Science Fiction and Fantasy Fiction are, I think, often seen as a rather geeky and esoteric book genres read only by Star Trek fans who frequent nerdy conventions and rarely go out. But I am not ashamed to admit that a lot of my favourite books would probably fall into these categories, and I can’t quite see what the fuss is about. After all, many of the most successful children’s authors (and certainly my favourites – Diana Wynne Jones, Susan Cooper, Tamora Pierce, Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, as well as J. K. Rowling) are essentially fantasy authors, so it seems a logical progression to me to progress onto ‘grown up’ science fiction and fantasy.  All these ‘childrens’ authors are also still eminently readable age 20, and I plan to still be rereading them in 50 years time!

I’ve been thinking about this this week because I just re-read Nimisha’s Ship by Anne McCaffrey, a very popular and influential but easily accessibly science fiction author, then today at work I was reading a children’s manuscript which was, in essence, science fiction: set in a future world similar to but eerily different from our own, where wierd and wonderful things can happen. This is the best thing about science and fantasy fiction, in my opinion: you can create completely new worlds and societies by creating parallel worlds or by setting your action on a far away planet in the distant future. This gives you completely free rein to let your imagination run wild – you don’t have to be constrained by historical or contemporary fact, but you can take an element of a modern or historical social trend or technological development and ask ‘what if’ to infinity. Some of the best science fiction, such as the Ender’s Game and Ender’s Shadow series by Orson Scott Card (although I wouldn’t recommend his other works as his religious views colour them far too much) are fantastic precisely because the future they imagine is so deeply rooted in our present, and the philosophical and moral dilemmas they explore are often very recognisable in ourselves. Not all science and fantasy fiction is moral, of course, which is often what makes it such an enjoyable, fast-paced and imagination-boosting experience, but even Dr Who has qualms about committing genocide against the Daleks!

I could rave and rave about any and all of the authors I’ve named above, and more besides, but I’ll spare you for the moment – do get in touch, though, if you’d like to dicuss them or want some recommendations for a bit of sci fi or fantasy!

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