The Four Readers of the Apocalypse

I've just returned from visiting my friend, Kelly. We talked about science fiction readers and he told me about study he did back in grad school, around 1985, where he came to the conclusion that there are basically four types of science fiction readers. I apologize in advance, Kelly, for any inaccuracies in this blog, including the name of each group. I've also added some of my own touches to each group.

The Four Types

1. The Serious Networker

The Serious Networker reads science fiction in a clinical way, taking it as seriously as any literary fiction reader. They read Phillip K. Dick and William Gibson and J.G. Ballard and are generally very well informed about the genre, with a strong sense of the genre's history. They could care less if a novel is long or short, as long as it says something interesting. They attend science fiction conferences, write thoughtful review blogs, and generally network with other fans, through the Internet and otherwise.

2. The Serious Isolationist

The Serious Isolationist approaches the sci-fi she reads in much the same was as the networker, but does not generally attend sci-fi conferences or spend copious amounts of time on the Internet chatting with other fans. The time they spend not networking may be spent reading other genres, including literary fiction. They might enjoy Alice Munro as much as Asimov. They can be dark, brooding types with little energy for socialization.

3. The Casual Reader

The casual reader isn't too choosy about what genre they're reading. They could have as easily picked up a western or a crime novel as a sci-fi novel. They're looking for something to entertain them before bed, after a long day of work at the office. They're likely to buy books at airports or drugstores to help kill a few hours while traveling. They buy a lot of paperbacks with puffy, gold lettering on the cover. They're not looking for super heroes to worship or deeper meanings-like the crowds of ancient Rome, they seek Entertainment. They don't think about fan fiction, much less writing it.

4. The Immersed Reader

The Immersed Reader is willing to go all-in with a book. They seek elaborate plots with larger-than-life characters. Not only do they attend science fiction cons, they attend fantasy cons as well. In fact, they're quiet likely to be big fans of both sci-fi and fantasy, since both genres tend to be based on two kinds of magic anyway. They read Marion Zimmer Bradley and Star Wars books and other space opera and they want their books thick, with many points of view and elaborately detailed worlds and tons of sequels. They dress up like the characters in the books they read. They write fan fiction and run fan websites.

Of course, this is just a generalization of reader types, and a lot of people will either be a mixture of these types or fall through the cracks completely. I'd consider myself a Serious Isolationist, for the most part. My dad (hi Dad!) is definitely a Casual Reader.

Your thoughts?


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