I find it very hard to just read for pleasure anymore. I love to read and enjoy most of the books I’ve got. But I keep dissecting them. I look for grammatical errors, continuity errors, two dimensional characters, etc. I want to analyze them rather than just reading for the sheer pleasure of seeing written words on the page.
As writers, we need to read and read widely. It’s one of the ways we expand our knowledge and improve our skills. I’m not talking reading books on the craft, or on marketing or publishing. I’m talking about reading things in our genre, out of our genre, fiction, and non-fiction.
I tend to read a lot of fantasy. I also write fantasy. What I don’t read is a lot of science fiction. Yet I write science fiction. Why is that? Mostly because you don’t see too many sci fi books on the Amazon Top 100 Free list. The bulk of them are fantasy. And sadly, the ones I’ve found and read the samples from are so awful that I won’t read the rest. I read a lot of sci fi as a teenager though, and I’ve watched some of the more recent sci fi series. Well, the ones that end up on Netflix at least.
One of my concerns about my sci fi is the fact that I read primarily fantasy. I have a very limited source of sci fi. I’ve got a few audiobooks, a handful of books I’ve gotten through Amazon, and a couple old time sci fi novels I’ve picked up at thrift stores. I have no room for physical books, so I keep those very limited. I also read free shorts people put up on their blogs, so I do get some perspective of what’s being written now.
One of the things I do to help my sci fi is read science and technology articles. Someone links one and I go read it. If I need to figure something out I search on Google for a general term near what I want and see what I can find. I also watch shows like the new Cosmos and whatever science documentaries I can find on Netflix.
I don’t write hard sci fi where I explain the science and tech behind everything. I write soft sci fi because I’m not interested in trying to explain how things in the future will work based on our current and limited understanding of what technology might be then. I get an idea from my research and convert it to fit my worlds.
I’ve also learned that fantasy can be converted to sci fi in a way. Ideas, characterization, even settings can be used if you do it correctly. Anne McCaffrey and her Pern books are a good example of this. I don’t know if I’ll ever master storytelling to the degree she did, but I hope to try. The Pern books were one of the mainstays of my teenage years, and I still read them when I can.
My point is even if you don’t have access to the genre you write, read anyway. Read everything and anything you can get your hands on that you find you can enjoy. Also, watch TV, movies, documentaries, etc. Whatever you can use to expand your knowledge, even if it’s just in seeing how another author presents their world.