I am a professional computer geek by trade and a writer by choice.
The first SF story I ever read was Bradbury’s All Summer in a Day. I was in the fourth grade, it was an in-class reading assignment, and it nearly made me cry. I managed to repress the feeling to avoid being teased by my classmates. For some reason I didn’t think of this as an entertaining pastime; it was school work. I didn’t seek out other stories to read for pleasure, though Bradbury’s name became etched in my subconscious.
One Christmas morning several years later, my younger sister sheepishly handed me a gift. She apologized before I opened it because she didn’t think it was a very good gift. It was a paperback copy of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, which she had justified getting for me because I was “smart” — the guy that blew the curve in high school Biology, Chemistry, and Physics classes.
I told her it was fine, that it looked interesting. Interesting wasn’t the word. I devoured that book, reading it cover to cover twice. While I was interested in science previously, after Cosmos, I was in love with it.
One day I went to a library book sale. I still wasn’t interested in fiction outside of high school English classes, but I figured I might find the large-format hardcover edition of Cosmos, much superior to my paperback. (The paperback contained very few photos, charts or diagrams, and in-book references all pointed me to incorrect page numbers or non-existent appendices/charts. No effort had been made to correct the formatting errors introduced by the process of publishing it in the small, limited format.)
They didn’t have the hardcover Cosmos, but they did have a book with an astronomy-theme cover. There were some men standing on a catwalk, looking at stars and planets from afar. It didn’t make sense. It looked like the catwalk was suspended in the middle of interstellar space. The men weren’t wearing spacesuits, and it was obvious that gravity was holding them on the catwalk. The cover intrigued me; it was either based on laughably bad science, or there was something inside the book that made the cover art plausible. The price was a quarter, so I bought it. It was Mike Resnick’s Birthright: The Book of Man.
In retrospect I have to marvel at the unlikely fact that it was a bit of cool cover art that helped alter the course of my life. Birthright... is a hell of a good novel; I still think so sixteen years and hundreds of novels later. But I doubt I would have ever read it if it weren’t for that cover art. For the first time in my life it occurred to me that reading fiction could be done outside of a classroom, and that science fiction combined my new love of reading with my almost-new love, science.
In college I frequently read SF rather than textbooks — Larry Niven, Douglas Adams, the occasional Theodore Sturgeon or Harlan Ellison story. I rediscovered Bradbury. It made me want to write, and I did — switching majors from Biochemistry to English (with a brief stint as a Computer Science major in between). I wrote several short stories in college, dozens of poems, and began what was (in retrospect) a cliched and otherwise uninteresting novel.
Fast forward. More than a decade after I graduated, it occurred to me that I hadn’t written any fiction the entire time. It wasn’t that surprising, what with a marriage and children and a full-time job. But I finally decided enough was enough, and about a year ago I began writing again in earnest. I’m currently at work on a novel, my first real attempt at one (not counting the aborted effort from college).
I have an irrational, romantic paranoia about revealing my true identity. Suffice it to say I have delusions of actually being published some day and I’m unsure whether it would cause problems with my current employer. If I revealed my employer’s name I’d have to kill you all.
I’m 34 years old and happily married with three children — one of each.
Copyright © 2003 by NewB
A Fish Story
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