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Love At First Read

What book(s) launched your speculative fiction addiction?
| Jul 29, 2014 | 13 comments |

And now for something totally different.

It was a dark and stormy year. Well, I don’t know that 1971 was particularly more dark and stormy than any other year. Indeed, the year before had Hurricane Celia flying through; downgraded to a strong tropical storm by the time it hit us, but strong enough to topple a tree in our yard.

For me it was stormy for reasons beyond the weather. Some were stressful for a ten-year-old, like my parents divorcing, moving to a big city from a tiny town in SW Texas, adjusting to a new school and friends (something I’d dealt with all my life), among other events.

Others were gentle rains that brought new growth, like my discovery of speculative fiction.

Charlotte's WebIn 1971, I attended 5th grade at Pecan Springs Elementary in Austin, TX. My homeroom teacher, Ms. Birdwell, had a habit of reading us stories during quiet time. One day she began a new book that would change my life: Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.

This popular children’s fantasy caught my imagination. Until then, reading had only been something I did because I was told to, usually at school. After Ms. Birdwell finished Charlotte’s Web, I was so captivated by it that I went to the school library and checked it out to read it for myself. So began my love of reading.

It was a speculative fiction book that moved me to become a reader.

Encyclopedia BrownAfter finishing that book, I started looking for more to read. I stumbled across the Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol. Those kept me busy through 6th grade. Then in 7th grade, I discovered my first science fiction, The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Ray. I loved this book so much I focused from then on on science fiction and fantasy through 12th grade.

The Runaway RobotThat focus led me to read faith-based speculative fiction. Like a lot of people at the time, that involved The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. Those stories have stayed with me all my life.

Then I went to college and focused on theology and biblical studies. Fiction fell off the radar and non-fiction took over. It wouldn’t be until 2005 that speculative fiction once again captured my imagination and interest when I listened to my wife reading The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau to our kids.

The City of EmberNot only did that book respark my interest in speculative fiction, it generated an idea for a story that started me down the road to writing my own. The rest is a story still unfolding as I work to let some light shine through speculative fiction.

To say that speculative fiction has impacted my life and made me what I am today is an understatement.

How about you? What book(s) launched your speculative fiction addiction?

As a young teen, R. L. Copple played in his own make-believe world, writing the stories and drawing the art for his own comics while experiencing the worlds of other authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, and Lester Del Ray. As an adult, after years of writing devotionally, he returned to the passion of his youth in order to combine his fantasy worlds and faith into the reality of the printed page. Since then, his imagination has given birth to The Reality Chronicles trilogy from Splashdown Books, and The Virtual Chronicles series, Ethereal Worlds Anthology, and How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software from Ethereal Press, along with numerous short stories in various magazines.Learn more about R. L and his work at any of the following:Author Website, Author Blog, or Author Store.

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Loren Eaton

John Christopher’s “The White Mountains” made me love SF, and Ray Bradbury’s “The October Country” turned me toward (classical, non-splattery) horror.

Paul Lee

It was a combination of Tolkien and a little-known text adventure game/interactive fiction called Wearing the Claw, which was in an adventure game bundle that was on one of those CDs full of late 90’s shareware.

Ty Briggs
Ty Briggs

I learned to read with the Berenstein Bears and continued to be an insatiable reader throughout elementary school, but I think the most influential time was when I first got my hands on Roald Dahl books. I’m fairly sure I read everything he wrote, from The BFG, The Twits and The Fantastic Mr Fox to the more we’ll known like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory or Matilda.

My Nintendo 64 brought my reading to a hiatus until after high school when I picked up a copy of Terry Goodkind’s Wizard’s First Rule on a friend’s recommendation. I’ve been hooked on spec-fic ever since.

David Bergsland

Probably Azimov Foundation Series and Heinlein”s Stranger in a Strange Land, plus RingWorld are remembered out of hundreds. Of course Dune, and Anne McCaffery’s Dragonriders of Pern and Ursula LeGuin’s EarthSea. There were so many before they got so weird…

David Bergsland

Then, of course, I met the Lord in ’74 and read no heathen fiction until the 90s.

