the Little Red Reviewer

Why do you read this stuff?

Posted on: February 13, 2011

Why do you read science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, or whatever the hell you want to call it?

no, seriously. Why do you read this stuff?  why do you pick up a fantasy or a hard SF or a new weird or a steampunk over contemporary fiction?  How come you’re reading something completely weird and off the wall while your co-workers and neighbors are reading Jonathan Franzen or Stieg Larssen or Kathryn Stockett?

What made you choose what if or once upon a time over contemporary bestsellers?

Inquiring minds want to know.

And by inquiring minds, I mean me. i’m just curious like that.

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14 Responses to "Why do you read this stuff?"

Escapism. I read about politics and history for work (and, actually, also for fun), so it’s essential to have an escape from this, otherwise I’d go nuts.
Predominantly fantasy for me, but I do still love a good political/crime thriller as well. I also like to see how authors have taken real-world issues and transferred them into secondary worlds and situations.

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Because speculative fiction shows us what it means to be human by reflecting humanity back at us in ways that contemporary fiction can never do. Yes, I also love speculative fiction because it’s usually focused more on a rollicking good plot than languishing in the elements of “literary fiction” (a hideously redundant and pretentious phrase), but in those stories, we learn more about the human condition.

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I like to read dystopian science fiction, mostly because I’m interested in other viewpoints on society and culture and where we might end up someday.

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I agree with a lot of what was said in the first two comments.

Escapism is part of it since with SF/F, I can go to places I literally –no pun intended– can’t go. But there’s a real human element to it as well. There’s also magic which I personally cannot get enough of and supernatural creatures which I definitely tend to prefer reading about in books that are SF/F or Horror than I do in Romance. I also like that there’s usually much more at stake in SF/F than a lot of contemporary fiction.

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Generally truth is stranger than fiction. If I want to find entertainment in a plausible story, then I’d rather read a crazy true story; there are plenty out there.

I like my fiction to push the boundaries of my imagination.

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I’ve loved reading fantasy since I was a little girl; even wrote a fantasy short when I was about six or so.

I just can’t get enough of it.

I’ve tried reading contemporary fic (literary fic?) and have tried to like it, but the few I’ve read I’ve either wanted to throw the book against the wall or I’ve become bored about halfway through.

I deal with enough crap in my life that it’s a pleasure to read about a faraway place, whether it really exists or not (urban fantasy tends to take place in cities like New York, Seattle, etc.). Of course, without characters you care about, nothing fantastical or magical will make up for boring or annoying characters.

I even have an interest in writing my own stuff :-). I’ve tried to write a contemporary romance, but I was boring myself, lol, until I decided to inject some fantasy into it.

FWIW, I’m currently reading Scott Lynch’s Red Seas Under Skies because I dug his first (The Lies of Lock Lamora) a lot, and I haven’t been disappointed. Then I start in on the doorstopper known as The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Wish me luck! ;-)

Thanks for asking the question.

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The fantasy and sci fi I read tends toward the hopeful.

What I mean is that a lot of contemporary fiction shows me what’s broken in life, and how it’s getting more broken with each human action and interaction.

I don’t want to read that for pleasure. I see it every day in the news, I read it willingly on the internet, I discuss it with my friends and my coworkers and other people who are trying to save the world.

But when I take that selfish time for me, for reading, I want a story that will lift me up, that will show me the height and breadth of human imagination and cleverness and genius and hilarity and absurdity that the best of us are capable of. I want to wonder, and I want a little something like a happy ending.

That’s why I read fantasy and sci-fi.

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I was going to respond to this post, but I was reading the comments first…and I think you just said exactly what I’d like to say! Contemporary fiction tends to lean towards the depressing–awareness is good, but for my pleasure reading I want something that looks at the more hopeful, more positive side of life…even if that often means putting it into a science fiction or fantasy setting.

Also, I live in this world–so I’d rather read about a different world.

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Read it for as long as I can remember, I find that there is far more imagination and sense of wonder in fantasy than other genres. I also like historical fiction, though, especially if it’s about some of the lesser known events or characters.

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Wow, this post is getting a ton of responses, cool!

Along with most of you, I’m a huge fan of escapism. The news is full of all this depressing stuff, I can feel more hopeful from reading The Road than from watching CNN.

I’ve been getting back into historical fiction/historical fantasy lately as well.

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Same reason I read history (non-fiction) and historical fiction — exciting settings and plots, cool character concepts.

I find fiction far bleaker than reality. Nobody would want to live in the medieval era after reading GRRM!

By the way, that is a very well-loved copy of A Deepness in the Sky! :D

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Peter, that’s a photo of a used bookstore haul from about 6 months ago. I haven’t even picked up the Vinge yet, but you can tell it’s good just by looking at the condition of the book! sigh, I haven’t even picked up the Stephenson yet.

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I also enjoy the escapism that fantasy books offer me. I do read the occasional contemporary novel but if I’m going to read a story based in the real world I rather just read a non-fiction book.

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Partly because every “bestseller” I’ve tried to read has been crap or at least not up to the hype. Da Vinci Code and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo being the main culprits.

Also, it’s fun and I think mostly because I’m subconsciously trying to recreate the amazing experience I had when I first read The Lord of the Rings. Some have gotten close, but nothing has topped it. :)

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