Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Why write sci-fi? (Part 2)

This must be one of those Interviewing 101 questions, because, like poorly refrigerated leftover chicken, it keeps coming back up.

   "When did you first discover that you liked science fiction?"

I'm never quite sure how to answer this one. Do I dare give an honest answer and say that it was when I was 4 years old, and Ruff and Reddy got abducted by the Munimula Men? Or maybe it was when I was 6 or 7, and got hooked on Supercar and the vastly superior Fireball XL-5? (Or perhaps these two just explain why I find Team America so gosh-darn ROTFLMAO funny.) Was it when I was 8 or 9, and discovered those dusty old hardcovers of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Swiss Family Robinson up in the attic? Or maybe it was when I was 10, and finally got my own library card, and discovered that Llewellyn Library had two whole shelves *full* of Jules Verne, Andre Norton, Madeline L'Engle, and Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov juveniles -- including the full-length versions of those Heinlein serials that Boy's Life was rerunning!

Perhaps it was when I was 11, and read War of the Worlds and The Time Machine for the first time. Or maybe it was when I was 12 or 13, and discovered Ray Bradbury. (I wrote a *lot* of Bad Imitation Bradbury when I was in junior high.) Maybe it was when I was 14, and first read The Lord of the Rings; then again maybe it was when I was 15 or 16, and discovered Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, and Kurt Vonnegut.

One thing I know for certain: it was definitely not from watching Star Trek.

Maybe it happened in my later teens and early 20s, when I discovered Philip K. Dick, Tom Disch, Brian Aldiss, J.G. Ballard, John Sladek, Ursula LeGuin, Robert Silverberg... (Or, God forgive me, Keith Laumer and Ron Goulart.)

Or maybe we're asking the wrong question here. Maybe I never "discovered" science fiction at all. Maybe my interest is the natural result of having lived through a half-century that could only have been predicted, explained, and described by the branch of literature known as sci-fi. Maybe it's the side-effect of having watched the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs unfold as *news*, not as history, and of being more excited about Chuck Yeager and the Mercury Seven than the starting lineup of the Milwaukee Braves. (Okay, so I vaguely remember Warren Spahn, Eddie Mathews, and that new kid they signed -- Henry Aaron, I think. Very promising. Did he ever amount to anything?)

There, that's it. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it. The next time someone asks me this question, I'll tell them it's all Ted Turner's fault, for moving the Braves to Atlanta.

And what's your excuse?