in one day.  (Also Bourne Identity).  Then The Comics Journal had a long interview with Harlan Ellison, and I bought everyone he recommended, pretty much whoever was in Dangerous Visions.  Of course, I didn’t read them all.  Somehow those old books got thrown away.  I wish I still had them.



  10. By the way, a note to Fred Kiesche: we just got a copy of Clarke’s book in at my store.  Muahahaha.

  11. I’d tried, when I was younger, to read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings a few times without much success, and a few YA urban fantasy novels that were interesting but I can’t say they hooked me on the genre. Then one bored summer day when I was 15, a friend handed me a copy of Mercedes Lackey’s “Magic’s Pawn.” Well, from then on, I was hooked on fantasy. I had to read the rest of the trilogy, then the rest of the series it belonged to, then anything else of that genre that I could get my grubby little hands on! I can’t count how many times I’ve read that book now, and I don’t regret a day since the discovery that I was a fantasy fanatic.

  12. I was a huge fantasy kid growing up, but the first one that I read over and over and loved was “The Castle in the Attic” by Elizabeth Winthrop. I haven’t read it for years so I don’t know how it matches up.

    As for SF book, I read them but the one that changed me from a predominately fantasy reader to a predominately SF one was Simon R Green’s “Deathstalker.” I loved this book. It’s has the epic scope that I only knew of fantasy before then, but also the political intrigue, action and more than they first appear characters that I love in any set of books. 

  13. The Wizard of Oz series, the original stories by L Frank Baum, pretty much kicked it off for me. Read them several times as a kid. His creativity still amazes me to this day.

    Read my way through a bunch of SF for kids (such as Mushroom Planet series), advancing to classics ala HG Wells and Verne once the kid section in my tiny library was exhausted.

    Later, in Germany, I got sucked into the Perry Rhodan/Atlan phenomenon for most of my teen life, with a dash of von Daniken alien theories for spice.

  14. I was a junior in high school when Ballantine re-released The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I’ve read them all about 25 times. Then I moved to classic science fiction; Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein, Harrison, Ellison. Then back to fantasy; McCaffrey, Lackey, MZ Bradley, Zelazny — I could go on forever, but I’ve gotta go read! 

  15. My first genre novel was Lorelei of the Red Mist by Leigh Brackett but finished by Ray Bradbury.

  16. I wasnt really into SF or fantasy until about 6 years ago, and now am completely obsessed. I try to read something out of genre and its just not as interesting.

    First one I read that got me hooked was Rendezvous with Rama. I then read the whole series in about 2 weeks and moved on to all of the AC Clarke’s other books, then on to the Mars trilogy, and so on and etc… πŸ™‚

  17. My gateway for fantasy was Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, which was given to me when I was in grade 2 or 3. For science fiction it was probably Donald A Wollheim’s The Secret of the Ninth Planet, which I stumbled on in the school library. From there I devoured pretty much every science fiction or fantasy book I could get my hands on at the school library, including Verne’s 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. I have an uncle who enjoys SF and when I was 12 he gave me a copy of Foundation; the next year it was Dune. At the time, Asimov and Herbert blew me away and I tore through their other books as quickly as I could.

    I haven’t read the Narnia books or the Secret books since I was a kid (although a reread of Wollheim is on my to-do list). Unfortunately, a couple of years ago I reread Dune and it had completely lost its lustre. The ideas and world-building were still impressive, but Herbert’s writing style and characters were downright painful at times. I’ve been afraid to pick up Foundation again because a year or two ago I reread the Robot books and found myself disillusioned with Asimov too.


  18. Scott Wright // December 15, 2010 at 11:22 am //

    My two gateway books were the Hobbit and Dune.  I remember seeing the 1970’s cartoon as a child of about five and it blew my mind.  I become obsessed and sought out the book, reading it in second grade and loving it.  I watched Star Trek re-runs as a child, developing a serious love of Spock, he was my hero.  When Lynch’s Dune came out I was inspired to read the book and was hooked from then on.  It was so epic and world historical…the world building and characters inspired and changed me.

  19. Steve, luckily I tracked down my copy of “Greetings, Carbon-Based Lifeforms”…

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