11 Habits That All Sci-Fi Readers Share

by Charlotte Ahlin
Buena Vista Pictures

Martian princesses. Lonely robots. Ships that soar through time and space. Science fiction is a wide and varied genre and, between movies and video games and the seemingly endless parade of Marvel universe TV shows, sci-fi stories seem more popular than ever. Within that wild and woolly universe of science fiction fans, though, there exists the subset of sci-fi readers: people who enjoy reading about science fictional adventures just as much as (or even more than!) watching aliens exploding each other on the big screen. And, while every sci-fi reader is different, we all have a few key characteristics in common. Here are a few habits that all sci-fi readers are guilty of.

Even within the world(s) of sci-fi literature, there are dozens upon dozens of sub-genres. You might be on a strict dystopia diet, contemplating our authoritarian future with Katniss Everdeen and Winston Smith. Or you might be a sucker for robots who fall in love, cyborgs with identity problems, and AI that's gotten too smart for its own good. Or you might be all about aliens, space ships, parallel universes, time travel, ray guns, and all the accompanying thrills and paradoxes. Whichever flavor of sci-fi you like to read, you've definitely picked up a few sci-fi reader habits along the way:

Looking up the real science behind the fake science

Science fiction (or speculative fiction, if you're going to be like that about it) is all about the possibilities that lie within our own universe. That's why most sci-fi readers often find themselves on Wikipedia, trying to determine if a human really could survive inside of a black hole, or if killing your own clone is a scientifically good idea. As soon as you finish a book, you're compelled to learn more about the real science behind it, because sci-fi readers aren't afraid of sounding smart.

Worrying about advances in technology

Is it just me, or is the news sounding more and more like the prologue to a sci-fi novel these days? The true sci-fi reader sees a headline about facial recognition iPhones or the rise of sex robots and starts to feel a little uneasy... haven't you read this story before? You're torn, because advances in tech make it feel more like you're living in one of your favorite books, but also those books tend to end badly for the human race.

Correcting people on the differences between sci-fi and fantasy

When you're a sci-fi fan, it's hard not to feel a little defensive. A lot of people look down on sci-fi as silly stories about aliens with rubber foreheads (and to that I say... what's wrong with rubber forehead aliens?). As a sci-fi reader, you're probably very used to explaining sci-fi as a genre, and how it usually doesn't involve wizards and orcs.

Trying to get your non-sci-fi friends into sci-fi

This might be a bit of an annoying habit, but it does pay off every once in a while. A lot of people don't like to read sci-fi, and that's fine... but if you slip them slightly more realistic sci-fi, like Never Let Me Go or The Time Traveler's Wife, they might realize that it's not an inherently silly genre. And then, before they know what's happened, you've tricked them into reading Dune and actually liking it.

Buying too much merch

Why must sci-fi series have so much merch? If you read a lot of science fiction, chances are extremely high that you have some manner of sci-fi related poster, mug, desk toy, bookend, t-shirt, and/or underwear in your possession. All your leftover money goes straight into buying more books, of course, so you're forced to live of a diet of dried ramen and astronaut ice cream.

Arguing with other sci-fi readers

Sci-fi fans tend to be passionate about the stories they love. And that's beautiful... until it dissolves into a 5,000 word blog post on why your ship should be canon and all other shippers should be flayed alive. Sci-fi readers are not immune to the occasional sci-fi argument. And while most sci-fi readers just want to geek out about Ray Bradbury in peace, there are a few outspoken "fans" who like to get upset when anyone other than white men enjoy the genre of science fiction.

Obsessing over sci-fi authors

Fans of every genre get a little nutty over their favorite authors. But sci-fi fans tend to take it that extra mile. Sometimes it's harmless, like reading everything Octavia E. Butler ever wrote. Other times it's more intrusive, like when fans of Larry Niven's Ringworld interrupted a sci-fi convention to chant "The Ringworld is unstable! The Ringworld is unstable!" until Niven addressed the orbital science errors in his popular novel.

Going into too much detail with your plot summaries

It's not your fault that sci-fi books tend to have a lot of details worth mentioning. But when your friend asks, "What's that book about?" and you respond with a 20 minute lecture on the economy of Arrakis and its influence on the planet's Fremen community of Sietch Tabr... you should probably stick to just reading the blurb on the back.

Explaining how the book is different from the movie

Sci-fi books are very frequently adapted into hugely popular, high budget films. That means that there are a lot of people out there who don't particularly care about the book version. And sometimes, you just can't stop yourself from mentioning how the book and film are different, and why you still prefer the book over the film (although you do kind of get why the name was changed to Bladerunner from the far less sexy Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?).

Staring wistfully into the night sky

I firmly believe that all readers are daydreamers. But there's something especially frustrating about being a sci-fi reader when we're all trapped here on Earth. After all, you might someday fall in love, or travel to the French countryside, or do all sorts of other things that happen in books. The chances of you flying through space and visiting a distant planet, however, are relatively slim.

Coming up with plans for when the aliens arrive

...but, on the off-hand chance that you do ever run across any aliens, it's always good to be prepared. Right? That's why every sci-fi reader spends a sizable portion of their daily commute coming up with a game plan for what to do when the aliens do arrive (especially if they're not friendly).