I can’t read regular fiction. I’ve tried. I don’t care if it’s won a Booker. I turn the page and there’s this guy meeting his literary agent in a bar, and I wait for the Deleutherian delegation in their lightgrav suits, but they never appear.
Thank you, science fiction, for spoiling my childhood.
Thank you for making me want to die on the moon when I was 8 years old. The first science fiction story I read was Requiem. It was in a book without a cover, a book a grandaunt’s friend had brought home from the Clark Air Base library. In Requiem, a man dies on the moon, alone. I didn’t understand why, but I thought it was grand. “Home is the sailor, home from sea / and the hunter home from the hill.”
Thank you for making me disobey my mother. We were not allowed to watch TV on school nights. I broke the rule for Star Trek.
Thank you for encouraging me to copy Ray Bradbury. Oh, how I wanted to write like him, all run-on sentences and mysterious inhalations, little green men and wicked prognostications, sipping dandelion wine and munching golden apples until my belly ached and my fingers were sticky-sad with late October and someone else’s word-and-world whimsy.
Thank you for making me over-confident in my numeracy. I had read so much about interstellar warp drives that I really believed I could calculate how to make one work. (This explains why I hold no grudge towards my trigonometry, algebra and calculus teachers.)
Thank you for making me different. I grew up understanding how different we all are, and that difference is never a reason to dislike or discriminate. I can peacefully co-exist with humans, Martians, Hortas, the ghosts of Frogstar B, mechanical dragons, loose arrangements of psychokinetic matter, sentient ships, my parallel selves.
Thank you for scaring the shit out of me. All those science fiction book covers with skeleton robots and man-eating sandworms and planets cracking apart.
Thank you for corrupting my innocence. All those science fiction book covers with babes in metal bikinis being chased by BEMs. Amazing. Astounding.
Thank you for making me gullible. You hardwired into my childbrain an unshakable belief that everything is possible, and quite possibly plausible. I believe in parallel universes. I believe in biocomputing. I believe in silicon-based life forms. I believe in The Three Laws of Robotics. I believe in science, and in magic being science we don’t just get yet. I believe this is why I seem unreasonably optimistic to people.
Science fiction, I think you are why I don’t know how to give up. If my math doesn’t compute, the math in another universe does. When my computer gives me the Spinning Beachball of Death in the middle of a client presentation, at least it’s not trying to take over the world and turn us all into Triffids. Or perhaps it is just figuring out how to make a proper cup of tea.
(You are also why when a meme like “Fifteen Books” goes around on Facebook, instead of banging out a list, I write this structured essay. Because there is a little voice inside my head asking, “What Would Asimov Do?”)
Most of all, thank you for telling me that it’s okay to make things up. All fiction asks us to suspend our disbelief, but for you, we suspend the logic of the universe. And that’s okay. Because here comes the Deleutherian delegation, and the universal translator isn’t working, and that tentacle looks like it’s wrapped around a particle accelerator.