First, you’ll need to read some science fiction. Preferably a lot of science fiction. This is an unfortunately necessary first step and one that can’t really be skimped on. You could try getting by on a little urban fantasy or maybe some paranormal romance, but it is generally a good idea to go with the genuine article.
If you aren’t exactly sure what science fiction is, don’t worry! Most other people don’t have a clue either, but that hasn’t stopped them from reading it! Just look for the words ‘science fiction’ somewhere on the cover of the book. If those two words are printed anywhere on the cover - front or back – you’ll be in safe territory. (Not finding those words on the cover doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not science fiction. In fact it probably is. Publishers do this occassionally when they want to actually sell a few copies of a book. You can read it, but for now it’s best to invest your time with books that are properly labelled.)
You will probably notice that there are many different kinds of science fiction. Don’t let this confuse you. Publishers like to put labels on books so that they can be put into the proper box. These labels are, for the most part, nothing more than arbitrary adjectives – the same kinds of things you’ll find on bottles of household cleaners, things like ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘new and improved’, ‘lilac scented formula’ and ‘safe for pets’.
While mostly meaningless, these lables can be useful later on, so don’t worry about them now, but do make note of them.
You may also notice that these books come in a variety of thicknesses. Since you need to read a lot of titles in a short period of time (presuming that you wish to make converts as soon as possible) it would be a good idea to stick with the thinner books. Right now, thick is in. Book thickness is yet another publishing fad – like straight-legged jeans or flare-legged jeans – and like fashion, this trend is constantly changing. We’re concerned with volume right now, so don’t worry too much about wearing last summer’s bikini, at least you’re wearing a bikini.
The second thing you’ll need is a person. Preferably someone who is not dead and preferably someone who can read. That’s not a hard and fast requirement – there are audio books, podcasts, movies and even anime versions of science fiction that the illiterate can enjoy, and lord knows there’s more than enough zombie fiction for readers who have passed on – but the ability to read on the part of your intended convert will help speed the process up.
One other thing to clear up before we move on to the actual conversion process. Some people get confused by the names used for science fiction. Here we use the full, formal, term – Science Fiction. Other people sometimes use SF (where the ‘S’ stands for Science and the ‘F’ for Fiction) or Sci Fi or SyPhy or Speculative Fiction or Speculative Literature or Science Fantasy or even ‘That Buck Rogers Stuff’. Don’t let this fool you. It’s all Buck Rogers ‘stuff’.
Buck who? He’s the guy that played Captain Kirk before that upstart William Shatner came along. Yes, it is way past the time that they should start calling it ‘that Captain Kirk stuff’, but science fiction as an industry is so so much living in the past that we won’t see that happen for at least another century. That is, if the singularity doesn’t happen first. But we’re digressing. If the singularity does happen, none of this science fiction stuff will matter and if it doesn’t happen, reading about it will have been a waste of time.
So now you need a reader. This is perhaps the most difficult requirement, as readers are elusive creatures who often go to great lengths to hide their true nature. You may also find yourself fooled by ‘writers’ who claim to be readers (they do this as a fairly successful strategy to lure in readers). Of course not all writers claim to be readers – only the good ones.
The easiest way to identify a reader is to find one holding a book. In the olden days you could usually count on finding people holding books in bookstores, but these days most of them seem to be holding coffee or DVDs rather than books. You can try a bookstore, you might get lucky. You can try other public spaces as well. Libraries, like bookstores, have a lot fewer people in them holding books these days. Bathroom stalls can sometimes prove to be rewarding, if a bit awkward. The best advice is – just keep your eyes open and go to places where there are lots of people. Eventually you will find someone holding a book.
Next – examine the book. You’ll want to make sure that it’s a work of fiction – or at least a biography or history text. People reading non-fiction like “How To Get Rich In Ten Easy Steps” or “Your Political Philosophy Sucks – And You’re Stupid” are unlikely to make good candidates for conversion. They’re hung up on ‘the real world’ and can’t waste time on make-believe, they need that time to catch up on cable news.
Assuming that it is a work of fiction that your intended convert is reading, you’re just about all set.
Next Week: Popping The Question