What’s Your Story? – David Pascoe

What’s Your Story? – David Pascoe

I was about five when it happened. The first time, at least. I was minding my own business (maybe building something with my *meager* store of Legos, maybe ignoring my little sister. Probably both) when the Pop Dave put a strange and archaic object into the now-ancient (and quite defunct) device. Within moments, my conscious mind was ripped from my body and transport through time and space to a galaxy far, far away. I was no longer not-yet-kilteDave. I was a young moisture farmer on the run from the Empire! I was a budding, young Jedi with my father’s laserswordlightsaber, and the galaxy’s most evil man chasing me. Later on, I was member of the Captain’s away team (that job didn’t last very long).

After I learned to read – and got a library card – things really took off. I can’t remember all the times some kooky old guy told me I was the Chosen One, destined to topple the Dark Lord from his Dark Tower in the middle of his Dark Land. (Except for all the times the Dark Lord was a Dark Lady: hey, equal opportunity tyrant-remover, me.) I remember being a free trader, plying the spaceways. At least until the pirate attack that left half my crew dead. I’ve been a Terran Marine on strange planets, facing attack from without and mutiny from within. I’ve been a young girl, just learning about magic. I’ve been an ancient cyborg, working toward reacquainting a lost colony with the greater universe using meager resources and great wit. I’ve even done time as a clever spy, trying to keep the world from flying into a war nobody can afford, using only my cunning and charm. I’ve been a gold miner, a castaway, a stowaway, a gunslinger, a lawman, and outlaw, a scofflaw, a law-breaker, a conman, a thief, a rogue, a scoundrel, a marine, a sailor, an airman, a spaceman, a spacewoman, a space-something, and that barely scratches the surface of the people and roles books have opened to me.

I’m not bringing this up to boast about what I’ve read, or how much (not in this crowd), so much as to illustrate the depth to which reading science fiction and fantasy has informed my understanding of reality. I’ve learned about the structure – if not necessarily the attitude – of the Roman legions. I’ve learned about human nature, and how to read it. I’ve picked up tricks of leadership, and practiced observation of ethics and politics that began with my reading of scifi. And, of necessity, the voices (and attitudes) of the authors I’ve read have informed my attitudes toward same.

Makes me glad I read a bunch of libertarians and crypto-libertarians in my early life (though they fight in my head with the feudalists. Darnit, fantasy).

I’m going to venture into dangerous territory, here, and start generalizing (just a little bit). As an Odd, and usually not knowing any better, the content of the stories I’ve digested has come to shape by understanding of reality, per the above. From that, I’m going to guess (here’s the thin ice part) that most Odds are at least somewhat similar. Consequently – and I’m cutting a lot of shorts, here – the folks in the thick of the traditional publishing world have become acculturated to the stories that they grew up consuming.

Except instead of heroic work, they grew up imbibing, and digesting in, less … less freeing stories. Oh, sure, the Sexual Revolution promised freedom, along with the Age of Aquarius, but the legacy of those seems to be more a matter of anarchy (freedom of a sort, though mostly to die. Alone. In the rain) than freedom to thrive. And then there was the New Wave (chronologically they were more or less concurrent, though I expect the scifi fans had better parties), and its legacy of lit-ra-chewer (nose-inna-air) and literary “importance,” which has cast a pall over genre fiction into the present day. Through it all winds the taint of cultural Marxism.

And that’s the mindset operant in traditional publishing, and to an extent in the culture in general. Collective rights and responsibilities, but also merged (bizarrely) with the American mythos. Case in point: they believe they’re the little guy, fighting the Man for their piece of the American Dream. It’s a toxic brew, especially with the admixture of intersectionalist identity politics, as they are convinced they’re in the right. After all, there actually was a time when they were (more or less) powerless. It’s just that that particular time was decades ago, and now they hold the reins. Except … except in their minds. Or they simply justify their abuses by making a villain out of those who (however inadvertently) create genuine paths to freedom.

There’s a lot of cuts I’m shorting, in large part using the shared jargon of our particular in-group. The next step is usually a “and now go thou, and do likewise.” Only, I’ve been thinking on it, and I’m not sure there’s much to be done that we aren’t already doing. Those who aren’t writers, read. (subliminaladvertising*read our books*subliminaladvertising) And pass that on to someone who heretofore hasn’t read. Or play games that uplift the soul. Or make things, engage in citizen science, learn skills, do something to loosen the grip of the powers that be.

Those of us who create stories keep doing so, and making them Human Wave, or Superversive, or whatever label we choose to apply, but we tap those worlds where people are heroic. Where the little guy (or gal, leave us not be discriminatory based on base plumbing attachments, after all) stands up to evil. Motives surely won’t be pure, after all, they’re still human, but somewhere in there they’re doing the right thing because it’s the right thing. And most of all, let them be fun. We’re not preaching; we’re entertaining. It’s more important.