Kat Vinson

I mostly learned to read from my parent’s Peanut’s collection. But what sparked my love for reading, and spec fic, was in 3rd grade when my father bought me the Narnia series. They promised me an Aslan t-shirt when I finished the series so I started reading, logging the date I finished each book on the inside covers. My mother did the same – we competed to see who would finish first. (Though looking back now, I see what they did there!)

I don’t remember a time when I haven’t loved reading. But my parents say I struggled with it and did not love it until the 3rd grade. So I credit their creativity with that Narnia series in sparking my life-long love of books.


Narnia, when my dad started reading the books to me when I was 5. That introduced me to fantasy, which I insisted was my only love.

Then I’d reached the crisis movement at age 12 when I’d read every book in my house (not quite literally, but certainly most story books/novels) and I was forced to finally try the science fiction book my dad had bought a few years ago from a used book sale. But it was with no high expectations – I hated science fiction, I was sure.

But three chapters into “Firebird” by Kathy Tyers (the Bethany House edition) I was deeply hooked and in love with the story to a point of a book binge where I read most of the evening, woke up the next morning and read right through the morning to the end. (Really – who could put the book down once they were headed to Hunter Height?) 😀

And so I found a second love – I’m still more a space opera person than hard science fiction, but I’ll give anything a try.

Matthias M. Hoefler
Matthias M. Hoefler

I’m sketchy on the details, but I know a comic book series called “The Micronauts” gave me the sci-fi bug early. I wrote and illustrated a couple sci-fi books. I read about Asimov’s robots, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Hobbit, all before I was saved.

I’ve been really into folktales since college, ever since a children’s lit class I took while studying to be a teacher.

D. M. Dutcher

Hmm. Man, this is hard. I’m not sure of the chronology, but these are the earliest books I remember reading.

Dragonfall 5 and the Space Cowboys was the first kids SF series I remember reading.

I also read the usual stuff. Narnia, A Wrinkle in Time, The Dark is Rising, etc.

I read Asmiov’s Lucky Starr juveniles, Janet Asimov’s Norby the Robot books, the second Tom Swift series,  and Andre Norton’s Star Ka’at books.

Also the kids anthologies of the 70s. If you can find them, they are some amazing horror. Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures is probably the best of them.

A huge influence on me loving comics was Marvels The New Mutants. Before that, I had a subscription to the Fantastic Four, during the John Byrne years.

For Christian fiction, John White’s Geburah books, Stephen Lawhead’s Dragon King Trilogy, Calvin Miller’s Guardians of the Singreale, and John Bibee’s The Magic Bicycle.


The Chronicles of Narnia started it all. I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have that series in our house.  For a long time though, I was more of an action-adventure girl than a speculative fiction girl. Frank Peretti’s The Cooper Kids series is still a favorite. Then, in junior high, I discovered The Hobbit and my love of fantasy kicked into high gear.

Tamra Wilson
Tamra Wilson

I had always loved Disney movies, but I caught the Spec-fic bug when I read an easy reader called Sir Small and the Dragonfly, about a tiny knight who battles a dragonfly. (I lost my copy in a house fire, but found it in a bookstore and just had to snag a copy!)  I was a voracious reader of whatever caught my eye, historical fiction was my favorite for a long time, but then I latched on to Tolkien, Lewis,and Lawhead, especially his Endless Knot series (one of my own characters is named after one of his), before being hooked by Martin the Warrior in the Redwall series. I had wanted to write for a long time, but it was Redwall that convinced me to give the whole writing thing a try.

Brandi Midkiff

I loved Charlotte’s Web and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. They were both done as in-class read-alouds; best part of elementary school other than learning to read. It was Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles that got me into sword-and-sorcery fantasy. I loved A Wrinkle in Time as an eleven-year-old, but when I reread it as an adult it didn’t make much sense to me anymore. But my daughter read it around middle school age and loved it as well. Maybe you have to be a pre-teen girl to get that story.

Julie D

When I was in third grade, my mom started reading LWW to me for school. I got fed up with how long she was taking and finished it myself. That’s how it all started….