I don’t remember how old I was when I chanced upon The Runaway Robot in my school library (twelve, perhaps?), but I believe it was the first science fiction book I’d ever read.
I was already an avid reader as a child, but once I discovered sci-fi, I knew it was time to leave The Hardy Boys behind.
Junior and Senior high school saw my reading list expand greatly, as science fiction/fantasy became one of my favorite genres.
Authors such as Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert, Douglas Adams, George Orwell, Jules Verne and (naturally) J.R.R. Tolkien became household names for me.
One of the early gems I discovered was Aaron Wolfe’s Invasion. Wolfe turned out to be Dean Koontz, writing under a pseudonym. The Laser Books imprint was curated by Roger Elwood, to whom I—as a naive 13-year-old—sent a manuscript of a sci-fi dreck-let. He declined my submission (graciously).
Andre Norton was also one of my go-to favorites, as the bookshelf in my writing office demonstrates to this day. Her ability to write on both sides of the sci-fi/fantasy genre, and to create complex and interesting worlds was remarkable and inspirational.
Ms. Norton spent a lot of time researching ancient cultures, as ‘background’ for her world-building (for which she was famous). Never underestimate the value of anthropological and historical research when it comes to creating fictionalized societies.
Michael Crichton’s many books have joined Ms. Norton on my shelf. Crichton is an excellent example of ‘hard’ science fiction (as is Asimov): speculative stories set in the future but based on real science of today. Crichton is another author who invests a great deal of time researching new technological breakthroughs before crafting a story around them.
Fantasy continues to be represented by J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy and associated tales, and the recent discovery of ‘The King-Killer Chronicles’ by Patrick Rothfuss.
Sporadic diversions to authors with names like King, Grisham, Clancy, Koontz, Ludlum and Connelly have also been known to occur. From time to time.
As Stephen King states in his worthy tome, On Writing:
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
I’m always doing the former, and am currently in the creative throes of an obsessive focus on the latter. (That’s called foreshadowing—it’s a literary device, meaning: “writing my next novel.”)