A Beginner's Guide to Falling Back in Love with Science Fiction

A storefront flooded with bright orange light.

In recent years, I’ve begun to fall a little bit out of love with science fiction. I was first captivated by the genre in the early 2000s, when I discovered the neo-noir space western “Cowboy Bebop.” At the time, I was already an avid reader, but this series would propel me into what became a life-long affair with space operas.

I’ve been around the block when it comes to many different sci-fi series, among these the “Dune” series, as well as its watered-down rewrite “Star Wars” (I can already hear the gnashing of teeth), the “Blade Runner” series, the “Ender’s Game” series, and a handful of standalone classics like “Fahrenheit 451.” I made a few attempts to venture into the realm of hard science fiction, a genre that characterizes itself through concern for scientific accuracy, via Adrian Tchaikovsky’s “Children of Time.” Unfortunately, I found that it required exponentially more brainpower than I had to spare, and respectfully re-shelved it posthaste.

After chewing my way through the classics, I found that everything after felt like re-writes of old concepts. And, in fairness, all art is theft, and the literary arts are no exception. Everything we create is just our interpretation of someone else’s ideas. Nevertheless, it grew tiresome, and I began to drift into other genres. (I’ve discovered a burgeoning fascination with true crime, which I’m sure will resurface in a later blog post.)

But then, earlier this year, a staff member at Anythink Commerce City created a science fiction display that managed to catch my eye. Most of the titles were already familiar to me, like “Ready Player One,” which is one of those books where I can say with absolute confidence is way better than the movie. But one cover, entitled "The Strange," really stuck out to me. It displayed a gauzy, desolate desert scene with a single retro-style diner beneath an orange-hued sky with two moons. As a self-proclaimed space opera aficionado, I felt compelled to give the inside jacket a quick skim. It was love at first sight.

The brief description lays the scene: Main character Anabelle Crisp is a resident of the Martian colony New Galveston, which recently lost all contact with Earth. No more ships, no communication, and more importantly, no supplies. The colonists have been referring to this as the Silence. As I delved further into the world that Nathan Ballingrud so artfully created, I was enraptured all over again. “The Strange” was everything. It was space opera, steampunk, and eerily philosophical all wrapped up into one neat little 289-page novel.

I feel as though if Kurt Vonnegut had continued in kind from “Sirens of Titan,” and perhaps been a little less of a nihilist, this is certainly what his novels could’ve looked like. Without giving away too much of the incredible journey that this book is, I think that “The Strange” is certainly something of a departure from the traditional model of science fiction. It was an incredibly refreshing read, and one that I look forward to revisiting again and again.