Thursday, December 3, 2009

Big eyes

I've been a science fiction fan since I was old enough to walk to the Eau Claire library on my own but, being eight or nine or so, finding myself being shuttled off to the children's section. ("What! Me! A fourth grader!) But there I found great science fiction - stuff about relativity and the twins who diverged in age during really fast space travel, and the time-travel paradox about killing your grandfather! (I really wasn't much into the sword-and-sorcery genre.) But for a pre-teen, this stuff was mind-blowing! I fell in love. (Of course, I also snuck into the adult stacks. Hi there, Norman Mailer! What are you and that gal doing on the floor?)

I've been a sort-of SF fan every since. But it didn't take long to realize that the writing, all too often, was a bit weak. In not too much time (at least as grownups measure it) I was a snotty youth who wanted to read Great Literature, ahem. However, old love dies hard. I found myself in later years subscribing to Asimov's Science Fiction, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Analog. Cool stuff!

But I've found that short stories, rather than novels, work best in the genre. Sure, some of the novels are wonderful (It would take far too long to think of them all), but so often they are just stretched out versions of a good short story. I read two examples this week - Jack McDevitt's "Time Travelers Never Die," (I'm still a sucker for time-travel stories but - talk about stretched!) and the usually fine writer Kristine Kathryn Rusch's "Diving Into the Wreck," which quickly reminded me why stopped paying for "Analog."

Still, somewhere in my 63-year-old body, that fourth-grader still is searching the shelves, on his tiptoes, looking for wonder. His eyes might be a little jaded, but they're still big.

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