the Little Red Reviewer

When did you become a SciFi fan?

Posted on: November 10, 2011

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day

For me, it all started with a love for Astronomy, I just didn’t realize it until later.  (and Star Wars, but that’s a different story. Or maybe not. . .)

I loved Astronomy as a child.  My Mom would take me to our local science museum on nights they let people look at the Moon or Mars through their telescope.  To me, it seemed a special treat to stay up late at night and go to the science museum after hours to look through a telescope. Thinking back, I was usually wearing a coat and mittens to these telescope viewing parties, so it was probably in the winter at about 9pm. Not very late after all.

English class in elementary school often involved writing short stories and poems. Write a story about what you did over the weekend, or what you did over summer vacation, or try to make up an adventure, or something. They wanted to make sure we could tell a story that had a coherent beginning, middle, and end, and that our non-run-on sentences were grammatically correct along with having the requisite subjects and verbs.  No dangling participles, and no sentences that started with “and” or “because”.  My stories usually had something to do with astronomy, or weather, or animals.

For no reason at all, the other day this memory popped into my head.  It was some story assignment. And mine, of course, was about Astronomy. Or at least, a nine year old’s version of astronomy.  Those of you involved in NaNoWriMo might get a kick out of this.

The story went something like this:


My nine year old self is standing in the front yard of our house, and I notice that the sky is changing in very strange ways, mostly getting very dark in the middle of the day.  I call to my Mom, and she comes outside to watch with me. In order, the planets go shooting by – Mars, then Jupiter, then Saturn, and so forth all the way to Pluto*. Earth was being sucked out of the solar system!  Who, or what, was sucking the Earth out of the solar system? What did they want with us?   Would my kittens survive**?

As it turns out, it was very friendly aliens***. The Earth was the first “abnormal” planet they had discovered in the Universe and they wanted to study us and ask us what it was like to live on an abnormal planet.

Wait, abnormal? How is the Earth abnormal??

Their planet was donut shaped (“normal”), as were all the other planets in their solar system, so they thought for a planet to support life it had to be donut shaped. And then they discovered Earth which was abnormally not donut shaped, and yet contained abundant life. How did we do it? Wasn’t it strange to look up into the night sky and not see the rest of the planet?  How did we send airplanes around?  And what are these kitten things?

After some conversations that I’m sure made perfect sense to a nine year old, the aliens send Earth back to it’s proper place in the galaxy.  The end.

To me it was a story about science, about astronomy. Years later I came to realize that  that was the moment that I fell in love with the idea of science fiction. Although I was too busy reading Judy Blume and Babysitter’s Club books to even think about science fictional stories, most of the non-fiction I got from the library had something to do with Astronomy. Especially the ones with the Greek myths about the constellations.

Astronomy/outer space + stories = science fiction. . .   right?

So, when and how did you first become a Science Fiction fan?

BTW, my grown up self’s commentary on my memory of the story I wrote:

* dammit, Pluto is a planet! there’s a reason the mnemonic is My Very Educated Mother Just Serves Us Nine Pizzas.

** I really wanted a kitten, I guess.  Obviously way more important than worrying about the mechanics of ignoring gravity and wondering how we’d survive away from the Sun for a prolonged period of time.

*** I’m sure they were Star Trek the original series aliens: looked just like us and spoke English, but had green skin and awesome hair dos.

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52 Responses to "When did you become a SciFi fan?"

I suppose for me it was all due to my mom. She’s a huge sci-fi fan and I can remember growing up with all her books lying around the house….I think she had just about everything ever written by Heinlein, Asimov, Clarke, etc….she’d let us stay up late if a sci-fi movie was on TV, we’d watch the original Star Trek series together….but mostly it was probably the Heinlein Juvenile books….like Have Spacesuit will travel and citizen of the galaxy…she’d read those to my older brother and I…which lead to a lifelong love of the genre…. I now read some of Terry Pratchett’s juvenile stories to my kids…..and thus the next generation of sci-fi/fantasy lovers is born :)

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Your Mom rocks!!!

My grandfather was a huge SF fan, but we didn’t have much of his stuff in the house growing up, or maybe it was packed away.

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she certainly does :) thanks :)

I was lucky enough once to exchange a few emails with John Varley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Varley_%28author%29) and he said pretty much the same thing, which made my mom pretty happy!

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It was either Star Wars, or watching the 4th Doctor on DOCTOR WHO on PBS as a kid. Either way I was hooked.

