Sean Willson on Why He Reads Science Fiction

Greetings, friends 🛸

It is day 13 of our Sci-Fi Month expedition, and we’re only just beginning…A month of great content awaits us, preceded already by the amazing guests that have graced the blog with their insight, creativity, and storycraft.

Today I’m extremely excited to welcome Sean Willson to both SciFi Month and the blog, who will share with us an essay I adored reading. Sean will disclose why he reads science fiction, and in doing so, undoubtedly arise many great memories within readers who dared journey through the vast and multiple universes of science fiction since they were young, old, and even those who are just starting to dip their toe into the depths of scifi.

Sean Willson authors the Dark Nebula trilogy, a first contact story that evolves beautifully into what I believed was a fantastic ode to all his childhood inspirations. But more on that later…In December, I’ll bring you my review of Dark Nebula: Isolation the first book in this trilogy and we can all rejoice.

Meanwhile, you can pre-order the book, which will release December 4, or subscribe to Sean’s newsletter to read a prequel novella and get a taste of his world!

Right now though, it’s about what Sean has so kindly agreed to share on the blog, and about sharing that which connects us most in the book world: our love for the all-consuming power of stories.


Meet Sean Willson

Sean Willson author photo

Married father of three amazing children and two crazy dogs.

Sean Willson lives in North Carolina with his wife and three beautiful children. He’s a Computer Engineering in his day job, and when he’s not busy being a father, you can find him peering though his telescope, reading, or enjoying a great cup of coffee. Only after having kids and teaching them they can do anything they put their mind to did he resolve to rekindle his passion for writing.

If you’re interested in learning more about Dark Nebula (his debut series), you can subscribe to his newsletter by clicking this link.

Website


Why I Read Science Fiction

by Sean Willson

Have you ever asked yourself why you read science fiction? I don’t know how often people are retrospective about why they read what they read. Maybe it’s a cool cover or a favorite author that led them to a genre. Maybe it was their mother or best friends favorite book that led them to Science Fiction. Or maybe you’re someone who dips your toe in all the genres. Either way, it’s an interesting question to ask this Science Fiction Month.

I know I’ve personally asked myself this question several times throughout my life. Most recently was five years ago when I was deciding if I really wanted to debut as an author in the same genre I read for entertainment. We all know the old adage of “don’t make honey where you make money” or “don’t mix business with pleasure.” The last thing I wanted was to mute the joy and escape I feel when I read Sci-Fi. There’s also the nagging question of if I could really add anything to the conversation or evolve the genre? It felt strange to answer the question yes, but I can’t be the judge of that, only my readers can.

So, why do I think I have something to add, and more importantly, there’s that first question I asked, why do I read science fiction? To answer that I’ll have to jump back 35 years to when I was only 10 years old. I lived in a small suburb of Detroit Michigan named Utica. I had recently moved and was starting out fresh. New house, new friends, and a new school. I was the odd kid out, and to say it was challenging making friends was an understatement. Do you remember standing at the front of the class being introduced as the new kid by a strange new teacher? Scary right? Cracking into established social groups in elementary was like breaking the speed of light, it seemed impossible.

I’d go for bike rides those first few weeks after we moved to check out the neighborhood and to find fun places to get into trouble. It was on one of those rides that I ventured to the main drag in town and discovered Shelby Books, a small local bookseller on Van Dyke road.

I distinctly remember walking into that store the first time and being amazed at the sheer number and variety of books & magazines under one roof. Forget the one or two racks at the grocery store, this place had an entire wall of magazines and the rest of the store was crammed to the gills with books as far as the eye could see. I know it was a drop in the bucket compared to some of the soon to arrive book superstores, but as a 10-year-old it was like the Imperial Library on Trantor.

Photo of a classic local book seller, stacks and stacks of magazines, books, even records. Perhaps not Sean's exact bookshop, but you can imagine the feeling as a 10 year old...
Perhaps not Sean’s exact bookshop, but you can imagine the feeling as a 10 year old…

It was in this store and on that very visit, that I found my way to the Science Fiction row and marveled at the covers of my soon-to-be favorite books. Whether it was Isaac Asimov, Greg Bear, Ben Bova, or William Gibson, Shelby had them all and the covers were stunning. They weren’t the same old dragons or warrior covers of my brothers Fantasy books. These were futuristic and flashy and no two were alike. They were each unique and, like me, standouts or oddities.

