Come one, come all, fans of science fiction and fantasy (SFF)! Whether SFF is all you read or you’re merely dipping your toe in the genre, I believe there are universal lessons to be found in SFF literature that everyone should learn.
Human Imagination Knows No Bounds
I’m someone who likes escapist reads—I want my books to ferry me to far-off places or times. Sometimes that means a post-apocalyptic or dystopian future, sometimes it’s a spaceship circling a black hole, or maybe it’s a fantastical kingdom not of this world at all.
One of the top reasons I enjoy reading SFF so much is the imaginative settings. The best books in these genres are the ones with such immersive, well-fleshed-out world building that you forget the place you’re reading about doesn’t actually exist. Middle Earth, Westeros, The Republic of Gilead, OASIS… every amazing place you read in a SFF book was created by a human with a dream.
SFF books show us just how creative humans are and that there is no lack of imagination in this world.
Be Brave When All Hope Seems Lost
Especially in these dark and frighteningly uncertain times, looking to main characters of SFF novels can give us the courage to press on and fight for what’s right. Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, these characters react in dozens of different ways—giving us emotions to which we can relate. Then they remember the reason they’re fighting, pick themselves up from despair, and march on, which is exactly the message we need now.
Magic is Real
Maybe not in the traditional sense; maybe the magic of Fae or witches isn’t in our world, but the magic system isn’t what’s enchanting. What’s enchanting are the words woven in these stories and the feelings they evoke. Books are magic in their power to bring people together. Books are magic by stringing letters, words, and sentences together to make our hearts ache or swell. Books are magic because in them, we find ourselves; we find hope; we find inspiration; we find family within the inky pages. Make no mistake—a world with books is a world full of magic.
Progress Isn’t (Always) What We Envision
Dystopian (and more broadly, speculative) fiction is a notorious harbinger for this lesson. The best of these books deal with the fallout of what happens after the “change” has been achieved.
One example is Mockingjay, the third book of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games trilogy. Though it’s rated as the least-liked of the series (according to Goodreads reviews), I think the ideas and darkness of its messages are the best of the trilogy. Katniss has grown from a slight, starving teen only focused on saving her sister to a fierce, capable young woman fighting for the very lives of all those in her broken country of Panem. The losses and sacrifices she endures at every turn later bring about a better world, devoid of teens fighting to the death and starving citizens.
You Are Not Alone
Maybe this isn’t specific to SFF literature, but the beauty of books is the fact you are never alone. Not in the world, not in your feelings—never. The #bookstagram community is a wide and diverse place with book lovers abound. Personally, I’ve built several enduring friendships by connecting over a book I loved with a stranger.
SFF Literature Is A Reflection of Reality
Though SFF stories don’t take place in our world, their conflicts and characters are rooted in reality—in the human experience. That’s the basis of all books; without reality, we wouldn’t have fantastical places to escape to.
“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.” – Lloyd Alexander
What else have you learned from reading sci-fi and fantasy novels? Drop your favorites below!