101 responses to “What’s Your Story? – David Pascoe

  1. John in Philly

    Yes, yes, and totally yes. I have very happy memories of reading a variety of science fiction books about as you said, “where people are heroic.”

    And those books or stories that did not celebrate doing the right thing were not finished, or not remembered.

    And yes, building your preaching into entertainment is much more effective than simply preaching.

  2. I alternated “Once Upon a Time” with “Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.” The unexpurgated versions of OUaT, I should add (thank you Andrew Lang), so perhaps I was not as surprised as some of my year mates to discover that yes, Virginia, there are wolves in the forest. And most of them are not nice and cuddly. On the down side, that may have been part of my mental whiplash as a teenager, because I also discovered that the good gals (me, of course) don’t always win. Sometimes living to fight another day is a victory. But I hadn’t read those stories yet.

    I’ve tried writing one preachy story. It goes “thud.” Sneaky is better, and a lot more fun to read. *evil grin here*

  3. c4c

  4. I can’t really identify a or the first time. It might have been Pa seeing to it that we watched some particular movie that made it to TV (videotape? That wasn’t in the home yet). Or perhaps Grandma leaving books about. With rare exception, I was not pushed to read anything in particular that I can recall, but books were simply available – from various fiction, to old textbooks, to an even-then ancient (so it seemed – 1950) set of encyclopedia. The only discouragement I got was from my father who asked, “Why is it fiction and NON-fiction? Shouldn’t it be fact and non-fact?” and “Why read about imaginary characters doing things when you could be out doing things yourself?” And to a degree, that does make sense. But there is also that thing of being able to learn from other’s mistakes. Those others need not be real.

    And yet, the movies were not all documentaries. There was 2001, and Soylent Green, and a good many others, some good, some awful, some classics, others… well, sometimes I am amazed anyone else even watched them. A few became fodder for MST:3K – and I had seen them before that treatment. Ouch.

    The exposure was a bit.. odd? I find there are some ‘classics; I simply can’t stand, and in some cases I am not sure just why. (I’ve read the script for Casablance and can agree it’s a pretty good thing, but I cannot sit through actually watching the thing.) And in other cases, what seems like a common reference to one film, triggers memories for a less familiar one. (Speak of two items, one poisoned, one not, and I will think of Eddie Cantor in Roman Scandals first, not Danny Kaye.) I’ve grown a bit accustomed to viewing the world a bit differently from the alleged mainstream. For this I have been called silly. I maintain it’s the Universe that is silly. I just notice.

    • Danny Kaye? Wasn’t he in White Christmas?

      • I don’t think so. That one didn’t have a thpoketta-thpoketta machine…

        • Kaye also snubbed the conservative Red Skelton in England. The London Palladium had a visiting showman program. Traditionally, the outgoing performer introduced the performer who would take his or her place. Skelton took over for Kaye. Kaye never mentioned Skelton’s name in his last show. Supposedly this snub made the crowd gasp.
          You think you read oddball stuff? I just finished a Red Skelton bio.

      • Seems unlikely — Kaye was pretty liberal for his time and that movie is an obvious dog whistle to racists.

        Pretty clever of them jewboys Kaye and Berlin to hexploit thet hollerday like that.

      • Indeed he did. Kaye co-starred with Bing Crosby on that one along with Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen back when they were very hot chicks.
        But the reference is to his role in The Court Jester, the source of the comedy routine that coined the phrase: the vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true.
        Y’all just don’t watch enough quality entertainment, does you?

  5. The idea there are good guys and bad guys is dangerous. Especially if all the guys you support seem to act out the list of things bad guys do pretty much. Easier to support evil when already in place than make fun of it and predict its failure. Evil guys usually have ways to make you regret that.

  6. It started a few years ago with MHI. Or, maybe it really started fifty years ago with Have Spacesuit Will Travel, or with my grandfather’s copy of Robinson Crusoe. Anyway, I find myself reading more fiction lately than I have in years. Maybe I’m just finding the kind of stories I like again.

    • When I discovered it I loved Robinson Crusoe. I built up a hiding place in a perch where I would go to read it, pretending to be on my own island.

      The first Heinlein I met was Stranger in a Strange Land during its phase of ‘hip’ popularity. While I liked Heilein a great deal more than Hesse, I didn’t pursue his work at the time.

      One day while I was driving us The Spouse turned back to the beginning of the book he had been reading and POW! The Moon is a Harsh Mistress!

      Then Heinlein’s juveniles were introduced to me by The Spouse. I am not sure if I would have appreciated them properly when younger. I certainly hope that I would have.

