Do You READ Science Fiction?

At an author’s fair event recently, more than one man came up to my table to grill me on my credentials as a SF author. One looked over my table then said, “Do you READ science fiction?”

I was a little gobsmacked to be asked that question when I’ve got book covers and promo materials encompassing no less than eleven SF authors. What the hell kind of question is that to ask a SF author? I had to wonder if he’d have been asking that question if I had been of the male gender.

“I write it,” I said. “I’d damn well better read it.”

He didn’t look convinced and asked me who I read.

Who haven’t I read? would be an easier question to answer.

TFTSFRB_Revise_Title-2I directed his attention to the authors in the antho, then the other authors who’d sent bookmarks and promo materials.

He said, “Yes, but have you read any REAL science fiction, like Eddings?”

REAL Science Fiction? Eddings?

I knew what he was asking. Did I just read that fluffy romance stuff and daydream about flexing abs and impossibly handsome Chippendale Dancers on space ships? Or did I read the “serious” Science Fiction that MEN wrote.

I swallowed my temper with some difficulty and smiled. “You mean David Eddings?”

He nodded.

endersgamenovelcover_2“Yes. I’ve read Eddings. He’s more of a Fantasy writer and while I do enjoy the occasional Fantasy, it’s not my thing. I prefer my Science Fiction a little more ‘hard boiled.’ I’ve read Piers Anthony, Ray Bradbury, Orson Scott Card, Ben Bova, Kurt Vonnegut, Philip Dick, Harry Harrison, Asimov and Arthur C. Clark. I wasn’t too keen on Asimov or Clark. I found their styles ponderous and dry. I’ve also read Frank Herbert, but I also found him a bit ponderous. I like books with stories that have legs and MOVE.” For the record, you can add Jules Verne and HG Wells to the list. “I’ve also read Alas Babylon, and Brave New World, but I have to admit to being most influenced by Harry Harrison.”

The man’s brow furrowed. “I’ve never heard of him.”

I smiled. “Stainless Steel Rat series?”

He shook his head. His lips curled as he prepared to dismiss me yet again.

“Have you ever heard of a movie called ‘Soylent Green?'”

He nodded. “Of course.” He looked indignant.

I smiled again. “‘Soylent Green was based on Harry Harrison’s novel ‘Make Room, Make Room.’ Not one of my favorites of his works.”

Then gentleman processed this for a moment.

james_bond_casino_royale_panbk.preview“But I don’t just read Science Fiction,” I ventured. “I also like men’s adventure. I’ve read the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, as well as the ‘Out of the Ashes’ postapocalyptic series by William W. Johnstone. I did enjoy the Don Pendleton Mack BolanΒ series, but after the first fifty books, I got bored with the formula.”

He looked a bit shocked, but I held my smile and friendly demeanor.

“Oh, I guess you do read science fiction then.”

“I could go on, but I like a lot of midlist writers as well as self and indie pubbed authors. I like reading the authors who aren’t getting all the press. I can direct you to some of the best science fiction authors you’ve probably never heard of. There are eight of them right here,” I pointed to the antho cover. “I was fortunate enough to edit this anthology.” I picked up the bookmarks of TM Hunter’s books. “A particular favorite of mine is TM Hunter’s Aston West series. He writes in the style of the 1950’s and ’60’s popular SF adventures. His hero is a space pirate who can’t seem to catch a break.” I picked up TK Toppin’s bookmarks. “TK Toppin’s Lancaster Trilogy has garnered quite a bit of recognition from critics, but my personal preference is for her ‘To Catch A Marlin’ series.”

I could see that my answers threw him off his stride. He nodded, thanked me and excused himself.

Honestly, what kind of genre writer would I be if I’d never read anything within my genre? What kind of writer would I be if I never READ at all? I read Science Fiction. I read Fantasy. I read Mystery, too. I’m partial to cozies, but I enjoy the occasional police procedural. And yes, I read Romance. I read good books and bad books. I read books that just make me say “oh, honey…” and shake my head.

