Posted by: Mish | September 1, 2009

Gateway Drugs

As one who doesn’t remember not being a bookworm, it’s difficult for me to fathom not liking to read. I know to each their own, but in some ways it’s a foreign idea. Trying to get a friend’s son who was 12 at the time into reading, I gave him a box of various books from when I was his age and hoped that something would catch his eye. Negative. Fast forward a year and he was thrilled by A Wrinkle in Time, which was for school even. I gave him the second book in the series, but by then he was in a new “cooler” phase and it was forgotten (I think). At some point he read and liked the Harry Potter series. I wonder if he would be interested in the Hercules books since he’s a fan of the TV show.

During the Gateway Drugs discussion at Anticipation we talked about how to introduce readers to sci-fi and, more importantly, how to get people of all ages interested in reading. Sci-fi is such a broad genre that there’s something for everyone, and the same for reading in general. It’s like scatter shot, eventually there will be a hit. That particular discussion was part of the impetus to begin the sci-fi reading challenge. Blame my fellow geeks. Anyway, notes and then some…

“As drug pushers, how do we get them started?”:

  • Movie/media tie-ins.
    • Star Wars, the Golden Compass, etc…
  • Crossing genres.
    • If you like Stephen King’s horror you might like his sci-fi.
    • J.D. Robb aka Nora Roberts- mystery/sci-fi/romance- futuristic forensics.
    • Paranormal romance is as old as time (ie. Zeus and any one of the maidens).
  • Encourage, don’t judge.
    • It may not be considered “good” but they don’t know that.
    • Franchise books (ie. Star Trek and  Star Wars)- the writer is told what to do and how to do it. Publishers want quantity not quality.
    • Karen Traviss- does her own sci-fi and the Star Wars: Republic Commando books.

Gateways for children & young adults:

  • Is academics killing sci-fi ?
    • Are they reading it in school?
    • Do they make it interesting or boring? zzZZzz
  • Authors of adult books writing for younger folk  (ie. Neil Gaiman, Stephen King).
  • Prejudice against new SF/F for young adults, like Harry Potter or Twilight
    • Friend who refers to one as the book about the bloodsucking, teenage, baseball players.
    • But sci-fi is supposed to be about new ideas.
    • It may not be considered well written, but they don’t know that yet.
  • They don’t usually look by genre and in stores books are usually grouped in one section.
  • Don’t restrict books for kids.
    • Media tie-ins, Anything – > They’re READING.

Gateways for adults:

  • 1984 by George Orwell: A man pursues a forbidden love affair through a world ruled by warring states and a power structure that controls information and individuality.
  • Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer: Artemis is a teenage criminal mastermind who schemes to acquire money.
  • Dragon and the George by Gordon R. Dickson: Jim Eckert becomes a dragon while his beloved remains human. Adding to his dilemma, Angie is taken prisoner by an evil dragon and held captive.
  • True Blood/Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris: Set in Louisiana when vampires are trying to live legally and equally with mortals. With the ability to read minds cocktail waitress Sookie has enough trouble, but when tall, pale, and handsome walks into her life, problems, romance, and mystery rise.
  • V for Vendetta by Alan Moore: A graphic novel adapted into a film, which was then written into a novel by Steven Moore (no relation). An alternate future in which a vigilante named “V” stalks the streets and tries to free Britain of its fascist and totalitarian chains.

Alas, I had to bail early to be somewhere else on time, but I wonder if I can get the rest of the notes from a friend.

I’m trying to recall when I started thinking in terms of genre or started looking for books in specific ones. That’s tough, but probably in junior high or high school. Easier to remember are A Wrinkle and Time and the Chronicles of Narnia being some of the first SF/F I read when I was nine. Thanks to my high school teachers, I read Bradbury, Orwell, Huxley, Golding, White, etc.

While in the library yesterday I found J.D. Robb’s Judgment in Death on the sale rack. I’ve no inclination to read her regular romance novels, but I am willing to give her sci-fi a chance. I also picked up the New Space Opera, an anthology of a melodramatic sci-fi subgenre I’m not familiar with, space opera. A friend with whom I share a lot of similar tastes raved about Gregory Maguire’s Wicked, so I purchased that too. It’s been on my TBR list anyway. The worst case scenario is I spent seventy-five cents and some time on a few books I didn’t like. The awesome bonus of the day was in a free box, Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 23: 1961. And I wonder why my Dread Pile o’Reads grows faster than I can read…not really.

What was your gateway into SF/F and/or reading in general? Do you remember when you started thinking of books in genres? What are your recent finds?



  1. Great post, and a thought provoking discussion. I’m curious. Who was the discussion aimed at?

    I’ve mentioned this once or twice on my blog, but my daughter prefers to read non-fiction. I find it hard, but am making an effort to back off. She reads! Don’t restrict books for kids!

    Interesting book lists. I recently read Watchmen, and am hoping that V for Vendetta will be as good.

    I am curious about the True Blood books. I am watching the series, but I’m not sure about vampire books. I did the Anne Rice thing, and various others, but none quite compares to Dracula.

    I can remember everything about my first sci-fi book, except the title and author! I pilfered it from my dad, having run out of books to read. I loved it, John Wyndham came next, and so on, and so forth.

  2. It was the SF/F community talking about how to get readers who usually stray from the genres introduced to them. And also how to get people to read in general.

    Sometimes not being judgmental is easier said than done.

    Vendetta is in the queue.

    It’s hard to compare to Stoker’s original classic. I’d kind of like to read Interview with a Vampire just to check it out and read at least one Rice, but at the same time I’m like eh…. I watched some of True Blood and will probably finish season 1, but I’m not inclined to read the books.

    Go figure. I loved pilfering from my parents.

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