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Monday Meme: Why Do You Read Science Fiction?

Lou Anders on science fiction:

“I’m tired of being told it’s escapist. I don’t read to escape. I read to expand.”

Personally, I don’t see either as mutually exclusive. If we’re talking about fiction, I read it to escape. I choose science fiction because it’s intellectually stimulating.

This topic sounds like great inspiration for a meme, so I ask you, dear reader:

Q: Why do you read science fiction?

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

16 Comments on Monday Meme: Why Do You Read Science Fiction?

  1. The same reason I read everything else.

  2. I read science fiction for the same reason I do most leisure activities, because I enjoy it. I don’t need justifications or explanations for why I read. I read SF, Fantasy, Mystery, Non-Fiction, etcetera, simply because I feel like it. Sometimes it’s escape, sometimes it’s some other reason.

    I’m getting a little sick and tired of people telling me what I should like and why I should like it. I don’t care if it’s Lou Anders or Ann Landers: I didn’t ask.

  3. Reading itself is a good thing, IMHO, so I read what appeals to me at that moment.  I read SF because so much of it is very high-quality writing.  This is a wonderful meeting of aesthetic taste and aesthetic judgment.  Happens all too rarely in this life!

  4. OK, in my location, I’m a minority – I read SF for brain bending ideas. I like something that makes me think and wonder. If it gives me a chunk of ‘sensawunda’ with it, so much the better. A lot of the other folks read for escape and its annoying when they give me a ‘great new book’ and I read it and find its noir in technological clothes, or bog standard space opera with nothing to recommend it.

  5. Like Trey, the primary reason I read it is because I love wild ideas and have as long as I can remember. I remember being fascinated as a small child by picture books on Egyptian mythology, dinosaurs and constellations. Then I graduated to comic books and by the time I hit pooberty, science fiction was the natural post-grad idea factory for me.

  6. I read SF to be entertained – transported to another reality, given food for thought. I read SF to have my mind opened, or twisted, or expanded in another direction. I read SF because, more often than not, it’s the best writing out there. It’s not following a formula.  Escape, entertain – it’s why I read books.

  7. This label can be applied to just about anything…mysteries, romance, fantasy, television, gaming.


    At least with reading you are engaging your brain.


    For the brain-dead who use this phrase, I point out that I average 60+ books a year, usually 400+ pages long each, plus at least 365 short works…and wonder they they do with their free time, other than stick their thumb up their asp.


    (Yes, spelled that way on purpose).


    In any case…at least we have something to escape with! Pity those who do nothing but watch “American Idol” all the time…

  8. Partly escapism, partly to see how people solve problems in the future, and because I’m a historian.  I see science fiction as the other side of the same coin.  I also like a good dose of adrenaline in what I read. 

    Umm, I kinda write it for the same reasons too.


    S. F. Murphy

  9. I think it’s odd that people read fiction which happens in real life. It seems extremely insulated, like you have no real life. If you want to know about abused children or lawyers, go ask a real one.

    I like to read to enjoy the creativity and vision of the writer, not to get a lesson about our world.

  10. At first I used to buy into the “escapist” label.  I read for the entertainment value.  Though that value is still a part of my reading habit (If I don’t find the book entertaining I find it very difficult to get through) I am just as often to read for exposure to different ideas or have ideas posited in a different way. 

  11. I read science fiction because I like science and I like to see where we may be headed with it. Sure, some things may never come to pass, but it is fun to imagine what could possibly happen.

  12. I read all fiction to be entertained, and yes, escape, but I enjoy SF the most because it’s a chance to inhabit a world/galaxy/dimension/time period that I will never in my lifetime have a chance to experience. I don’t know if after I die I’ll have a chance to “be” in the future with all of its bizarre, wondrous, fantastic, romantic events, so I’m trying to experience as much as possible through books before then.

  13. I read Science Fiction, or anything for that matter, for many reasons but mostly for relaxation.  It’s the only quiet time I get.  Nobody is asking me for anything!  No deadlines, no trouble tickets, no traffic, no chores, no expectations and no hurry.  Even my kids know not to bother me when I’m reading though I do most of my reading after they’ve gone to bed.

    I’ve learned to tune out just about everything when I read.   I find it quiets my mind like nothing else and after I’ve read a spell I can think and work much more clearly and efficiently.  It’s also a great tonic when I’m angry or out of sorts.

  14. Matte Lozenge // October 13, 2008 at 10:20 pm //

    Is there any other realm of artistic endeavor that demands as much inventiveness? I read science fiction for the heretofore unknown, the never-before-seen, the speculative. The more a fictional world seems like it can really exist in the universe we inhabit, the more interested I am. That’s not quite the same thing as Mundane SF, but rather an authorial attitude.

    The most interesting works are set beyond the range of the forecasters and pop prognosticators — 20-30 years from now and beyond.  The period  100-500 years from now is fascinating; distant enough to be exotic and unknown, close enough to still be influenced by the present. Very few writers are seriously exploring these near and middle distance futures.

    Will we solve our population, environmental and energy problems? Will we collapse or achieve greater heights? We will see social, cultural and psychological progress to match our technological progress, or is human nature permanently stuck in the caveman era?

    If I could make a round trip near light speed and so travel into the future, I would do it. The next best thing is science fiction.

  15. Why not? It’s fun interesting, and full of a multitude of subgenres. Lit fiction is verbose, esoteric, and thinks itself smarter than it really is. SF is honest about it idosyncrasies, and is okay with being entertainment as well as thoughtful. (Hopefully, never sacrificing one for the other.)

    SF is pure literature. Purer even than stuff other folks make so much of.

  16. I read SF for the big ideas, the different ways of looking at the world, the different ways of looking at humanity in general and types of humans/personalities specifically. How many other types of literature try to really explore other ways of thinking? SF is challenging. SF exercises far more creativity – both from the writer and from what the writer demands of the reader to follow along. And yeah, I read it for entertainment and sometimes for escape too. The best SF combines all of these elements. The best SF is literature of the highest order and it’s a shame more people don’t recognize it as such.


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