Field Agent Training: Interacting With Non-SFF Readers

There is no wrong way to read (mostly), and any reading is good reading. People should feel free to spend their time the way they please, but sometimes talking to nonreaders can be frustrating. 

That’s where we come in.

Welcome, agent, to non-reader interaction training. As a field agent in the Quill To Live SFF Division (QTLSFFD, we’re not good at acronyms okay), you’re expected to deal with the most nefarious of opponents: non-SFF readers. 

Your task requires careful training, and you’ll be required to understand the dumbass arguments made by non-SFF readers of all sorts. Your targets include:

  • Nonfiction bros
  • Business-or-die corporate shills
  • “Reddit is reading” nerds
  • Speculative fiction heretics
  • “I haven’t read since high school” utterers

During your mission, our enemies may deploy the most devastating phrases in their arsenal, attempting to disarm you. 

Meanwhile, innocent “book-curious” civilians may approach you seeking an entryway into the magical and magnificent worlds we SFF readers love dearly. Your mission, which you have no choice but to accept, is to convert these individuals into readers using the conversational field training below. 


Agent, you will encounter variations of the phrases below ad nauseam. Do NOT engage. Individuals lobbing these verbal grenades seek only to disrupt and disturb. 

“You READ? LOL.” 

Try as you might, Agent, you cannot convince this target your hobby is worthwhile. Rest easy in the knowledge that reading is FUNdamental and let this dope live in ignorance.

“I haven’t read a book in years.”

Cut your losses, Agent. While you’re managing your reading goal, the only streak these targets care about is “years without reading a single book.” Sad sacks. They’re only hurting themselves, and they’re beyond the QTLSFFD’s help.

“I read too much for work to read for fun.”

Emails don’t count. But don’t bother, Agent. This target will find something to use as an excuse: Instant messages, press releases, earnings reports, tweets, take-out menus, their phone as they poop. These people find value in explaining that their eyes consume words, completely missing the point of SFF: good times. 

“I don’t have time for reading.”

Agent, bite your tongue and try your damnedest not to laugh in this scenario. That’s the best thing you can possibly do. 

“I don’t have time” is a thinly veiled excuse for not wanting to read, and you should avoid further interaction at all costs. 

“Why don’t you read something useful, like a finance/business book?”

“Oh, you mean the business books that landed you a position as Junior Associate Sales Intern at Company, Inc. with no benefits or vacation time?” Resist the urge, agent. This target is already lost in the cogs of capitalism, and you can’t wedge them free no matter how hard you try. 


Here you must unleash your decision-making skills with pinpoint accuracy. Engage these targets with extreme caution, opening the door to the bookish world without yanking them across the threshold. The choice must be their own.

“How many books do you read in a year?”

Read the room, Agent. This question could be bait; the target could seek only to chide you for “wasting time” on a hobby they deem useless. However, they may be genuinely curious. 

Also, 50. I read about 50 books per year. 

“My favorite book is [required high school reading].”

The Great Gatsby, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Catcher In The Rye…all fair game, agent.

Is it possible for a person to connect with a classic in high school, then discover sci-fi and fantasy later while still enjoying the classics? Absolutely. But those people are few and far between. Learn to sus out the readers who have grown from the ones who stopped in high school before you engage.

“Why do you think so much about a book no one else has read?”

Tone matters. Is the question delivered as a genuine inquiry? Safe to engage! Does the question come out scathing, ending with pulsing neck veins and a sprinkle of spittle? Run away. 

“I’d rather just watch TV.”

Think you can steer the conversation to page-to-screen adaptations of your favorite sci-fi and fantasy books? Go forth and conquer, agent. 

These targets will often use TV as a deflection, intended to mask the boredom they think comes with the bookish territory. Don’t bite if that’s the case. 


Here are your ideal openings, agent. Use them to mint a new SFF fan. 

“Can you recommend a book?” Or “Can I borrow a book?”

BOOM. Go for it. Be careful not to come on too strong. Ask the target what they enjoy, if they enjoy any specific tropes, if there are other books they’ve liked. Work your way to a perfect recommendation, then strike. 

“What’s your favorite book?”

You’ll be tempted to fire off a barrage of titles, showcasing your diverse tastes and your massive stack of finished books. Resist! Share one series, maybe two, that changed your perspective on reading. Explain why. Tell the target the real-life lessons the book taught you. Connect the book’s world to ours. Make your case and make it well. 

2 thoughts on “Field Agent Training: Interacting With Non-SFF Readers

  1. I cringe whenever someone says they don’t want to read books that make them think. They just want to be entertained. My mission is to embed thought-provoking moments into rollicking good reads…

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