SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 21, 2013

New book club for science fiction, fantasy

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — The Peabody Institute Library in Peabody is reaching out to fans of science fiction and fantasy novels with a new book club.

Led by Mike Wick, a senior reference librarian, the group will begin by reading “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman.

“Nerd culture is pretty popular right now, and he’s at the vanguard of that,” Wick said.

Gaiman has written more than 20 books, along with many plays, screenplays and comic books.

“His ‘Sandman’ series is one of the seminal works of comics,” Wick said.

Many contemporary writers of science fiction and fantasy also work in several media, including George R.R. Martin, whose “A Song of Ice and Fire” is both a series of books and inspiration for the cable television show “Game of Thrones.”

In their classic forms, science fiction and fantasy tell different types of stories, with one typically involving spaceships and aliens, and the other featuring characters who practice magic and battle with swords.

But Wick, who expects everyone from teenagers to young professionals in their 30s to be drawn to the book club, said these genres share characteristics that have always linked them together.

“What unites them is, they’re not always speculative works, but they are alternative realities — they’re ways of expanding your imagination,” he said. “But you still have human beings or emotions humans can relate to.”

Wick, whose interest in fantasy literature began in fourth grade when he read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” also said the two types of fiction are harder to classify these days.

“Martin is not just a fantasy author,” he said. “His works are structured as political intrigue — it’s that, ‘what’s going to happen next’ that pulls people into it.

“Gaiman is not necessarily straight sci-fi or fantasy, but has meshed them all together. It’s not straight sci-fi, like an Isaac Asimov,” he said, referring to the author and biochemistry professor known for his “Foundation” series of science fiction novels.

Copies of Gaiman’s book will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting Wednesday, June 26. The club’s first meeting will be held July 23 at 7 p.m.

For more information, contact the library at 978-531-0100, ext. 24.