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Skills I Think I Have Because I Read Science Fiction and Fantasy

A.J. O'Connell

Staff Writer

A.J. O’Connell is the author of two published novellas: Beware the Hawk and The Eagle & The Arrow. All she’s ever wanted to do in life is read and write books, and so, is constantly writing at least one novel. She holds an MFA in creative fiction, but despite the best efforts of her teachers at Fairfield University's low-residency program, remains a huge dork for sci-fi, fantasy and comic books. She is a journalist and has taught journalism to college students. She blogs about feminism, the writing life, and whatever else comes into her head at Blog: A.J. O'Connell Twitter: @ann_oconnell

Recently, my neighbor’s pony escaped and I decided to use all the horse knowledge I’ve picked up from reading high fantasy to get him back into his pasture.

You can imagine how well that went.

Although I live in the country, I’m new here and I don’t know horses. You know what I do know? Fantasy. And you know what features heavily in almost every fantasy novel I’ve ever read? Horses.

So I grabbed some apples, made a halter out of a piece of rope, and went to it.

Long story short, the pony ate a lot of apples, got annoyed with me, and went home on his own, while I was left with a reminder that books are not The Matrix and you can’t download knowledge directly from them into your head.

Obviously there is a line between real life and fiction, but sometimes it’s easy to forget that just because I’ve read hundreds of books in which characters I’m deeply familiar with have a skill, that I do not.

And that got me thinking of all the other skills I think I have, courtesy of my love of  sci-fi and fantasy.

Here’s an incomplete list:

Archery: I did this once in middle school gym class, but I have done this so many more times in my mind while I’m reading. How many books have I read in which someone yells “Nock!” at a line of guys on a wall? How hard could this be? You put an arrow in the bow, pull it back to your ear, and let it go.

Putting on armor: I put on clothes daily, and armor is just clothing made of metal. According to my reading material, all I need is a squire and a wineskin, and I’m good.

Ruling a fiefdom/kingdom/city state: I can sit in a chair and look fancy all day while listening to the public complain. No problem. And I’m an expert in sitting through boring council meetings in real life, so BOW DOWN TO YOUR QUEEN.

Flying a spaceship: Like this is hard? You sit in the seat and the controls are right in front of you. And if it looks complex, you say “Ship, please fly yourself.”

Firing a laser/sidearm/cannon: First you load it, then you point and shoot, just like with my parents’ old film camera.

Starting a fire with sticks and stones: You know how you have to fail at something several times to succeed? I’ve read countless scenes where people failed to start a fire with twigs or flint, so basically I’m an expert at this now.

Taming a hippogriff/sentient spaceship/dragon: All of my reading suggests that you should be respectful, but firm. Give treats. Maybe use a clicker or a word in another language that means “roast my enemy alive.”

So now I need to know: what skills do people who love other genres think they have? Do spy genre lovers listen at doors? Do mystery readers expect a dead body to be discovered whenever they’re invited to a party? What about paranormal readers? Romance fans? Dystopian people?

I’m intrigued. What skills do you think you have because you’ve read a certain genre? Please share in the comments.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to hang our coat of arms on the front of our farmhouse.