      • Reality Observer

        You have excellent taste in your picking of a spouse…

        For some reason, even though I read it first, Robinson Crusoe never really clicked with me.

        It was the Swiss Family Robinson that had me wanting to move to a tropical island. I was very unhappy when a move lost my set of illustrated and annotated classics (besides Swiss Family Robinson, it had ones like Treasure Island, Arabian Nights, Paul Bunyan, Call of the Wild…).

        The annotations were essentially mini-dictionary entries – like a picture of the sago palm, the grubs, description of how the pulp was used.

        • BobtheRegisterredFool

          My first favorite author was Jean George (I read Julie of the Wolves the year before I really started reading), but my first favorite book was J. Wyss’s Swiss Family Robinson. Joan Aiken was also an early influence, I think. Susan Cooper.

          I think the lady who did Animorphs may have been my first inkling that the United States had an exceptional military.

  7. Charles Stross wrote a book that started with a rain of cell phones.

    Now, I must say I find Charles Stross to be an intolerable dick, and I didn’t like where he went with that story. Because Marxism, inevitably.

    But… rain of cell phones.

    That’s what keeps me coming back to SciFi and fantasy. That stuff.

    • Some of Stross’ concepts and stories are great. The Laundry for example. Others start off great and then collapse (family trade) and some stunk so bad I could never get into them. But overall I’d say he’s about the only writer beloved by the SJWs that I consider worth reading.

  8. There is Heinlein and there is ‘not exactly’.
    Anyone can write ‘message fiction’. An author can write entertaining fiction. A good author can write entertaining fiction with a little preaching in the slow parts. A great author can write entertaining fiction with plot and characters that carry the message by living the message.
    Most of the authors that grace this blog aspire to be great authors, and that is a worthy goal in and of itself. I’m uncertain that Heinlein was actually ‘better’ than some of our current crew; however, he made up for it by publishing *lots* of novels and if subtle, the message was consistent.

    • scott2harrison

      Heinlein was definitly great, but the thing that made him an Icon was Anapolis. His heros were always bound by duty that is they did their duty as they conceived it however distastful and/or dangerous it was. That resonated with a lot of people.

      • Ah, but did the institution make the man, or was the man already made to fit that institution.

        • Both, but with more emphasis on the former. The military academies are very good at getting their graduates bound by duty.

  9. At its core, the difference between Left and Right can be summed up as fatalism versus determinism. To the Leftist, you are the sum of your attributes, your identities. If you are a Black man, for instance, it is a given that you are being held down by the man and there *nothing* you can do about it. If you are a woman, it is a given that the Patriarchy has oppressed you, and will always oppress you in ever more subtle ways. Victory is categorically impossible, for ever smaller infractions will be labeled as such.

    Marxist dialectic is loaded with this fatalistic claptrap. Society is fated to go through various stages, ending by necessity at Communism (the so-called end of history).

    I say this because in the literary world of the Left, the lone hero who defeats the Dark Lord is an impossibility. Individuals cannot do anything in the mind of the fatalist. Frodo cannot take the ring to Mordor. Luke Skywalker cannot turn Lord Vader. Even Asimov, a fatalist if there ever was one, conceded that one man sufficiently armed with mental powers, could overthrow Second Empire in its infancy, in the character of the Mule. That the Mule was a villain doesn’t take away from the fact that he, in effect, overthrew psychohistory, the agent of fate, all by himself.

    Note that George Lucas later retconned Anakin as a product of the “midi-cholorians” and a figure of prophecy, in effect rewriting Anakin and Luke Skywalker as agents of fate, not heros and villains who made their own individual choices. As with much of the Star War prequels, that fatalistic streak sucked something out of the stories. The characters were as much passengers of the story as the viewers were, and suffered from cardboard cutout-ism as a result.

    The stories I enjoyed were ones in which the characters fought against fate. They stood up and said “I am *HUMAN* and I can give the finger to fate.” The journey was often bloody and terrible, for one does not lightly take on the agents of fate. But it was proof that humans were more than the sum of their instincts, that with the application of willpower, they could change the universe. Emperor Leto II in the Dune sequels was much this way, for he accepted a terrible burden and became history’s greatest villain in an effort to break humanity from the control of prophets *forever*.

    Sometimes I think there’s a bit of a religious angle to this, as well. For if humans are possessing of a soul, then there is a part of them that is greater than the universe, that is not bound by it. It is this part which drives them. Marxism doesn’t concede this. In the traditions of the Left, people do not have souls. They are bags of meat, cogs in a machine, agents of the state and paladins of public policy. To them, only the collective has value. If 100 million meat-bags must be “retired” to bring about the utopia, so be it.