Oh, and sidenote Red, check out the blog for info on a “Tennant Years” Complete DVD set they are releasing later this month, $169.99 for four seasons…it’s pretty amazingly priced, and I think I recall you mentioning that you wanted to get ahold of the DVD’s.

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I think I know what I’m gonna ask for for a gift this year! . . off to troll IcebergInk. . .

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Too fun! I think for me it was something similar. I grew up living outside of town where the night sky wasn’t muted by city lights and the stars and Milky Way were this incredible thing to gaze at. After that it gets a bit muddled. I became aware of this concept of science fiction watching Star Trek reruns, but it was the release of Star Wars, when I was 8, almost 9, years old that made the words “science fiction” and “sci-fi” become a part of my vocabulary.

Prior to Star Wars I don’t recall reading any books that would be consider science fiction. I do recall this rather amazing book a kid brought to school that he had checked out from the local library that had fantastic art in it showing all these made up planets and space ships. It inspired days of writing our own comic strips, drawing planets and space ships. Whenever I think about that I lament the fact that I have no idea whatsoever what book that might have been. I would love to have a copy of it now.

Once Star Wars came out I became aware of my uncle Dean’s science fiction collection. He was very generous with letting me borrow things and I started by reading the first two Han Solo novels written by Brian Daley and the Star Wars novel that Alan Dean Foster had written, Splinter in the Minds Eye. Over the next few years the bulk of my “sci-fi” reading consisted of multiple re-reads of those books as well as the novelizations of the Star Wars films. A little later I discovered Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat books and Larry Niven and I was hopelessly hooked. And reruns of Star Wars and Dr. Who with Tom Baker just added fuel to that fire, a fire that has never died out.

Your story is great. Made me laugh to read the part about the kittens, especially as it brought to mind the first story in Cordwainer Smith’s Space Lords collection, Mother Hitton’s Littul Kittons.

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Everyone always mentions Star Wars and Star Trek, and sure, I saw Star Wars as a kid, but I don’t think it registered with me that that was “science fiction”. In my mind I just saw it as an “adventure”. I think the first time i saw Yoda and the Ewoks maybe i just thought I was watching Sesame Street? eh, who understands the mind of a 6 year old anyway? and even with Star Trek, my brain just saw it as “adventure” at first.

I have really got to read some Harry Harrison! On your rec, I picked up a Stainless Steel book, but haven’t gotten around to reading it. This has got to get fixed.

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If you do I would recommend…no, I would beg you…to read The Stainless Steel Rat first. What you actually need to do is read the 3 novel omnibus, The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat (or at least the first two in that collection) as they build off one another. They are by far the best of the rat books. There are few “okay” ones and a couple of downright terrible ones. I actually have an extra copy of The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat if you are interested.

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absolutely agree with you on ‘the adventures of the stainless steel rat’ collection…to this day i try and re-read those every few years, and they just never get old…
..and if possible, try and find a copy of ‘planet story’ by Harrison…it’s a big coffee table sized book, but the story is wonderful….

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I think I kind of always was a science fiction fan. I remember the Star Wars movies always being among my very favorite. After college, I decided (for no apparent reason) to read every Hugo and Nebula award winner in chronological order. Why? No clue – it just seemed like a great idea! (And it was!)

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Awesome! my self imposed ollege reading project was to read all the Asimov Robot/Foundation stories in chronological order. Huh, I guess that explains why most of my projects featured robots or AI for the next year!

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I’m such a wannabe. I WANT to read hard sci-fi, but it’s always been tough for me. Although, since reading Ann Aguirre’s Sirantha Jax series, and Sara Creasey books, I’m very much open to trying more!

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Kristin, I think a lot of people are like you. They find what are termed “gateway” books, books that are accessible that help readers see that not all science fiction has to be difficult and that much of it is actually a great deal of fun.

At the risk of offending science fiction fans, there is nothing particularly special about “hard” science fiction. And by that I mean that a person is not any less of a science fiction fan if they choose not to partake or, or don’t particularly like, “hard” science fiction.

That being said, I have no doubt that there are many wonderful hard science fiction books, just as there are many wonderful adventure/space opera/etc. science fiction novels. You should read what you like.

Of the few hard science fiction novels I have read, I would recommend A World Out of Time by Larry Niven. It is an older book and has a few, but not many, issues with things sounding dated, but it is a great mix of action and adventure and hard science that is, in my opinion, very accessible. I’m sure hard sf fans could give you more and better examples.

