Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: Which one should I read?

This is a question that comes to my mind often. Obviously I like reading fiction. It lets you have an adventure, or a catharsis at least. Non-fiction? Not so much. Here are their quick pros and cons.

Fiction: Pros

Fiction gets consumed easily, because our brains are wired to listen to stories. Thanks, evolution!

By reading character descriptions, reader actually learns to decode human behavior and improves social skills.

Good novel re-wires the reader’s brain into an altered state, at least for few days. I think it lets you keep the author’s narration voice for a while.

– By reading classics, you can learn of intimate details of people from different time and place, and realize how common idiosyncrasies of human nature are.

– Because the story grabs you, you’re highly likely to read it in bed without dozing off.

Fiction: Cons

– There are so many fiction books that it’s hard to find good ones.

– OK. With all that said, to what extent is reading a book different than watching a movie? I mean, some films are better than the books, because one author can overlook some aspects. (Some books, not all)

– Fiction doesn’t give much factual or insightful information like non-fiction.

Non-Fiction: Pros

– Made under rigorous research, so usually gives you in-depth knowledge of a particular field.

– Can contribute to the economic, entrepreneurial aspect of your life. When’s the last time Anna Karenina helped you earn more?

– Personal development and autobiographical non-fiction lets you learn from the giants and get inspired.

– Timely research from cutting-edge field catered to the mass. And still better reads than research papers.

– If you sell it after you read it, there’s a higher chance someone will buy it.

Non-Fiction: Cons

– Damn it, fell asleep reading Bill Bryson’s¬†Short History of Everything¬†again.

– Is text really the right medium to explain scientific concepts? Mendeleev proved even tables can do better–in his dream.

– Speaking of tables, the only protagonist to tie all these mumbo-jumbo is — the Table of Contents.

What do you think? Agree with my list? I’m, of course, going to uncharted water when I talk about non-fiction. I don’t read them much. So I’ll appreciate your input on non-fiction or general feedback. Muchos gracias.

A Cool Sci-Fi Short Story, A Question That Sprouted From It

I just read an awesome short story and I wanted to share it with you. It’s titled Zugzwang and it came from Daily Science Fiction yesterday, which emails you sci-fi stories under 1000 word every day. If you aren’t subscribed to DSF, I highly recommend it. Think about it. You read boring e-mails every day, right? Why not add a short story in your reading list as well?

Anyway, this story is about an alien encounter and it hooked me in right from the beginning. Its writer’s name is Curtis M. Chen. As a big fan of Ted Chiang and Ken Liu (if you haven’t heard of them, you’re missing out on some awesome stories!), I was curious to see another Chinese American name.

And I wasn’t disappointed. The story was excellently crafted. The plot had tension and several layers of things going on, yet no word seemed redundant and all of the sentences were simple-yet-varied.

If you haven’t read it already, I ask you to go ahead and read it here. When you’re done, come back and let’s talk about it.

Are you done? Good. How’d you like it? I know, right? Well, on the topic of alien chess, there has been an awesome novella series called “Championship B’tok” by Edward M.Lerner on September, 2014 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact Magazine. If you liked Zugzwang, your mind will be blown to smithereens at B’tok, I guarantee. (Sadly, though, it’s a series and ends with a cliffhanger… the show still goes on.)

Anyway, a little bio of Curtis Chen said that he was a software engineer in Silicon Valley (whoa!), AND he is a Clarion West graduate (double-rainbow-whoa!). So we should expect to read more awesome stories from him. As you probably know, Clarion is an intensive and competitive sci-fi workshop, many contemporary sci-fi and fantasy authors are alumni.

Both Chiang and Liu have computer science background and I got really accustomed to their easy reading, thought provoking stories. So this might get you wondering, “Would I succeed as a sci-fi author if I pursued IT?”

I would argue that it doesn’t have to be IT, but any science degree helps. Robert Heinlein had a naval engineering degree, Isaac Asimov was a professor of biochemistry and Arthur C. Clark had a degree in math and physics, among his experience in other things.