I read and dream of the day in which women SF authors will no longer have to defend their credentials for writing in their genre.

20 thoughts on “Do You READ Science Fiction?

  1. I think your first hunch was right. You’re a girl. What would you know about SF, lol! But then again he also wasn’t witness to your younger days of pulling cable, teching sound and hoisting humongus sport cameras around with the best of the guys!!! You could easily pull your weight with the biggest guys and you had their respect!!!

    Profiling or prejudice, it can even be found in the writing world, too!!!! He’s a fool!

    But then again, the kid behind the ticket window of my favorite theater couldn’t understand what the draw was for “John Carter” to all the older people. Had to explain to him that the story was originally written in 1911 and that there were several other book in the series and that it was written by an obscure author, Edgar Rice Burroughs. Ya know, the same guy who wrote all those “Tarzan” books. Our ticket taker was surprised to learn from me that there was more than one book to “Tarzan”, lol. So much waste on the youth!!! (heavy sigh)

    1. You’re right, Sandy. Those days of hauling cable in the broiling sun, loading and unloading gear after putting in a 20-hour day, and troubleshooting gremlins during the show, all while under the critical stares of twenty or so manly men have thickened my skin to a lot of the idiocy that insecure men pull. I have to admit that this one took me by surprise.

      I know how Mike Nesmith of the Monkees felt as he stood in the wings, ready to go on stage, guitar slung over his back and a reporter asked him, “Is it true you don’t play any of your own instruments?” According to Nesmith, he was incredulous at the reporter’s temerity. “Man, how can you ask me that?” Nesmith is reported to have said. “I’m getting ready to go out on stage in front of 6,000 people. I’d better HOPE I play my own instrument!”

    1. I have a plethora of models to draw from for that particular character. This fellow was more like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory. I don’t think he was trying to be insulting, bless his heart. I think he was simply making a judgment based on my gender…but thanks!

      I was at an event once where I overheard an author being rude to someone. I don’t know whether it was justified or not, but it turned me off her books and I’ve never forgotten it. I shan’t be rude to someone in public over insulting questions like this. It’s hard, but I try to remember that, despite my predilection for male-dominated pursuits and careers, my mother really did raise me to be a lady.

    1. Yes, I know I stammered a bit when he asked about Eddings. My thoughts were “WTF??” That’s why I clarified “David Eddings?” I wanted to make sure we were talking about the same Eddings.

      I’m so glad I finally developed a check valve between my brain and my mouth.

      Just have to shake my head sometimes.

      1. I used to read The Hardy Boys in preference to Nancy Drew. Give me a disaster story over a romance – preferably one that keeps me reading into the wee hours… Not all us ladies read romance exclusively.

  2. I used to think that nobody could be dense, rude, or mean enough to actually engage in “fake geek girl” accusations, but I keep hearing stories like these, so I am forced to admit that it happens.

    Sounds like you dealt with him in a very gentle (which he didn’t deserve) and effective way, and I applaud your restraint.

    If I had been there I would have given that guy such a stinkeye…

      1. I’m still surprised when it happens in this day and age. Really, though, it says far more about the few who make the accusations than it does about the women they’re insulting. My father always said that a lady was someone who could tell you to go to hell in such a way that you would thank her and ask directions.

        I’m a geek goddess. Always have been. Always will be. No one can take my geek card. I’ve given enough interviews about all things SF and written enough articles and blog posts that I’m pretty confident in my credentials. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me *that* particular question before.

        I find it ironic because one of the last things I did for Giant Freakin’ Robot before I started up my own blog was to give my opinion on Modern Must-Read SF Novels of the last fifty years. I chose The Time Ships by Stephen Baxter. I wonder if that sweet, albeit confused gentleman has ever heard of it?

  3. Well, you handled that far better than I would have. They’d still be picking up pieces of the “gentleman”. I prefer the Princess Leia “…holding a thermal detonator” form of negotiations.

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