And now for something totally different.
It was a dark and stormy year. Well, I don’t know that 1971 was particularly more dark and stormy than any other year. Indeed, the year before had Hurricane Celia flying through; downgraded to a strong tropical storm by the time it hit us, but strong enough to topple a tree in our yard.
For me it was stormy for reasons beyond the weather. Some were stressful for a ten-year-old, like my parents divorcing, moving to a big city from a tiny town in SW Texas, adjusting to a new school and friends (something I’d dealt with all my life), among other events.
Others were gentle rains that brought new growth, like my discovery of speculative fiction.
In 1971, I attended 5th grade at Pecan Springs Elementary in Austin, TX. My homeroom teacher, Ms. Birdwell, had a habit of reading us stories during quiet time. One day she began a new book that would change my life: Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.
This popular children’s fantasy caught my imagination. Until then, reading had only been something I did because I was told to, usually at school. After Ms. Birdwell finished Charlotte’s Web, I was so captivated by it that I went to the school library and checked it out to read it for myself. So began my love of reading.
It was a speculative fiction book that moved me to become a reader.
After finishing that book, I started looking for more to read. I stumbled across the Encyclopedia Brown by Donald J. Sobol. Those kept me busy through 6th grade. Then in 7th grade, I discovered my first science fiction, The Runaway Robot by Lester Del Ray. I loved this book so much I focused from then on on science fiction and fantasy through 12th grade.
That focus led me to read faith-based speculative fiction. Like a lot of people at the time, that involved The Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings. Those stories have stayed with me all my life.
Then I went to college and focused on theology and biblical studies. Fiction fell off the radar and non-fiction took over. It wouldn’t be until 2005 that speculative fiction once again captured my imagination and interest when I listened to my wife reading The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau to our kids.
Not only did that book respark my interest in speculative fiction, it generated an idea for a story that started me down the road to writing my own. The rest is a story still unfolding as I work to let some light shine through speculative fiction.
To say that speculative fiction has impacted my life and made me what I am today is an understatement.
How about you? What book(s) launched your speculative fiction addiction?