    Their stories don’t have heroes in them, because heroes are anathema to who and what they are. They have victims, to be sure, people whom fate has crapped on. And they have would-be heroes who, in the end, concede they were tools of fate all along. Luke Skywalker never turned his father back to the light. Rather, his father was fated to turn all along. Han didn’t shoot first, now, because to do so would be to make a conscious decision rather than simply wait for events to unfold as fate has dictated.

    To me, stories like that will always be boring (and it’s a good argument for ignoring the Star Wars prequels, too).

    • Marxism is the fantasy of the Clerisy; a world run by clerks. It is based on the popular misconception of the Theory of Evolution that holds that evolution is directional and moves from primitive towards perfection. As such it has exactly as much scientific validity as the Divine Right of Kings. Marxism is the result of an envious and rather nasty intellectual-manque freezing his brain solid by spending one winter too many in the ill heated British Museum.

      • William O. B'Livion

        *Marxism* is not Clerisy, marxism is a fever dream by a marginally competent propagandist.

        Socialism, though, certainly is Clerisy.

        • Since Marxism or Communism are about a time in the indefinite future when everyone will do what is best without the need for consultation or threats, it is an excuse. Just as the hope of Heaven (based on unsound theology) was an excuse for the Divine Right of Kings. So you need to look at what it is an excuse FOR. And, lookey lookey, somehow it’s always an excuse for rule by drones.

    • Minty Chlorine? Sorry, but I can’t not think that when presented with ‘midi-chlorian’. As I am one of those strange creatures, one who is not a Star Wars fan (I didn’t see it until sometime in the 1980s, but was sick of hearing about in 1978, if not 1977 – when I finally did see it, I went, “Wait… knight has to rescue princess from ‘dragon’… in spaaaaace?”), I’m not fully ‘up’ on it all. But this makes it seem like it was switched from “There are two potions, one marked Good and one marked Evil, and in the first (1977+) movies, the characters decided which to drink from, and in the prequels, the bottles chose who they were drunk by.” Do I have that even close to right?

      • That’s an excellent way of putting it. The bottles chose the characters in the prequels. I don’t mind a sort of pulpish space opera, on occasion, and that’s what the original Star Wars movies were. Yes, the good/evil divide was a little too blatant, but at least the characters made their own choices as opposed to having the bottle choose them, as in the prequels.

        • The Other Sean

          But it beats the lack of a divide common on much of the fiction and TV today, where all the characters are at best a very dark shade of gray when they are not simple totally evil.

    • As with much of the Star War prequels, that fatalistic streak sucked something out of the stories. The characters were as much passengers of the story as the viewers were, and suffered from cardboard cutout-ism as a result.

      That also reminds me why certain religions anny me. Whether it’s the Calvinistic Predestination or “Insh’allah” or whatever it grates because, as you write, it removes agency from the believer. It seems to me that there is, however, a signifcant number of humans who want that. They don’t want to battle or strive or take responsibility for their actions. In the past they were frequently deeply religious, now they are more likely deeply marxist and/or environmental.

      • In other words, they’ve just swapped one religion for another.
        Make no mistake, marxist/socialists and radical environmentalists are every bit as fanatical as any extremist in the more traditional religions.

      • St. Thomas pretty much destroyed the notion of predestination in Christianity. Of course, the Calvinists brought it back to some extent, and in Islam, predestination has been taken to radical extremes, such that some Muslim fighters don’t even bother training themselves to fight, for devotion to Allah should be sufficient to guide the bullet to the enemy. And if they miss, it is because their faith was not strong enough. The Muslim world is caught in a self-reinforcing cycle of greater extremism.

        To break out of it they need, ironically, a hero or a prophet. Someone to tell them, as St. Thomas did for Christians, that it’s possible God does not decide everything about everyone at all times.

        After all, what good is free will as a gift from God if he denies you the use of it?

        • Even the Calvinists–generally speaking–don’t really apply predestination to anything but salvation and the Overall Grand Design.

        • Now if only we could convince them that failure to hit your target indicates their faith is so weak they should commit suicide to prove the strength of their faith to redeem their soul…

        • There seems to be no idea so bad, so fetid, so festering, so foul that it ever gets completely driven out. We keep getting eugenics, in one form or another, and the Gnostics keep resurfacing in spite of all effort, frequently not even bothering to change their mask.

        • Bjorn Hasseler

          I think it’s necessary to distinguish between predestination (guaranteed arrival at some goal) and predetermination (making someone do what you’ve already decided).

          Both Luther and Calvin followed Augustine on predestination.

      • Exactly! If you read Eric Hoffer’s True Believers, he notes the same thing, that the majority of people will reject the gifts of freedom by running away from the responsibility freedom entails.

