Monday, July 14, 2008

The Big Payoff

This one showed up in my email the other day:

Just finished CP & I loved it! I'm 48 & until today considered myself an EX-science fiction fan. (I was weaned on Paul French [nee Dr. Isaac Asimov] & Lucky Starr, gobbling up quantum physics @ the tender age of 8. What am accomplished teacher he was, I'm sad he's lost to us now.) I'd all but given up hope over 10 yrs. ago...

You have rekindled the excitement of the un-considered again in me. I will be once more haunting the fiction section, knowing that jewels still exist as yet undiscovered (by me anyways).

Thank you again for allowing genuine enjoyment back into my leisure.

Christopher H.
Omaha, NE
Maybe it marks me as a hopeless amateur, but for me, this is what it's all about. The money from a good fiction sale is nice and validating, and I hope someday to be able to comment on just how nice and validating it feels like to land a lucrative movie deal. The peer awards are great for the old and much-abused ego, and look very nice sitting on the shelf. But in the end, it's the fan mail that gets to me. No, not the simple flattery or the obsequious stuff — "Dear Mr. Bethke, You're great, you're brilliant, and handsome, too, can I have your baby?" — but the ones that let me know that once in a while I've succeeded in passing on a little of the joy that I got from reading, and that maybe, just possibly, I've earned a place in the pantheon. Just a small place will do. I don't mind sitting at the children's table, if I'm in the same room with the giants.

That's where it all starts, for me. Riding my Schwinn up to Llewellyn Library with my dog-eared "J" library card in my pocket (the "J" being for Juvenile, which meant there were entire wings of the library that were off-limits to me), running up the stairs to the second floor and making the two left turns that got me into the science fiction section, running my eyes and fingers over the shelves to see if there was anything new in and waiting to be checked out or if maybe I'd rather spend one of my three allowed weekly check-outs revisiting an old friend. Arthur C. Clarke, The Sands of Mars, Andre Norton, Storm Over Warlock, Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles, Robert Heinlein, Rocketship Gallileo, Citizen of the Galaxy, Farmer in the Sky (I read a lot of Heinlein), "Paul French," Lucky Starr and The Pirates of the Asteroids... I must have checked all those Lucky Starr books out ten times each, before I finally outgrew them.

How about you? What's the first book you remember reading that made you think, "Wow! I want to read more stuff like this!"