As I’ve grown older and my world wider I have come to realize that in some things I am not as unique as my grade school peers would have had me think. What a round about way to say: I’m a girl and I read science fiction. If you read that and said, “So what?” then I don’t mind, I know now it’s not that rare. But in the mid to late 90’s as a seventh grader in a private school, everyone certainly made me think it was. I didn’t have much to compare to either, two sisters (who were very different from me) and my school yearly graduated fewer than 100 students. They were all I knew, and when they all counted me odd I assumed it to be so.
The practice began simply enough, I was a self-proclaimed Daddy’s Girl. If my dad watched Star Trek, I watched Star Trek. No, I need to go even further into the past than that. It began with a video shortage. When my parents were first married, they had two VHS in their collection: Scarface and Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. They certainly weren’t going to let their baby girl watch Scarface, so the first movie I watched over and over as a child was Star Wars. Even when the family video collection expanded, the Original Trilogy got a lot of use. Episode VI still ranks among the top three movies guaranteed to make me cry. (There’s the Daddy’s Girl again, I can’t bear watching father and son fight. Also, the musical score is masterfully done in that sequence.)
That’s how it began, my love of all things spacey. For whatever reason, I separated science fiction and my real self. I had no dreams of being an astronaut (though the idea of going into space just for the heck of it was always enticing) and my preferred books and movies didn’t drive me toward science or engineering. It could be because as an introduction, Star Wars is quite the mix of science fiction and fantasy. Love of Star Wars expanded to include love of Star Trek when watching old reruns at night with my dad became how we spent time together (he usually worked two or three jobs).
As my peers harped on this new difference, I embraced it. (More on my weird peer relationships later.) Soon I was reading science fiction books nonstop not only because I enjoyed them but because it made me unique. I entered high school, making a switch from a graduating class of 72 (private school) to an entering freshman class of over 1,200 (public school), with the sole desire to be unique. (Didn’t we all?) I clung to my sci-fi and branched out to RPGs and Math Club. Girls were a scarcity in my chosen hobbies, which made me feel not just unique but appreciated. I had wonderful friends who made me feel welcome and valued and unique.
I wish I knew why it took me so long to find writers like Ben Bova and Robert A. Heinlein, but they are currently one of the main reasons why I still read sci-fi all these years (decades?) later. It’s not just habit anymore (ok, sometimes habit) but also a branching out into philosophy, political science, environmental concerns, and the clash of religion and secularism. Science fiction of “the near future” which looks long and hard at some of our current flaws as a race while highlighting our industrious and unbreakable human spirit – THIS is why I read science fiction.