    • Hey — pokes Lawrence — write a post about this…

      • Will do. This is usually how my posts start anyhow. Somebody will inspire me to think more deeply into a topic and it turns into a ponderous cogitation. Your fault :).

    • This reminds me of Pratchett’s The Last Hero. “He did cheat Fate. If you do cheat Fate, I do not believe it says anywhere that Fate’s subsequent opinion matters.”

    • I once read an essay by an academic Polish dissident who dismantled Marxism in a lovely way, showing how the supposed “masters of the twisting stream of history” had gotten history wrong at every important point.
      I wish I could find the darned essay, but its lost in the internet somewhere . . .

    • Oddly enough, the Prequels make the tenants of the Sith that much more appealing.

    • Thanks for this excellent summary!
      Hate to nitpick, but you wrote, “fatalism versus determinism,” though they are much the same thing, aren’t they? I’m guessing you meant “fatalism vs. free will” or “fatalism vs. self-determination”, yes?

  10. Great post! In an effort to interest my grandson in reading, I used to ask him if he’d enjoy taking a boat-ride to China some afternoon, or build an underground shelter on the moon, take out an alien invader, or discover a way to live healthy and happy for 200 years. It was, unfortunately, to no avail as he was more interested in his next doobie than REALLY expanding his mind.

  11. Five years old, Anchorage Alaska, Star Wars. And then again at eight when I finally started reading my mom’s book collection – John Carter and Tarzan, the early Xanth novels, Alan Dean Foster.

  12. One of the virtues of good story-telling (not to be confused with telling good stories) is it prompts the audience to ask “And then what happened?”

    And then what happens is an important question we need to ask of our politicians, who are always telling us stories and not often good ones.

  13. For me, it started with Pooh, and realizing at a very young age that the reason Pooh was better than all the flopppy-bunny imitations had to do with Eeyore being a sarcastic sonofabitch (and NOT ‘gloomy’, as his less clever friemds assume), and with Pooh being willling to rescue himself on a floating jar. And Piglet doing a Very Grand Thing.

    • Eeyore isn’t gloomy. He’s depressed, and sarcastic about it.

      • I’m not completely happy with the “depressed” idea. I’ve lived with depressed. I’ve been depressed. Eeyore is a pessimist and a cynic. Saying he’s depressed may be technically correct, but sucks all they subtle out of it. Kind of like what Disney did to the whole thing.

        • Does nobody recall the definition of morose:
          1: having a sullen and gloomy disposition
          2: marked by or expressive of gloom
          From: Latin morosus, literally, capricious, from mor-<I>, mos will

          Yeesh, what are you, a bunch of ESL learners?

          I would also consider saturnine, although many people would not properly comprehend it; same issue arises with sardonic, although that word contains overtones associated with humour that I might disdain.

          Synonym Discussion of MOROSE
          sullen, glum, morose, surly, sulky, crabbed, saturnine, gloomy mean showing a forbidding or disagreeable mood.

          Sullen implies a silent ill humor and a refusal to be sociable (remained sullen amid the festivities).
          Glum suggests a silent dispiritedness (a glum candidate left to ponder a stunning defeat). morose adds to glum an element of bitterness or misanthropy (morose job seekers who are inured to rejection).
          Surly implies gruffness and sullenness of speech or manner (a typical surly teenager).
          Sulky suggests childish resentment expressed in peevish sullenness (grew sulky after every spat).
          Crabbed applies to a forbidding morose harshness of manner (the school’s notoriously crabbed headmaster).
          Saturnine describes a heavy forbidding aspect or suggests a bitter disposition (a saturnine cynic always finding fault).
          Gloomy implies a depression in mood making for seeming sullenness or glumness (a gloomy mood ushered in by bad news).

          • William O. B'Livion

            > Yeesh, what are you, a bunch of ESL learners?

            Yeah. You’re quoting English at me, and I learned American.

  14. I’ve been having this same discussion over the past few days. It seems our narrative has switched. I remember growing up when the books I read (comic books, science fiction, fantasy, and horror) depicted people in impossible circumstances and still doing the right thing, still fighting to be Heroes. It was more than just win or lose. They fought until their dying breath at times, never gave up even in the light of failure. Some of these thoughts were sparked by the dire and dismal world we are inundated with from every angle today. Sure the news has always been sensationalistic, stories have always existed as dark and dystopian. But it is the Heroes that once gave us the hope that things could get better, that there were things worth fighting for. This current wave has taken that away from us. This new wave goes the direct route of turning our villains from a force of nature that follows its dark path without a care for who is in its way to now the villains have been humanized. In effect we have been told that we are the villains because we dare to say that what they do is wrong, they have every right to take over the world and kill those they don’t agree with and how dare we the heroes say otherwise.

