What do S/F Writers Read?


By Raymond M. Coulombe

Of course, most them read plenty of S/F. That’s what got them into the business after all. A lot of them are big fans of detective novels and murder mysteries.

Many S/F writers will not read S/F while actively writing a book. They are afraid that other people’s ideas will seep into their work. Unconscious plagiarism is a real danger that has to be avoided. Since writers are avid readers, they have to read something.

I think one of the things that attracts S/F writers to mysteries is the logic and problem solving aspects. S/F writers have an appreciation for science. Mysteries are puzzles that can dealt with using the scientific method. They can be a pretty good mental exercise.

I know Spider Robinson was a huge fan of the Travis Mcgee novels about a hard boiled detective that lives on a houseboat. He even worked his love of the novels into his Callahan’s Key book. Thanks to Spider I picked a Travis Mcgee collection I found at a used bookstore. They are a great read. Of course, I’m a sucker for anything that takes place in the Florida Keys or on the water.

Issac Asimov would have been a pretty well know writer if he had never written a single S/F story. His mysteries are pretty good. Of course, Asimov is said to have been prolific enough for three average geniuses, so there is that.

I find myself reading mysteries for a change of pace. It gives me a chance to rest the S/F part of my brain. Would I ever write one? Never say never, but it’s unlikely. However, that does not mean there may never be a hard boiled detective based on a space station somewhere.

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