Sunday, February 1, 2009

Living the Science Fiction Life…

How we end up in life is sometimes determined by our early fascinations.

When I was in high school there was this somewhat disreputable used books store in downtown San Diego that I loved to haunt on weekends. Way in the back, behind the beckoning racks of men’s magazines with their fleshy covers, it offered year long runs of various science fiction magazines like Astounding, Galaxy, Amazing Stories, Planet Stories, and Startling Tales bound in twine and stacked on dusty shelves like unloved and unwanted orphans.

For me it was a treasure trove and I was in my glory. I already had a subscription to Astounding (soon to be transformed to Analog Science Fact & Fiction) but I was mining the past for the purest vein of space opera. I loved the Cartier, Van Dongen, Emsh, Schoenherr and Kelly Freas illustrations and cover paintings as much as the stories. It’s from these exciting (to me) roots that sprang my desire to write, and after many awkward attempts, John Campbell at last bought and published my first short story in Analog in June of 1970. Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to have other pieces accepted for publication by Ben Bova and Stanley Schmidt, culminating in my first novel winning a cover spot (and a majestic painting by Vincent DiFate) when it was serialized in Analog in 1980.

But as much as I loved it, Science Fiction was my secret life. There was a serious side to my writing - I was creating marketing materials and user manuals for computers, atomic clocks, and the software and hardware used for satellite communications.

I wrote Sir Arthur C. Clarke early last year to tell him how much I had enjoyed his writings over the years and remark on the circumstance that here I was now writing for the satellite communications industry that he had first envisioned decades ago. I was living the life that I had read about in those pulp magazines from the Fifties. I was a member of the Planetary Society and Science Fiction Writers of America and fascinated by every space probe that headed out into the darkness of our solar system. My only regret was not having devoted more time to developing my skills in the fiction and fantasy area. I’d let myself fall into a long hiatus when I should have been imagining and laboring on weekends.

During 2009 I plan to remedy this and apply myself enthusiastically once again to that thing that all writers dread – actually sitting down to confront a blank sheet of paper (which, of course, has now evolved into the blank computer screen of the word processor).

1 comment:

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