In an earlier post, I mentioned the three authors who were my inspiration for becoming a writer – Twain, Dickens and Hemingway.
Well, I had a fourth physical inspiration – nearsightedness!
As a youth, I could barely see beyond my nose without glasses (thank goodness for Lasik!). Since I obviously wasn’t going to turn out to be a school sports superstar, I buried my face in books – and loved every minute of it. Each page was a journey out of my life and out of the monotonous prairie surrounding my small home town.
In particular, science fiction inspired me. I mean, you couldn’t get much farther from South Dakota than other planets, galaxies and universes! At the same time, this genre was a wonderful exploration of ideas.
In the Fifties, science fiction was home to stimulating concepts and sometimes execrable writing. Still, some of my favorite stories come out of that period –, Tom Godwin’s The Cold Equations, Isaac Asimov’s Nightfall, etc.
To this day, I still remember the specific Fifties story that ignited my desire to write – Alfred Bester’s Fondly Fahrenheit. It’s the tale of an android and his formerly rich playboy owner and the murderous merging of their personalities. But it was Bester’s style that hit me – electric, exciting and constantly pushing the plot toward its climax. I thought, “Wow, I want to write like that some day!”
Then, the Sixties came along and two wonderful things happened to science fiction – women broke through the barriers to the field. And, at the same, writers of style and substance took to the genre to a whole new level – Ursula K. LeGuin (The Left Hand of Darkness). J. G. Ballard (The Drowned World), Philip K. Dick (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)…and on and on.
Once I got to college, I broadened my reading to literary and mainstream fiction, but I still read science fiction to this day and am thankful to all the greats in that field who took a young boy along with them on their interstellar adventures!