Monday, 23 June 2014

You had me at "Hello" and lost me at "I don't like science fiction"

I'm always surprised by how few of my friends read science fiction. I shouldn't be surprised, though. Sales for my dark fiction collection far out number sales for my science fiction collection.


As with anything in life, reading preferences are subjective. What one person loves, another dislikes. There will always be certain genres that will be more popular. Certain themes that capture our imaginations en mass. Does that mean we should be writing for the most popular markets? Should I be concentrating on dark fiction because that's what sells?

No. I always stick to the old adage, 'Write what you love, not what will sell'. I know that sounds crazy, because we all want to sell books. We all want an army of readers and loyal fans. But writing for the market rather than what you love will show in the quality of your writing. The passion will be gone. Your enthusiasm depleted. And ironically, science fiction writers and TV shows like Star Trek and Firefly have some of the most devoted and loyal fans. It might take you longer to build that fan base, but if you keep publishing quality books they will come. You will sell books.

My passion lies with science fiction and anything space related. It's the one constant and unending fascination that has stayed with me since my age was a single digit. When people tell me they don't like or understand science fiction, I'm perplexed. I'm lost for words. But that's okay. I guess it would be a boring world if we all liked the same things.

If you want to read one person's fascinating take on why people do not read science fiction, click here. The most interesting point is the author's extrapolation that more left-handed people read science fiction than right-handed because of the way our brains function. I'm left-handed and so allegedly more able to understand science fiction. Hmm. I'm not sure. It would be interesting to know how many of my science fiction reading friends are left-handed, though. Do you read science fiction? Are you left-handed or right-handed?

While I'm talking about science fiction, have you been following the Mars One mission?


Mars One is a non-profit organisation that aims to establish a human settlement on Mars. Their goal is ambitious - they plan to start sending crews of four to Mars in 2024 - and they've received a fair amount of criticism. Though I think their timescales are overly ambitious, it is clear they are serious about achieving their goal. One of the aspects I find most fascinating is that those candidates chosen for the missions (they've already started the selection process) will not be coming back to Earth. Can you imagine the prospect of never returning home? Never being able to walk outside and feel the warmth of the Sun on your face? Never being able to see or have a real-time conversation with your families and friends? I'm not sure I could do it.

Could you go to Mars knowing you were never coming back?

42 comments:

  1. If you wrote something other than your passion, it would indeed show.
    I enjoy science fiction and I'll continue to write it. I think a lot of readers are scared off by the science part. They don't realize there is a whole genre of science fiction (space opera) that has little to do with the science.
    Sorry, not taking a one way trip to Mars!

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    1. Oh, and I'm right handed. Blows that theory I guess.

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    2. I think you could be right - they hear the word science and think they won't understand it. True 'hard sci-fi' books are not that common.

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  2. I agree, writing something you're not passionate about will really show, and the writing will suffer. Science fiction isn't my favorite genre, but I certainly don't dislike it, and I'm right-handed. I don't know what that proves...

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    1. Two right-handed readers so far. Personally, I don't think what hand you write with makes any difference. But you never know!

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  3. I think Science Fiction needs some sub-genres. I confess to reading very little of it, though there are some real gems in it--the reason is I am NOT a fan of the spacey or gadgety details. I LOVE futuristic possibilities though--somebody like Michael Crichton with the medical stuff? LOVE that. The real key though, is it needs to be character driven and personal. If there was a dsitinguishing between books that are really character based and those that are more techy, I'd read more of it.

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    1. I think that would make a HUGE difference to readership. I'm not a fan of hard or technical science fiction. For me it's all about character, with some world-building thrown in.

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  4. I'm right-handed and love science fiction. I think that's why I write what I write under my name and my pen name. I really enjoy different genres: science fiction, fantasy, urban fanatasy and more. And I hope my passion comes through because I'm definitely not doing a good job of writing what sells (lol!!)...but I do write what I love

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    1. Your passion definitely shines through, Angela. Who knows what the magic formula for sales is? I suspect that for most of us it's the long hard slog of multiple publications.

      Another right-hander. Bad news for the left hand theory!

