Deep-seated prejudices exist in all of us to solidify our fear of the unknown. They are the little voices in our heads that cry out when we try to embrace something different. By keeping us comfortable with the status quo, they have kept us alive as a species in ages past. Unfortunately, we don’t really need them anymore in our modern way of life, so now they only drag us down and keep us away from potentially rewarding experiences.
One of the rewarding experiences they may have kept you from is reading science fiction. What is the first thing that runs through your head when you think of scifi books? You probably imagine a lonely nerd surrounded by towers of thick novels trying to escape his pathetic non-life. By some strange magical grace, scifi movies get a pass from this stereotype as proven by box office numbers. Why does the scifi novel get passed up?
Movies are for everyone and books are for nerds, right? Wrong. See, your prejudices are already lying to you. Allow me to address a reason you may not like reading scifi and what you can do to enjoy the genre.
Reason #1: Too much techno-babble
What is ‘techno-babble’?
Turn on any episode from any season or movie of Star Trek and fast forward to the end when they stop speaking English and start making up random physics-sounding words and phrases. That is techno-babble. It is the result of a nerd behind the scenes hammering down on his keyboard and trying desperately to out-nerdify his fellow nerd friends.
Nothing is more satisfying to us nerds than coming up with a plausible sounding explanation for completely imaginary things. What nerds lack in social ability, we make up for a thousandfold in imagination and creativity. Unfortunately, this has resulted in overly complex descriptions about the world within many scifi stories that quickly turns people away. It can be hard to stand under the mind storm of a nerd’s keyboard.
What can you do about it?
Not all stories are riddled with this craziness. Many scifi authors are beginning to see the problem with too much of this running throughout the genre and are changing their ways. You have probably even heard the term ‘speculative fiction’ being thrown around to denote such stories. While I hate the idea of re-branding science fiction to achieve literary equality, I can understand why. But that is another blog entry.
Science fiction is such a vast genre you can be sure to find at least one corner of it to appreciate. Perhaps the best place to begin is with the seminal scifi novel of the 20th century, Dune. Frank Herbert pretty much invented how to tell a scifi story with less ‘sci’ and more ‘fi’. He never once strays off the story to describe in detail how the technology actually works in his world. He just takes you along and lets you discover the world for yourself, much like scifi movies.
So, do some digging around at your local bookstore in the scifi section. You should easily find something that interests you. An easy test for techno-babble is to read the back cover and if you can’t understand at least half of what it says, don’t get it.
Please, don’t judge an entire genre by this one stereotype, read up for yourself. And if all else fails, just skip the techno-babble like the rest of us, because even we nerds hate to be out-nerded.