I have been attracted to science fiction stories for as long as I can remember, but, for many years, I allowed the power of this attraction to go underestimated and under-appreciated. Recently, a series of wonderfully nerdy events has resulted in an epiphany of sorts: I am a geek – a fangirl – and it is high time that I embraced my geekiness with true zeal.
In hindsight, I admit that geekdom has, in many ways, always been my destiny. Many of my favourite childhood entertainments – Back to the Future, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Sliders - centered around the incredible concept of travel through time and space. When I was a teenager, my dad taught me how to drive by insisting that I “use the Force” to develop hyper-awareness on the road. I recall being disappointed when over the course of a four-year English degree, only one science fiction story was required reading. (Although, to be fair, if you're only going to read one sci-fi novel in four years, Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a pretty solid choice.)
To some extent, the experience of studying literary fiction for so long may have brainwashed me into thinking that genre fiction was a lesser creature, which is pretty damned sad. Although I have spent my adult life loving sci-fi stories told through film (District 9, Star Trek, Looper – I'm looking at you), I've been strangely reluctant to explore the genre in book-form. My reticence is especially extraordinary when you consider that I have worked in a bookstore for the past 7 years!
As it turned out, the sheer magnitude of books at my disposal resulted in my decision to do what any list-loving book dork would do: begin reading my way through a 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list! The inevitable problem with my insane mission was that since I hadn't created the list myself, I ended up being needlessly subjected to three underwhelming books by J. M. Coetzee when I really just wanted to skip most of the list's suggestions and get to the good stuff, namely the work of Adams, Bradbury, Atwood, Verne and Wells. To be honest, sometimes I would just skip ahead, because even the horrors of The Island of Dr. Moreau are a veritable pleasure cruise when contrasted with yet another tedious Ian McEwan novel <yawn>.
So what transpired to shake up my foolish geek-denying mind? Firstly, while receiving a shipment of books at work, I pulled out a damaged copy of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Curiously, the book wasn't even on the purchase order, so it was clear that we were meant for each other. For those uninitiated, Cline's first novel is basically an ode to several nerdy pleasures – video games, sci-fi and fantasy, virtual reality and, to a lesser extent, Rush. For further proof of this book's nerd cred, the audio version is narrated by Wil Wheaton <insert slow grin of glee here> . I immediately took this book home and began reading it voraciously at 3am when getting any post-horror movie sleep was officially a write-off.
My second serendipitous incident occurred when a customer ordered a book entitled Star Wars: The Adventures of Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight. We stock a lot of Star Wars books, so there was no reason to think this one would be exceptional. However, when the book arrived, it wasn't just a blandly written plot summary accompanied by stills from the films – it was a lovingly composed storybook featuring the original concept art by Ralph McQuarrie. I almost lost my mind with happiness and instantly ordered a copy for my sons (ostensibly). I then proceeded to sing the book's praises to anyone who would listen, and some who would rather not.
What really cemented my renewed enthusiasm for science fiction was picking up a copy of Sam Maggs' A Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy, a fantastic book that functions as both a feminist manifesto and a celebration of the unapologetic passion that is fangirldom! Maggs offers a wealth of advice to young women on how to embrace their (often male-dominated) fandom of choice. Highlights include a chapter entitled “How to Defeat Internet Trolls” and detailed instructions on how to get the most out of attending your first convention. I also adored Maggs' commitment to supporting "lady-created media and amazing female characters." Her unadulterated love for her subject matter was truly infectious, and it really inspired me to let my geek flag fly! You don't need to prove your nerd cred to anyone, ever – you can just love what you love however you want to love it, proudly.
I still very much enjoy literary fiction. If it hadn't been for my crazy 1001 Book list experiment, I might never have discovered John Banville, Haruki Murakami, or Carol Shields, which would truly have been a shame. That being said, I am officially resolved to stop thinking of science fiction as something I “kind of like,” and from this point forward I will welcome genre fiction in all of its imaginative, surreal, strangely philosophical glory. I will seek out new life and new civilizations. I will boldly go...uh, you get the idea.