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Yes, well I guess it depends on your definitions, doesn’t it? For me, “science fiction” IS “hard science fiction”. That is, it has believable science in it, based on what is presently (or what was at the time it was written) known science and physics.

This means if an elf shows up, or a sword-and-sorcery thing appears (sorcery not being based on science, of course) then it’s not SF. Of course there is a ton of SF that doesn’t have a lot of “science” in it, but it’s still hard SF if it meets the definition, or could if the background setting were expanded. It’s easy, really. Rocket ship? Yes. Magic? No. Heinlein, Clarke, Niven, Blish, et al are SF. So is William Gibson. Burroughs, de Camp, Rowling, Howard, Tolkein, Lawhead, Jordon, Martin are not.

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And that is okay that that is your definition Richard, but you know that in the science fiction community “hard science fiction” is its own subgenre with the idea that it has a stronger emphasis on science and if the science is not accurate, which some certainly strive for, it is at least striving for plausibility. There is a lot of “science fiction” that is not “hard” science fiction. Star Wars and Star Trek are most certainly science fiction but are not hard science fiction. John Scalzi’s novels aren’t hard sf, whereas much of what Larry Niven writes is considered hard sf. So there is a definable difference between the two.

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Continuing on with my reply, you have listed on one hand a group of authors who would be considered to write hard sf. And on the other you have listed fantasy artists, which no one would legitimately argue are “science fiction” authors. But you miss an entire range of science fiction authors in the middle between hard sf and fantasy. Authors like Harry Harrison, John Scalzi, some of what Charles Stross writes, Orson Scott Card and the list goes on and on.

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Since there was no “reply” under the next one, I’ll do it here. I do consider Scalzi, Harrison, Star Trek and Star Wars as “hard” – look at the tech. Yes, I understand in SW there is The Force, and that makes it borderline SF and F. I don’t deny psi power in SF, there is a long way to go to understand the science of the brain. I just have a problem with people making all the little pigeon holes for SF, it’s ridiculous and unnecessary. A lot of SF has a major sociological aspect, has for as long as I’ve been reading it, it’s in Verne and Heinlein and so forth, so that’s not a problem either. But when a novel or story is 100% that way, why is it anything other than just plain old fiction?

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I’m with you 100% on the silliness of the pigeon holes, but at the same time since people have made to and (somewhat) agreed on the definitions and since not everyone here is a long time science fiction fan I felt the need to point out that there is indeed a difference between “hard” science fiction and other kinds.

I myself have a very broad definition of science fiction, and would include things like Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars stuff right in the mix. And even though I haven’t read a book from each of the pigeon holes you refer to, I have found ones that I’ve liked that fit into several of them. I certainly don’t think people should limit themselves and I get tired of some hard core fans (no one here) belittling the stuff they don’t feel is “true” science fiction.

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Absolutely Pluto is a planet!!

Great story — and mine wasn’t too dissimilar. I loved astronomy books when I got to grade school and quickly had gone through all the ones in our small library. I think about that time I would have been watching Star Trek reruns with my older sister (who was a science fiction fan).

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I didn’t really have the childhood love of sf that you and most other sf fans seem to. Not that I didn’t read sf or fantasy; on the contrary, I read loads of it and I loved it. I was a voracious reader though – I’d read anything and everything, even non-fiction, and sf was just one genre among many. For some reason, I never watched much sf film. I remember seeing a few Star Trek episodes, but I didn’t see Star Wars until highschool (about a decade ago).

In highschool I had a preference for crime thrillers and horror, which meant I read some fantasy but almost no sf. Then in third year at varsity I did a course on postmodernism and science fiction. It gave me a newfound awareness of the genre as something both entertaining and cerebral, and I’ve been in love with it ever since.

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You’re all a bunch of pups.

I became an SF fan when I was about 7 years old (about 1952). My older – by 6 years – brother read SF and subscribed to Astounding Science Fiction and I read, or at least browsed, those magazines and though the books he read were beyond me, the wonderful Winston Science Fiction series for younger readers was not, and I read every one of them available at the library of the small town I lived in. So I guess it was my brother’s influence, but I got an early start.

There weren’t any SF films back then, except for the really awful serials like Buck Rogers, and the monster ant, spider, crab, et. usually a result of nuclear testing. There was Forbidden Planet and a few others like that as well, and I watched them all, but compared to the novels they were mostly just silly.

