My inestimable agent, Trodayne Northern, recently decided that what he really would like to have on the new Prentis Agency website is a series of love letters from his writers to their beloved genres. Here is my “how do I love thee” letter.
Dear Speculative Fiction…
As a child, I discovered first-hand that reality was a difficult beast to tame. I was shy, too tall, too chubby, and wore braces, glasses, and orthopedic Oxfords. I was the kid that nobody wanted on their baseball team because I couldn’t run and had abysmal eye-hand coordination.
I met you, if you’ll recall, when I was six and my father let me stay up to watch ”The Day the Earth Stood Still”. You terrified me and exhilarated me and gave me a fascination with the unexplained and alien.
Phillip K. Dick spoke of being ”content with the mysterious.” I was more than content; I was in love. I read ghost stories and fairy tales and sagas about the exploration of the unknown. I discovered that something I could do better and faster than any of my peers was read and imagine things.
When I reached my teen years, I admit, you put me off a bit with your warnings about impending doom and post-apocalyptic horrors. You seemed to be about endings and I wanted to read about beginnings. I suppose it’s no surprise, then, that it was stories of first contact that drew me back to you. Andre Norton opened the door and welcomed me in, and Ray Bradbury closed the door firmly but gently behind me. I was in. And when I began to write seriously, I began to write science fiction and fantasy.
People tried to dissuade me. They said you were silly, impractical, unrealistic, even demonic, and that I shouldn’t spend so much time with you. They said you were escapist fiction that would lead me astray. They echoed literary critic Lee Mortimer, telling me that you were a ”genre of escape literature which takes the reader to faraway planets—and usually neglects to bring him back.”
Did I want that to happen to me? they asked. ”We don’t read ’that stuff’,” they assured me. ”Can’t you write real, serious fiction?”
But I was a child of Bradbury, and I knew the real you. I also knew your ”secret”. Ray Bradbury whispered it to me in an essay entitled On the Shoulders of Giants. He said:
”The children sensed, if they could not say, that fantasy, and its robot child science fiction, is not escape at all. But a circling around of reality to enchant it and make it behave. The children guessed, if they did not whisper it, that all science fiction is an attempt to solve problems by pretending to look the other way.”
If I had to give one reason why I love you, it is that. You satisfy my deepest impulse to solve problems, to make our sometimes chaotic reality behave by only pretending to be gazing into the eyes of an alien or fey lover.
Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff