New Mind Meld at SFSignal!

The fine fellows over at SFSignal, which I read every day, have made the classic blunder of asking my opinion on something, and, inevitably, I wrote an essay rather than a paragraph. But they asked me about my two favorite topics: Books, and Me. What are my memories surrounding the books I hold dear? What book or books hold special memories for me?

Here is the beginning of my answer:

I am not sure how to answer this question, since the actual act of reading the books I best remember is not itself any act that involves adventure, romance, intrigue, peril, or anything worthy of memory. I neither had to climb a glass mountain, nor solve a cryptic riddle posed by a smiling and cold-eyed monster, nor labor for Laban twice seven years to check out a paperback from the local library.

But of the books themselves, that I can speak. In the life of every bookish person, there are a few favored books, read in the golden time of youth, that come to dwell in the imagination forever. The vividness of images, the strangeness and wonder of the settings, are burned into the heart: every other tale read after is compared to these golden tales.

The difference between a bookish person and a non-bookish person (often called "Philistines") is that our formative thoughts, memories, and ideas, the things that shaped our character, come largely from books rather than from real-life experiences. The difference between a science fiction bookish person (often called "Slans") and a non-science-fiction bookish person (often called "Muggles"), is that our formative ideas come largely from science fiction books, rather than books about real things. The difference between a science fiction bookish person (Slans) and a dork who dresses up in a Star Trek uniform when called to jury duty, or who puts down "Jedi" as his religion on a government census form (often called "Freakatrons") is a matter of degree only.

I am sure there is some sort of Darwinian evolutionary advantage to living a life utterly disconnected from reality (often called "Psychotic"), but scholars have yet to identify it.

Read the whole thing, and the answers of other science fictional people (Slans) as well, including Kij Johnson Mike Flynn and James P. Hogan here:

The anecdote by James P. Hogan I thought particularly interesting. Let me quote it in part: 

Although there was much that I enjoyed about the movie 2001, I never understood the ending. I listened to all kinds of ingenious interpretations from various people, but they were all mutually contradictory and left me with the feeling that they were highly subjective […] The punch line came years later, after I had moved to the U.S. and was living in Massachusetts, I had dinner with Judy Lynn Del Rey and Arthur C. Clarke in Boston one night and was finally able to ask him–the ultimate source–"What did the ending to that movie mean?" And I can quote Arthur’s answer word for word…

Ah, but to find out Sir Arthur’s answer, you will have to read Mr. Hogan’s entry.