Eureka Moments

Not too long ago, I watched an interview with Catherine Asaro over at Big Think. She was primarily talking about how she uses ideas in physics to guide her stories. This was certainly interesting (and it’s not quite what you may be thinking), but I was more struck by her Eureka moment story. (Stories, actually, but I’m only going to talk about one.) She was in the slower reading group in school until one day she devoured one of her older sister’s books. Then her parents and the school realized she’d just been bored—not slow. Asaro then discovered a series of stories about two kids going into space with their cat. That was her Eureka moment. That reading could be about these ideas—like space. She was fascinated with the idea of outer space and started devouring all the other science fiction in the kids’ section of the library. Now she’s not only a science fiction writer but also a theoretical physicist.

That's the impact science fiction can have on kids--and girls, in particular.

As a young kid, I think I got most of my sci-fi from TV. Twilight Zone. Star Trek. Doctor Who. But it was a Ray Bradbury short story, “The Playground,” that got me hooked on reading science fiction. The story’s about this insurance salesman father who fears the playground across the street. Playgrounds in general. I won’t give it away, but it’s a great childhood-as-nightmare story with a Twilight Zone kind of twist to it.

Bradbury dramatized the story for his TV show (circa 1985):

Though Bradbury wrote the screenplay, I don't think it was as good as the short story.

Something about that short story made me want to read more. It made me realize too how science fiction (and fantasy) could be about people AND ideas. I devoured all of Bradbury’s books—Fahrenheit 451, Martian Chronicles, etc.—and then moved onto harder stuff. Asimov. Heinlein. Le Guin. Herbert. So Bradbury was kind of my gateway drug … I mean author into science fiction.

What was your science fiction (or fantasy) Eureka moment? Who was your gateway author into the genre? Did your early reading inspire your career choice?


Hannah said...

I don't know what my first break into scifi. I grew up watching Star Trek. There were a ton of scifi movies that I loved growing up, Black Hole, Flight of the Navigator, The Last Starfighter...etc.

Jeff Hirsch said...

For me it was The Twilight Zone magazine. Did anyone else get that? I was obsessed with it. Each month it was packed with amazing sci-fi, horror and seriously weird, nearly unclassifiable speculative fiction. Great writers. My copies of the magazines are lost now and every now and then I troll the internet trying to find them all.

LM Preston said...

I'm an engineer and research neat scifi facts for my day job, so using it for my writing is a boon.

Becky Levine said...

The story in my husband's family is that he didn't read (much!) until his sister handed him a Robert Heinlein book.

Science-fiction/fantasy and STORYTELLING.

Angie Smibert said...

Wow, Jeff. How did I miss the Twilight Zone magazine? I still watch almost every TZ marathon on SyFy (plus I own some of the dvds).

Becky - My favorite job interview was for at a used bookstore. The owner gave everyone the Robert test. You had to identify Robert Heinlein, Robert Ludlum, and one other Robert I can't remember. (I got the job.)

CL said...

The Illustrated Man. Even the cover was fantastic. And Star Trek, of course.