People start writing literary fiction as they tumble through writing programs at Sarah Lawrence or Bennington or Iowa because that’s what they’re expected to write and they want to impress their professors and fellow students; people start writing science fiction, on the other hand, roughly ten seconds after they set down The Star Beast or Ender’s Game or Snow Crash because they get done with the book and think, holy crap, I want to do that.
This comes from science fiction writer and blogger John Scalzi. I’ve had similar experiences with reading something and being compelled to write almost immediately. The first time I remember it happening was reading Faulkner. I struggled and struggled through the first eighty or so pages of Absalom, Absalom before I put down the book and said to myself, “I have no idea what I just read, but the act of not writing (well, trying to write) that myself right now is causing me physical pain”. I don’t know if Scalzi’s quote directly applies to me, though. It’s not just science fiction that does this to me, although Charles Stross has definitely had that effect. I think, for me, I get that feeling of “I must do this” when I get lost in the book. This can be lost in a science fiction world like Stross', or lost in the amazing things that Faulkner could do with the English language. Of course, I never finish any of the projects that these books inspire, but that’s a different issue.