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  5. I've been a SciFi fan since I was little. There are so many varieties of SciFi, I wish people wouldn't broaden their search for good reads.

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    1. You're right, Donna. The sci-fi genre covers such a broad spectrum of reads. I believe there is something for every taste.

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  6. I grew up reading Anne McCaffrey and have always enjoyed the genre. Even my mother liked science fiction. (Especially Star Trek.)

    I'm right handed and very right-brained.

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    1. Another right-hander!

      I've got a whole pile of Anne McCaffrey books that still need reading. I found them in a charity shop and had to adopt them.

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  7. Ellie, like you, I have always been a space-oriented SF fan (even before I knew that SF had a label). Imagining mankind spreading through the solar system or the galaxy is, I believe, an inherently optimistic POV even if the story is dystopian or dark. I appreciate other speculative sub-genres, too. But my heart-of-hearts goes with space opera and hard SF.

    Also, thanks for the shout-out to Mars One. I'm one of the Round 2 astronaut candidates, and we appreciate all the word-spreading we can get.

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    1. Congratulations on reaching round 2! I have to say if I had 'the right stuff' (I'd fail on the minimum height requirements alone) my answer to would I go might be different.

      Our fiction choices are very similar, Dan. I grew up watching Star Trek, Battlestar Galactia, UFO, and many more. I still get a thrill every time I watch an old favourite or discover a new show or film. The same goes for books.

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  8. I do enjoy science fiction, although I'm right-handed for the most part, but I guess the science fiction I enjoy the most is more on the lighter side, like space operas. And I wouldn't want to live on Mars. I like Earth pretty well. Although if they had where you could live in the ocean, then I'd be willing to sign up.

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    1. Space operas are my favourite, Cherie. I tend to write dark sci-fi, though.

      The ocean would be a no-no for me. I'm a hopeless swimmer!

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  9. I'm ambidextrous, but I was born left-handed. The nuns forced me to be right-handed. I don't blame them because it taught me to use both hands, but it sure would've been easier if they'd left me alone. LOL.

    As for Mars, I'd only go if I could take my better half with me.

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    1. I can totally understand you wanting to take your husband with you.

      We share something in common. I was taught by nuns and they tried to force me to write with my right hand. I've actually just had a go with my right, and I discovered I can write with it! A lot slower, but I can do it.

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  10. Yes. I am one of the current applicant's left in the current pool of 705. Gaining is far better than loosing so it's a small sacrifice to be a trailblazer.

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    1. It's great to meet you, Melissa! I can totally understand the appeal of Mars One, which is why I'm following it with keen interest.

      The thought of being the first people on Mars; the first people to live on another planet is something that has captured my imagination. I'm single. I don't have any children. So, it would be easier for me to leave Earth behind. If I met the entry requirements, I would give serious consideration to applying. There's something magical about space exploration.

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    2. Great to meet you too :) I'm a firm believer that the first one's to go should have lived a life and experienced most thing's. That way there will be no regrets once there. As they say it's one way only so there has to be 100% no doubt s. In many year's to come when it has been been made totally habitable then most will be able to meet the requirements. I'm hoping to be a soldier preparing the way for the general's :)

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  11. Well, I'm right-handed, but I don't fall into "right-handed" patterns.
    And that must be a percentage thing, because there would be much fewer people reading sci-fi if it was based on actual numbers, because the population of left-handed people is so much smaller.

    At this age and since I have a family, I would not go to Mars, but that answer might have been different 20 years ago.
    I have been following the Mars One stuff.

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    1. Another right-hander, which isn't a surprise. I think only about 10% of the worlds population are left-handed. Only about 4% have green eyes, which makes me a rarity!

      Great to find another Mars One follower. I can understand why you would not want to go now - I could never leave my children if I had any.

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  12. I'm not left-handed and I've always loved science fiction. If I didn't have a family I would volunteer to go. So very exciting.

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    1. I think we're proving reading science fiction has nothing to do with which hand a person writes with!

      I wouldn't go to Mars if I had children or a partner/husband. It's wouldn't be fair to them.