I soon moved into the adult SF novels, read everything I could by Heinlein, Clarke, Clement, Aldus, Simak, Sturgeon, the rest.

I also read some Howard, Leiber and other fantasy writers, though I guess I thought of them as adventure stories more than fantasy. In 1962 I read the Tolkein books, and that really got me into fantasy, but you asked about SF.

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‘the monster ant’…
I’m assuming you meant the movie ‘them’….and the 10 year old in me wants to yell..’hey….that movie was awesome!’….

except i haven’t seen it since i was 10….it may actually be pretty horrible…but i do recall loving it when i was a kid. :)

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Oh I like it too, Tyson, then and still do, but as SF film it doesn’t stand up well to Star Wars.

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I think that story is actually quite perceptive for a nine-year-old!

I think my sci-fi intro would technically be The Magic Schoolbus. But I discovered A Wrinkle in Time when I was nine, and Ray Bradbury soon after, and I was off!

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I don’t think enough people realize how much “kid stuff” is entry-level SciFi. Magic Schoolbus? totally SF! and hard sf at that! aliens, dinosaurs, talking robots from outer space, talking animals. . . it’s all gateway SF. but don’t tell those tv show producers!

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The word “magic” in Magic School bus should give you a clue that it’s fantasy, not SF.

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Not necessarily Richard. In episodes where they travel inside the body, travel to outer space, etc. it is definitely more science fictional than fantasy.

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Then apparently “magic” is simply a colloquialism in this instance.

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And let me point out that my definitions of SF vs. Fantasy vs. Sword and Sorcery were formed in the early days, when those were three separate and easily identifiable types of fiction. There weren’t sub-sub divisions, nor any need for them. Writers weren’t looking for a new little niche to make their book stand out, the formulas of the time were perfectly adequate within which to tell the story. I think all the adding of sub-categories and the blending of them is just confusing for anyone who wants to know what the hell a book might be like.

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That is true, and boy are we a society that loves to label things, myself included I suppose. I actually like that there is cross-genre fiction, or is it cross-sub-genre (geez!), but I am not sure why we need to label everything down to the smallest category possible.

My definition of science fiction is pretty broad: if there are science fiction tropes that are prominent, I’m pretty okay labeling it science fiction. For example I know a lot of people want to say Firefly isn’t science fiction, it is a western in space. I agree, but to me the “in space” part still makes it science fiction. Star Wars isn’t fantasy because it has light sabers, it is science fiction because they are all flying around in space ships and using “laser guns”. John Carter of Mars is science fiction because it is about people living on Mars, despite its fantasy trappings.

I do like to make the distinction between “hard” science fiction and others if only to help other people gauge the accessibility of the work for the lay reader.

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I definitely first became a sci-fi fan through film – loved the Star Wars trilogy (back when it WAS a trilogy). I think the first sci-fi I ever read must have been something by Jane Yolen, which I picked up thinking was fantasy (dragons!) and then realized was all about science. It was a gentle introduction, and a good one. I wasn’t very young – maybe 12, 13?

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I am sure my SciFi fandom came from late night SciFi TV marathons in my teen years. Space 1999, being the main culprit. But it was cemented in with many trips to the library around that same time (my teen years not 1999 – ha!). I was always drawn to the covers with strong looking women in space suits. Then I found Anne McCaffrey. Need I say more? ;)

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i can remember watching space 1999 with my folks when i was about 8 years old…..absolutely loved that show….
though when i see images of it now, my first reaction is generally, what was going on with those hairdos ;)

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write up a “question” post with a story and then disappear for 12 hours. . . looks like I gotta do that more often! I’ll have time tomorrow to respond to everyone’s comments. :D

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I was raised on Star Wars myself and all my brothers.I cannot remember a time that we were not watching this great space opera growing up..:) I am still getting into reading sci fi books. Between Star Wars and Star Trek..I was hooked through TV.

I am with the Andrea as well. I have loved Astronomy growing up. My dad and I would go outside and look at the constellations. I still do this every so often and think back to much simpler times..:)

Great post Andrea!!!

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I was always sci-fi leaning. My dad took me to see Star Wars when I was 7, we watched Buck Rogers together, and I watched saturday morning cartoons that featured Anime Robots or Superheroes.

I can blame my parents for becoming a real hard core sci-fi fan. When I was 11, I received a HUGE box in the mail a few weeks before my birthday. My parents presented it to me with pride.