    • I think a lot of it stems from a century of dismal failure by the Central Planners. The Left used to spin stories like Major Barbara, which has a hopeful ending. But then they got to try their prescriptions, and they failed. They can’t let go of their fantasy of a world run by themselves – the Clerisy – but at the same time they can’t really deny (even to themselves) that such a world doesn’t work and rapidly becomes dingy and decrepit. And so that becomes the dominant theme. Everything sucks.

      Because believing that the world is inevitably going to dissolve into grey goo is better than admitting to themselves that they are Clerks and Clerks are no better suited by nature to tell other people what to do than Priests or Kings.

      • Related:
        British and U.S. military leaders first discussed the idea of creating a rebel army in Syria in late 2011, but didn’t have political backing to proceed. Two years later, Mr. Obama authorized a limited arm-and-train program to battle the regime, led by the CIA.

        To identify rebel brigades eligible to receive support, the Americans created a color-coded ranking system. Green dots were assigned to brigades deemed acceptable to all parties. Yellow dots went to borderline groups. Red dots were for radicals. Since the system’s inception, the U.S. and its allies have continued to squabble over which groups belonged in which categories, officials said.

        The vetting process set up by the Americans stunned partners in the region. They complained that the White House’s risk-averse approach put U.S.-backed rebels at a disadvantage to the Assad regime, whose Russian and Iranian allies moved more swiftly and decisively.

        “The Americans color-coded; The Russians invaded,” a senior Turkish official said.

    • It occurs to me that this is one reason the Lefties so hate President Reagan. He liked Louis L’Amour and demonstrated the effect the right person could have in the culture. He represented the force of individual will (and individual won’t) in the face of societal pressure.

      They derided him as a “cowboy” and he responded “Yippee ki-yay, mutherfocker.”

  15. I think for me it all started when I followed Axel and Professor Lidenbrock down to the Center of the Earth, although I was also with Professor Arronax, Consiel, and Ned Land aboard the Nautilus. I helped Tom Swift build his Repelatron Skyway. Somewhere about then, I saw Mr. Spock collapse on one of the bridge consoles on the Enterprise. Later on, I joined Dard Nordis fleeing the Pax to join the Free Scientists off earth, and I was in and around the Galactic Patrol in a couple of its incarnations. I was on Arzor with Beast Master Hosteen Storm. I was mentored by “Pop” Baslim among others. I rode the Rolling Stone as an observer, worked a farm on Ganymede, clandestinely studied as an Astrogator, and I was a supporter of Mayor Rod Walker. I dueled in the dueling machine and was friends with the Rebel, Navigator, and Starkhan of Rhada, I studied psychohistory under Hari Seldon, although it was Salvor Hardin who introduced me to symbolic logic. I did not neglect my studies of Earth: I ran through the treetops, wrestled lions and leopards, baited superstitious African tribesmen, and outwitted so-called civilized crooks and con men with Tarzan of the Apes. Oh, and I also fought spies along with Operator Five. All this before I graduated from Highl School, and before I discovered Middle Earth.

    • I wasn’t going to do this, but all y’all forced me:
      I started out with ‘Space Cat Meets Mars’ by Ruthven Todd. Then L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time”. That lead into the “Lucky Star” and “Tom Swift Jr.” series. I read “Starship Troopers” in 5th grade, and it was probably a little too advanced for that age group, but did lead me to other Heinlein novels that I liked/understood better. I actually had graduated from College before reading Tolkien.

      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

        Besides the usual Norton & Heinlein, I visited the Mushroom Planet. [Wink]

        • The Mushroom Planet: Gateway book to Science Fiction? Did you read it before your started ‘experimenting’ with those two powerful authors?

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            Very likely visited the Mushroom Planet before I started Norton and Heinlein. [Smile]

            • I should look that back up. I’m pretty sure I remember liking it, but I can’t remember much about it!

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                I’m not sure that the Mushroom Planet series would still work today (even for the age group it was intended for), but I remember this scene that worked for me then and now.

                The main characters (young boys) are watching in horror when they see the aliens about to give an award to one of the adult characters who they dislike while not giving it to the main adult character who they rightly think deserves it more.

                The main adult character is too humble to claim that he deserves it more but it turns out that the aliens know exactly what they are doing.

                The aliens want their existence to remain secret so the award is being given to the human who is most likely to reveal their existence (and being so puffed up that he believes he deserves the award).

                The Award wipes his memory of the aliens and other events in the story.