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  13. My son is a huge sci-fi reader and is not left handed. I'm getting into sci-fi more but for whatever reason, it's hard for me to read and I have no idea why - maybe it's what I'm reading. (And I'm right handed.) I think it sounds like you may need to write a book about never coming back from Mars... that I would read.

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    1. Well it's settled. The left-hand theory is nonsense. I wonder if you've just not found the right science fiction sub-genre? That is often the case with reading.

      Now that is an awesome book idea. I've already been thinking about possible ideas :)

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  14. Firmly right-handed!

    The most obvious reason that came to my mind - and I'm glad the article mentioned it - was the social stigma argument. I think sci-fi gained a bad rep some decades ago and has never recovered. It's odd, though, to think how many people happily watch sci-fi TV and movies: Star Trek, Star Wars, Terminator, Alien, Fifth Element...the list goes on. I would say sci-fi is mainstream viewing, just not popular reading.

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    1. I think you're right. I think a lot of people are happy to watch sci-fi but not to read it. My family are bemused by my love of science fiction. They just don't understand it.

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  15. I agree Ellie, we should write what we know, else it will show up in our writing. I am not a huge science fiction fan :(

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  16. Yes, we should write what we love! I love fantasy, space opera type scifi, fairy tales, and occasionally, contemporary stuff. My mom hands me historical romance books to read and I read about 1 out of 5 of those . . . I keep thinking I need to get better at that necessary evil "romance" so I read those thinking that somehow they might help. I have no problem with loving my husband, I just don't want to write mash-up romance scenes. Agh. Sorry. Way TMI there. I'm ambidextrous - forced to choose a hand to write with as a kid, and chose left-handedness, then had surgery on my left arm in college and relearned writing and such with my right hand. Now, I'm back to using both most of the time - depends on the task. Supposedly being ambi messes with your neurological functions and makes reading and learning had which is why teachers force kids to choose. I'm not sure how good the research is on that - I think it depends on the person.

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    1. TMI. You made me laugh. I hear you you on the romance reads, especially historical. It's just not my thing. The only way I read romance is if it happens to be part of the subplot. Mind you, I am partial to Gini Koch's Touched By An Alien series.

      I'm the same as you when it comes to writing. I was taught by nuns and they tried to force me to write with my right hand. These days I only write with my left, but as I recently discovered I can still use my right.

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  17. I know I wouldn't want to go on that mission now, but when I was 19, I might have been tempted.

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    1. The problem with being 19 is that you haven't really lived, and I don't think you can truly appreciate what you'd be giving up.

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  18. Man that's intense, I stress about missing an awesome band everytime I leave town let alone never seeing anything ever again D:

    I think the stigma comes from the sci-fi name so commonly associated with the usual stereotypes, most people probably don't realise what they read is sci-fi unless it's set in space or something.

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  19. Gosh, I wonder? I can't recall a time when I didn't love SF, so I can't understand why someone wouldn't. Maybe to some people it just seems too distant to be relevant to them?

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  20. I am right handed and I have been a SF fan since the age of eight or so and at a time when it was not really considered respectable to read such ‘childish trash’. Mind you, there was a lot of really bad SF written and you had to be selective. If you look at any of the really awful B movies of the 50s and 60s you will see why people thought SF was trash and that attitude has taken a many episodes of Star Trek and Star Wars to remove the stigma. It is hard to define why I like SF, I tend to like the Peter F Hamilton kind of Hard SF, but that is because I am a technical kind of person who likes to keep up with modern physics and super tech devices like Hamilton’s ‘Hawking M sink’ float my boat. But I also like Military SF from the likes of Jack Campbell, David Weber and Elizabeth Moon. Probably more because I am a guy than right or left handed. I also like Jack Vance and Philip Jose Farmer, little technology there but a lot of fun ideas. In contrast to that I really enjoyed Gone With the Wind and Oliver Twist, so I am not stuck in a rut, but good hard SF is tops, so long as the science adds up.

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  21. Well, if I was single, I'd sign up for the Mars mission. I do enjoy some good science fiction. :)

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