I was mesmerized when I opened it. It was filled with 15 HUGE hardcover books, all science fiction. They weren’t big readers, but I was (although I didn’t really have a preference…I just devoured whatever I got my hands on in the house) and they had signed me up for the old Science Fiction Book club (back in the days when it was REALLY a good deal).

Since then, I’ve been a reader and a sci-fi fan.

Thanks mom and dad. I can only hope to do the same in a few years with my own little girl.

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Those are some great parents, Frank. And I’m thrilled to hear that you will try to inspire a love of reading in your own child.

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Did your story pre-date Larry Niven’s Ringworld? And if so, can I have 10% of your winnings for suggesting the lawsuit?

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lol, no. ;) this would have been around 1988, and it would be at least 10 years before I knew who Larry Niven was. But I probably did eat way too many donuts on the way to school.

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I loved astronomy as a child, too. I always wanted to be an astronomer, but once I got to university I went in an entirely different direction… It’s why I read sci-fi, though.

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My first SF book was one that caught my eye in the Scholastic Book order form in elementary school. It was “The Runaway Robot” by Lester Del Rey. I read it the day it was delivered. A friend of mine and I found out that one of our English teachers had a small library in her room. It was never cataloged or organized. We offered to do it during recess. As we worked through it we discovered a complete collection of the Winston Juvenile SF series. That series, along with the Tom Swift Jr. books, hooked me for life.

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Those Winston books were great, weren’t they? I read most of them.

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I just picked up one of the Winston books last year after hearing so many people talk about them. Now I just need to read it. :)

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I wasn’t offered the option not to be one! SF is pretty much the only thing my parents were watching during my formative years and all I can really remember of television from that time is Dr Who, Blake’s 7, Buck Rogers, and the original Star Trek. It’s probably done something to my brain pathways. I know I have this pavlov’s dog type reaction to hearing the themes from Dr Who and Star Trek.

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LOL. I so wish I had been exposed to Dr. Who growing up!! I feel like I was half a person without it. :)

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Such a great post! I think it was similar for me but I didn’t have the awesome story!!!

Halley’s Comet came around when I was about 10, and I remember being absolutely freakin’ fascinated with that thing. Begged my mom to let me go to a couple lectures at the local community college about it (How does a 10 year old know about these things??)

Other than that, I had loved Star Wars, and the original Star Trek and Buck Rogers on t.v. But I didn’t have any concept that these things were considered Sci-Fi, or that there was such a thing until much later. And I don’t think I even knew there were Sci-Fi books until much later either. (Yah those darn Baby-Sitter’s Club and Nancy Drew’s are cult-like).

It probably wasn’t until high-school that I started getting introduced to a few softer sf books like Ender’s Game. And started noticing that not everyone loved the stuff like I do. I still find that last part particularly difficult to understand. LOL.

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I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like Sci Fi but I’d guess it all started with the space invaders

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I finally got to read your recent comments and others about how they came to be sci/fi fans. You left out one thing. I know you don’t remember your grandfather much as he died when you were six years old. Sci/fi is in your DNA, my dear. Your grandfather was a completely avid sci/fi reader. When I ( your mother) was a little girl, his subscription to the Sci/fi fantasy and facts magazine were always around the house. The pictures scared me so much. Your grandpa was never without a sci/fi book. Mostly he bought paperbacks and because we lived in a small apartment in New York City, we really couldn’t save them, so they were donated to the locat Veterans Hospital. Who knows how many of those wounded soldiers became addicted to sci/fi because they read these books, too.
You and your co-bloggers are right about many childrens book being the entry to sci/fi.
Oh, and thank you for remembering going to the science museum. Parents are never sure what children get out of so called educational experiences they expose their children to during their childhood.
your mom

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Hi Mom! I’ll call you later today. :D

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[…] Redhead, at Little Red Reviewer has recently posted an entertaining short science fiction story she wrote as a child, exemplifying delightful creativity applied to geology, astronomy, and interstellar planetary travel. In her post she asks, “When and how did you first become a Science Fiction fan?“ […]

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I loved your story, Redhead! It even inspired a response to your reflection. Thanks for the question!

http://wp.me/p17lXk-eV

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I loved your response too! kids these days have no idea how satisfying it was once upon a time to program BASIC for hours on a Commodore. but I never got my seagull to fly. :(

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