                So a stuck-up character gets his just reward. [Very Big Grin]

  16. Anybody for skipping Games and going for a smoke in the “bunkers” with Stalky, M’Turk, and Beetle?

    • I did that age 8 or 9. But then I’d been a regular kipler since the Just So stories and the Jungle book at age umm whenever it was my parents read them to me at bedtime

      • My folks read to me pretty much every night until I was finishing the books so fast they got frustrated, at 13 or so. Both had greatnspeaking voices, and good cadance. I am horribly disappointed by the youtube videos of “The Sing Song Of Old Man Kangaroo” because they are all so slow and have no bounce.

        They introduced me to a bunch of oddball stuff this way. THE SPACE CHILD’S MOTHER GOOSE, “WHERE DID YOU GO?” “OUT” “WHAT DID YOU DO?” “NOTHING”, Georgette Heyer (I mean, really? For a teenage boy?), Thurber. I did my best to return the favor, with Lois McMaster Bujold, Eric Frank Russell (Father loved THREE TO CONQUOR), Peter Bowen.

        • Oh good. I’m not the only one who went out into the great wet wild wood and did nothing. (After all, even my HS yearbook says that I walk with Kipling’s Cat.)

          • My mother said I am Kipling’s cat. Experience shows she was a very wise woman.
            Smart, too. First woman to study Mathematics at her Uni.
            Dropped out for the Great Depression, became a nurse.
            Here’s to you Mum, wherever you may be. <3!
            Thanks for the math genes, very handy they've been.

    • There was a delightful adaptation of those stories, run on the Arts & Entertainment channel (before they became A&E, before they discovered unreality television), imported from the BBC.

      Not, apparently, available on video.

      If any of you lot ever get the chance to see them, be sure to record and plan to rewatch. Current reports are they are permanently lost.

      In similar vein, don’t ever match wits with the Prodigious Hickey, nor go pancake for pancake against Hungry Smead.

  17. I started out with Moreta. 14 with chicken pox. Dad was desperate to stop me whining.
    It probably explains a lot that Pern was my gateway to science fiction. Not sure what, but a lot. Then I got involved in a Pern roleplay by email. Which was a really cool way of doing fanfiction, among other things.

    • My first ever contact with an author was a letter I wrote to Anne – she replied on a postcard answering my question and at the bottom she had

      PS Next Pern book – Moreta’s ride – should be out in a couple of months

      Needless to say that was the first book I preordered from my local bookshop and probably the first one I bought new in hardback (or was it trade PB ? book’s not where I am now to check)

  18. I am not sure that the stuff I write is actually “Human Wave.” It is more “Protagonist Abuse.” My poor, benighted protagonist keeps getting embarrassed, beat up, mocked, and humiliated. And that is just the first three chapters.

  19. “We’re not preaching; we’re entertaining. It’s more important.” Preaching is like a commercial. Entertaining is like being a friend having a good time with you.
    For me, it’s been too long to say who I started with. Likely Jules Verne. And then Astounding, Amazing, Galaxy, and various pulps with semi-clothed maidens on the cover, and or BEMs and Rocket Ships and Robots.

  20. Chris Nelson

    On the farm near the small town, we had books. In between chores, church, scouts and school, reading was encouraged. Lots of classics, best sellers, TimeLife and Readers Digest Condensed volumes filled the shelves of the study and hallway. Boy’s Life serialized a Heinlein book and our parents took us to see “2001” in the big theater in the city. Science Fiction was the most entertaining read at that time. But as a child, who was betrayed by adults, I was always skeptical of utopias and fantasy that ended too well. Experience made me a cynical realist.

  21. I must have been about 10 when Momma woke me up in the middle of the night, put me in Daddy’s wing chair, supplied me with a big bowl of pop-corn and an ice cold coca-cola and pointed me at the TV to watch Sergeant York. And so began my formal education in classic films. Eventually Momma shared another one of her favorite films with me and I floated down the Ohio in a skiff until saved by an angelic but tough Lillian Gish.

    But the first stories that caught me were the ones that Daddy read out loud to me. I don’t so much recall the stories as the illustration as we worked our way through the entire output of L. Frank Baum. On the other hand I recall clearly imagining that I was helping Pa to make the front door for our home on the prairie in the Oklahoma territory or, having snuck off for a swim, running face to face with the Badger on the shore of Plum Creek.

  22. To be fair, most SJWs are oppressed – by their “comrades.” So since they cannot and dare not admit that and complain, they project it onto the rest of us.

  23. I remember a set of realbooks that appeared when I was 6 or so. The Prince and the Pauper. Tom Sawyer. Black Beauty.

    When I could finally get to the library often enough there were all these books with rocket ships on the spines. I read them all.

    If Scientific American was as relentlessly Marxist then as now I threw it off a while ago. But I read 40 years of back issues in my HS library..

