Today we have a special guest post from author Dave Terruso. He’s written many mystery and science fiction novels that should be at the top of your to read list. Here, he’ll walk us through why he loves the sci fi genre and why it’s so satisfying to write.
Introducing (for definitely not the first time on my blog) Dave Terruso:
I’m a mystery writer. With the exception of my book of short stories, all of my novels are detective mysteries. My first two novels were set in the real world, but, starting with my third book, I made the leap over to science fiction and haven’t looked back.
So, why did I start writing sci-fi mysteries? Here are eight reasons:
In sci-fi, your only boundary is your imagination.
I consider myself a very imaginative person. I’m not afraid I’ll one day run out of ideas for stories; I’m afraid I’ll die before I get a chance to write all the good ideas trapped in my mind (it’s okay that I won’t get to write the bad ones).
I have no desire to spend my entire writing career cranking out the same book over and over again. I crave change, challenge, newness. Sci-fi is a genre that embraces what-ifs. What if my detective were a robot? What if my mystery took place in a hotel on one of Jupiter’s moons?
Sci-fi also frees me from having all of my mysteries revolve around a murder. I have a series where the central mystery is what is the secret identity of a superhero? I have a trilogy where the central mystery is Who destroyed the teleporter that would allow us to get home safely? Branching out like that has been a ton of fun for me, and hopefully for my readers as well.
Sci-fi offers an escape from reality.
To be perfectly honest, I’ve never been a huge fan of reality. When I was ten years old, I started writing short stories about vampires as an escape from the banality of homework.
Living in the United States in 2022, reality is not always the greatest place to be. The reason I set a trilogy on one of Jupiter’s moons was because the Earth was in the thick of the pandemic, and that made setting the story 390,400,000 miles from our little green planet very appealing to me.
Writing sci-fi allows me to explore the world without focusing on things like Covid-19, mass shootings, and human trafficking. I can create a world where those things never existed, or where those problems were solved long ago.
Sci-fi allows me to comment on society without turning off my readers.
Although I write about fantastical worlds and future times, I write to express myself, so I’m examining both my internal world and the world around me. Rod Serling taught me that you can express your political views and try to improve the way people think about other people’s humanity through sci-fi without it coming off as preaching. Gene Roddenberry also did this masterfully with the original Star Trek series.
I can talk about what I think needs to be reformed in my country, and the world at large, without making it, for example, a liberal-vs.-conservative scenario that will alienate half of my audience.
Sci-fi allows you to help create the future you want to live in.
If you listen to the engineers who made cell phones what they are today, you’ll occasionally hear them mention the handheld communicators from Star Trek—how they grew up with that concept and longed to make it reality.
When I heard that, I realized, “Oh man, I need to put things in my novels that I want to be real technology in 20 or 30 years!”
That led me to come up with the FlapBook, which is basically an ebook reader that has 100 pages you can flip through, and each page is a paper-thin screen that will populate with one of the 100 pages of the book you’re reading, and repopulate with the next 100 once you finish those. And the cover of the book will, of course, change to the cover of whatever book you’re reading. I put that invention in my stories, and I sincerely hope that, in 2052, I’ll be sitting on a beach chair re-reading I Am Legend for the fifteenth time on a real-life FlapBook.
Make it happen, talented nerds!
It’s my favorite genre to read.
I’ve always loved reading mystery novels, and when I decided to be a mystery novelist, I started reading even more of them as a combination of research and entertainment. But I realized that, as I got older, I read more and more sci-fi.
My two favorite novels, the only books I’ve ever read multiple times (I’ve read both 5 times at this point), I Am Legend and The Lathe of Heaven, are both sci-fi. And my movie tastes gravitate toward sci-fi even more. That realization helped me make the leap to sci-fi.
They say “Write what you know.” I say “Write what you love.”
Sci-fi plots lead to a more fun kind of research.
A big part of a mystery writer’s job is research. If you’re writing a police procedural or private investigator mystery, you need to know things about forensics—like how shooting a blank from a gun will leave different powder burns on your fingers than shooting a live round.
All of this research fascinates me. But writing sci-fi means I’m Googling way more interesting things these days. Things like How long can a human being survive on the moon’s surface without a spacesuit? And What would make teleportation possible?
Two words: time travel.
Ever since I saw Back to the Future as a little kid, I became obsessed with time travel. The mechanism that might allow for it, the paradoxes caused by it, etc.
Writing a story where human beings travel through time—at least as of the writing of this blog post—puts that story squarely in the sci-fi genre. Well, it could be a fantasy story as well, and that’s fine by me.
I heart robots.
I’m not sure exactly when my love of robots began. Was it the robot servant from Silver Spoons? Transformers and GoBots? Johnny 5 from Short Circuit? Even before I had the vocabulary to articulate the idea, I was fascinated by the possibility that a robot might have a consciousness similar to a human’s. I wanted to have a robot friend as a child, and I still do.
As an adult, I learned that the word robot comes from the Slavic word for slave, referring to how a robot was originally conceived as a metal automaton designed to do manual labor, and that intrigued me. Beyond the consciousness concept, I’ve explored the idea of free will as it relates to robots a lot in my writing.
So, there you have it. I love writing sci-fi, I love reading sci-fi, and I love watching sci-fi.
If you love sci-fi too, I hope you keep reading and watching it—hell, maybe you should even try writing it yourself.
If you haven’t given sci-fi a try, I hope my little spiel inspires you to. It’s a lot of fun.
If you want to check out the books I’ve written so far, go here: Dave Terruso Books
I’m Dave Terruso, a mystery and sci-fi novelist based near Philadelphia. I used to do live comedy professionally. As a stand up, I opened for acts including Richard Lewis, Gilbert Gottfried, Dana Gould, Tim Meadows, Colin Quinn, and Maria Bamford. I’ve been featured on the RISK! Podcast, episode 350 Out of Bounds. I’m the co-founder of Philly Sketchfest, an international comedy festival that’s been around over a dozen years. I have two dogs, both girls: a white pit bull named Jelly and a brown pocket pittie named Bean. This is my head:
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