Worldcon was so much fun! I was on one panel, entitled “When We Were Young” that dealt with the our first science fiction books. For me, there were three that I remember from grade school
- “Space Cat”–the story of a stowaway kitty on a rocket. I believe there were sequels (“Space Cat Goes To Mars” etc.)
- “Have Space Suit Will Travel” by Robert Heinlein. Story of a kid who wins a space suit in a soap contest, and ends up saving the world. Wonderful stuff. One of his very best “Juvies.” Read it in 4th grade, and never looked back.
- “The Invisible Island”. This wasn’t an SF book, per se, but it was, in a sense, a fantasy. It is the story of three siblings forced to move to the country, and hate it. Then one of them notices that streams on their property actually encircle a patch of forest, creating an “island” that only they can “see.” The resultant story is mild and charming, and I loved it.
I think I’ve remembered “Invisible Island” because it speaks of the power of imagination, it told me that my flights of fancy could define my life, change my perspectives, help me create an internal world that was mine alone, and independent of the “outer” world.
We all need that, a place that is safe within us. This exercise of the imagination led directly to writing my own stories, my own “places within my heart.” And as I shared them with my schoolmates, they began to understand me better, they enjoyed those stories, and I made friends, allies and protectors. Yes, protectors. I’d read part of a story to members of the football team, and then later, if bullies tried to beat me up, a hulky fan would run up saying “leave the little brother alone!”
If you don’t think THAT caught my attention…
And then later, I became a professional. I think that that was hugely satisfying to me, but things hit a different level the day I got a fan letter from a cancer patient who told me that a heroic image from my novel “Blood Brothers”, where Aubry Knight has to run across the desert holding a mouthful of water, helped him to survive his chemotherapy.
Wow. Just…wow. I wrote to express myself, my own sense of isolation and existential pain. And learned to express it in a way that others drew strength.
Isn’t that why we write? Isn’t that what we crave from our work, to touch others in a way that eases pain, lends strength, makes the world a better place? I can’t ask for more than that.
To be honest, Tananarive and I both believe that writing is craft in service to the soul, the quest for who and what we are on the DEEPEST levels, to touch something true about our characters, and by doing so, communicate something valid and beautiful about the human experience.
Seek this in your own life, your own work, whatever that work may be, and you have expanded your humanity, and the gift you have to give the world.
(P.S.–you have until Midnight tomorrow night to get the extras on the LIFEWRITING 10-WEEK HOME STUDY COURSE. Please do yourself a favor and see the wonderful deal we have for you, at http://www.lifewritingworkshop.com)