    • In school I had to read Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (at least they used the proper version, not idiotically mutilated versions) and that, plus the folks seemingly endless (re?)watching of Life on the Mississippi nearly put me off Twain. And then there was a broadcast of The Mysterious Stranger and I started reading the various versions of that, and good many other Twain works the local library had. In school, there was Verne and Wells and… many others. That is, when I wasn’t reading of anesthesia, or X-rays, or the Manhattan project, or… a good many other things.

  24. I started out solving mysteries with the Hardy Boys and then Sherlock Holmes and Ellery Queen. This ran concurrently with Greek mythology, Norse legends and a bit of Shakespeare and Poe.
    Then I saw a book that had a spaceship on it entitled “Childhood’s End” which led to “2001: A Space Odyssey” and the Heinlein juveniles. By 14 I had read Tolkien, Burroughs, Howard and Herbert and almost everything by Niven and Pournelle.
    I consumed practically everything I could lay my hands on. Trips to the bookstore were dangerous because I would bring home sacks of books not just one or two.
    But beginning in the late 80’s, I noticed a change in SF/F that began to take the enjoyment out of the genre and it finally got so that I would simply re-read my favorites. Nothing on the bookstore shelves interested me.
    Thanks to many of the “Humanwave” writers (proto and current), science fiction and fantasy is becoming fun again.

  25. Where did I start? Mom took me to Star Wars at age 5 – but I remember most two series of books in the local library. One series (which I now realize was a retelling of Horatio Hornblower) was about a young kid who lived on the moon (not human) who then went on to have adventures and end up an admiral. My google-fu is weak today so I can’t find it. Can anyone help me with title?

    The series was the Tripods by John Christopher (google fu back up).

    From there it went to Star Trek books coming out and reading all of the Sci-Fi in the town library – a lot of James Blish. Still remember Jack of Eagles.

    I never got to Tolkein until after college – and Heinlein was also late in coming. I went from the Star Trek books to Star Wars books and then to Heinlen and others. Still trying to fill in my knowledge of the masters. Although at the moment I am reading St. Augustine’s City of God – not quite halfway through. ANyway, gotta run.


    • Okay, google-fu is stronger today, although my memory on the books was hazy, they are the “Matthew Looney” series of books set on the moon – there are 4 about Matthew and 3 about Maria (his sister).


  26. It’s odd that I can actually put the history together. I remember, in early elementary school, being fascinated by my grandfather’s big Time-Life books on World War 2, filled with both big illustrations and stories. From there, someone got me some young-adult true tales style books (I remember one on Guadalcanal and one on the British Commandos). From there, I remember a vacation to a different set of relatives. My aunts seemed to have nothing but romance novels until I chanced onto a handful of spy thrillers, specifically Where Eagles Dare and the The Guns of Navarone; obviously fiction, but the same time period. In the final year of elementary school, someone handed me The Hunt for Red October and Red Storm Rising; still not quite science fiction, but getting closer. Finally, for my birthday in junior high, my father got me a copy of Starship Troopers.

    Looking at it, the path makes sense. All of them feature heroes, in a combination of action and guile, fighting for worthy causes. All of them feature exciting technology, from historical to cutting edge to futuristic. Due to the overly preachy tone of a lot of recent science fiction, I’ve found myself interested in the second world war again.

    • I, too, learned to read fairly early…about age 3 or so. My aunt, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all lived together during WW II while Dad was off to war and they’d all read to me even before my sister was born. My aunt, especially, thought it was up to her to “see to David’s cultural upbringing” and bought me books. She continued to do that until I was well into my 40’s, in fact. The earliest I recall was “Padji” about an Indian boy. Another was “Amanda the Snake” about a female python. I became an avid reader and, when I ran out of “regular” books, I read my grandmother’s complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica by the time I was 9 or 10. I remember some of the most arcane stuff from those books which may be why I almost always win at trivia games. My parents were also readers. Mom was into Zane Grey and Dad was a science fiction fan. I used to trade comic books with a neighbor kid and I loved “Weird Tales” and other such stuff. I used to read under the covers at night using a flashlight until Dad finally refused to let me use his batteries because I’d run them down that way. I’d borrow Dad’s science fiction which was how I first got involved with Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, etc. Those are still my preferred genre, though I’ve expanded my author preferences to include Weber, Drake, Kratman, Ringo and Michael Z. Williamson. I’ve begun my first Sarah Hoyt book and may add her to that list.

  27. Pingback: Fatalism vs. Determinism

  28. Patrick Chester

    Late to the party, but I think it was pretty much going to Star Wars when I was about 7 or so that started my interest. Then some TV shows like Battlestar Galactica and *cough* Buck Rogers helped solidify it.

    Later I got into novels by Clarke, Niven, Pournelle and some others.