I've never warmed up to science fiction.
I'm sure it's a personal failing. I suspect it has something to do with a preference for the "could be true."
As a child, I had a rich fantasy life, but it was firmly grounded in a life I might aspire to. I had imaginary human playmates. Imaginary horses I rode back and forth to school. I entertained my younger sister with tales of an imaginary automat that dispensed food into our bedroom at night. I wove an elaborate fantasy about a dangerous fellow named Dan-the-Bum who haunted the playground. We were the detectives who had to track him down.
From an early age, I was a bookworm. I loved stories of the past and stories of an enticing but possible future reality, full of romance and mystery and faraway places.
But fantastic worlds that could never happen? I didn't see the appeal. I even went through a phase when I wouldn't wear clothing with images of stuff on it, like that strange dirndl skirt with the lollipop print. It seemed to bend reality in a way that made me uneasy.
Well, okay, I did like Edgar Allen Poe. And ghost stories. But that's fantasy or speculative fiction, right? Science fiction just seemed weird and cold and hard.
But then I discovered a hidden gem that made me reconsider.
It's such a hidden gem that I can't reveal the name of the story. The author is a friend, a member of my writing group. He's also right here on Red Room, come to think of it. I'll call him Mr. X.
Mr. X has published a number of nonfiction books. But he also writes fiction. A couple of years ago, he started working on a short story and began to share it with the group. It opened like a perfectly realistic short story, in a familiar San Francisco setting.
But then suddenly, there was this fantasy element. Time travel. Alternate reality. Bait and switch. Oh-oh. My sci-fi alert went off. I issued a polite disclaimer. I don't usually read this kind of thing, so I'm not the best judge. . .
But I suspended disbelief and soldiered on.
I got hooked.
It's a wonderful story. Beautifully detailed setting. Quirky characters. Suspense. A slightly old-fashioned quality to the language that I've come to love. It's a world in which I've come to feel at home. But it could never happen. At least I don't think so.
I feel privileged to have watched Mr X's work evolve: from short story to longer story to novella. If all goes well, it won't be a hidden gem for too much longer.
In the meantime, I just may look around for more science fiction to read.
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders