Reading Science Fiction

I discovered science fiction when I was about 8. Back then, comic books were a mainstay in my life. I devoured Superman, Batman, Green Hornet, and other comic hero stories. I also read a lot of monster-types with creepy titles and even creepier storylines. Somewhere along the way, I found Astounding Magazine (which became Analog Science Fiction in 1960). There was also If, Infinity, Galaxy, Amazing Science Fiction, and a few others. With a neighborhood branch of the library at my disposal, I grabbed every young adult science fiction book I could find: Heinlein’s Citizen of the Galaxy, Tunnel in the Sky, to name two; Asimov’s I, Robot short stories collected in book form, The Lincoln Hunters by Wilson Tucker, and others.

Once I discovered science fiction, I never let it go – at least, not completely. I read Niven and Pournelle, their individual work as well as their collaborations like The Mote in God’s Eye. In the early 1970s I went for five years reading nothing but Science Fiction. I learned to abhor the term “Sci-Fi.” I learned that SF was the more appropriate shorthand. To the exclusion of everything else – mysteries and contemporary fiction – I became an SF junkie.

Looking back, I remember two outstanding authors, one of which is nearly forgotten except, I surmise, by aficionados of the genre. That’s Frederic Brown, a master of the short-short (called flash fiction these days), who wrote mysteries as well as SF. He had a deft hand when it came to finishing a plot with a twist. He pushed the fantastic button as hard as anyone, churning out stories that amazed.

Philip K. Dick was another personal favorite. He wasn’t as popular or as in-demand back in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, as he eventually came after “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” was made into the movie Blade Runner. More movies based on his work came out: Minority Report, Through a Glass Darkly, The Man in the High Castle.”  I like to think his estate profits from this appropriation, from the respect he’s posthumously receives. In his own time, I’ve read, he lived cheaply, turning out stories for his livelihood.

All this reading of SF, this love I acquired for that type of fiction, along with the appreciation I discovered for old masters and some of the new (Greg Bear comes to mind), led me from a young age to write science fiction – though I still write general fiction and the occasional mystery.

I never rose to the heights of readership enjoyed by some of my contemporaries, but I delight in publishing a few stories each year in small markets, anthologies and print magazines as well as online venues. Luckily, unlike Philip K. Dick, I don’t have to make a living with my writing. I never gave up my day job.

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