These books spoke to me, but as a blue collar kid without any money, they were out of my reach. I used to ride to Shelby’s whenever I had a chance to flip through these tomes. I’d read a few pages here and there and hope that my library had a version I could check out. Most of the time they didn’t, so I’d return and read a bit more. Shelby would kick me out a lot. You see, the proprietor’s name was Shelby, and yes, the store was in Shelby Township. Funny right? Shelby times 3!

Anyhow, after the umpteenth time being kicked out, Shelby asked me why I didn’t buy many books. When I told her I didn’t have any money, she could’ve kicked me out, but she didn’t. She merely nodded and smiled, and shooed me back to the shelves to read some more. The next weekend when I arrived to peruse the shelves, she sat me aside and made me an offer. If I helped her out around the store, she’d pay me. Not with money, but with books. My eyes lit up. I was a kid in a candy store being offered to be paid in candy. Needless to say, I jumped at the offer.

I swept, washed windows, stocked and unstocked books. Heck, I even went with her and helped setup and tear down her book wares at conventions and antique shows. You name it, I did it… well, except for the tending the register. I never touched the money, but I didn’t care. I was in it for the Sci-Fi.

Each week I walked out of there with one or more new realities to absorb and disappear into. These books were my outlet to brave new ideas that challenged my viewpoint of the world around me. Brave new worlds to tear down the status quo and build up alternate rights or wrongs. They were my starships to escape the shitty reality of my life.

You see, these books gave me miniature life pods to escape the anger, fear, and abuse of my home life. It’s not something I’ve shared publicly in the past but it’s the reality of how I grew up. I spent countless hours reading in my room, outside behind our shed, or in the basement. I was hiding out from my screaming fighting parents and their walls of abusive words. These books gave me my childhood and allowed me to be a kid at a time when nothing around me was conducive to fun.

Dark Nebula: Isolation cover
Cover for Dark Nebula: Isolation, the first installment of Sean’s upcoming first contact space opera

So, I circle back to the question at the beginning of this piece. Why do I read (and now write) science fiction? I do it for myself, both for entertainment and to challenge my aging preconceived ideas of our world. I read it to push the envelope of my mind and I write it to inspire kids and adults to be different, to think different, to act different. I read and write it for my kids, to help them see that they can be anything they want, and that even their smallest actions can have an enormous impact.

To me, the ideas presented in Science Fiction represent both the best and worst of what we can become. The means to those ends lie in our hands. It’s up to us which path we take at that galactic fork in the road. Do we go left toward destruction or do we go right toward enlightenment?

Why do you read Science Fiction? I’d love to know. Drop a comment below. You can find me online on Facebook, Twitter, or at seanwillson.com. While you’re there, you can check out my upcoming books and subscribe to my newsletter. When you join, you’ll receive a free novella in my upcoming Dark Nebula series which releases on December 4th. Book 1 in the series is entitled Dark Nebula: Isolation and is available for preorder on Amazon today.

Thanks for reading!

Sean Willson


Get your copy of Dark Nebula: Isolation at…

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5 thoughts on “Sean Willson on Why He Reads Science Fiction

  1. Good question! I jumped into Science fiction as a young girl after my parents had a close encounter of the first kind on a vacation without their 3 kids (darn it!). My father was a bomber pilot in WW2 and knew what terrestrial planes could do. They experienced the UFO in Carmel, CA with others sitting around a swimming pool. The UFO came up the valley, paused to hover at the pool then went straight up at an unbelieveable rate of speed impossible for terrestrial planes. My father embarked on a life-long passion and bought every sci fi book and those dealing with UFO encounters. I was fascinated and got to read every one of them, so I grew up knowing that there were other worlds with intelligent life in the universe and I’ll never stop believing in or reading about them. Thank you so much, Dad!

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