It was in 1982 that I was given a book for my 12th birthday. To this very day, on occasion, I open that book to reminisce about days gone by. The book would help cement my fascination with speculative fiction the rest of my life.
That book was "Science Fiction of the 30's". The book was first published in 1975 and was comprised of short stories edited & compiled by renowned writer Damon Knight.
As a child, it was not only a way to escape into new worlds but also a history lesson. A view back into the past to see what those contemporary writers though their future might look like.
As I read the book as an adult, looking at it through life's aged view, the book still captivates me. More than ever, Knights opening line of the forward resonates a deeply understood truth:
" In compiling this volume I have partially fulfilled an old ambition, one which I thought I had given up years ago - to reread all the old science fiction magazines I loved when I was young and write their critical history."
Not only did this book help foster an imagination, it helped me to understand & appreciate the works of authors who were greatly misunderstood in their day.
I could relate to being misunderstood. I had always liked things that were outside of the common perceptions of normalcy. That single book, which was not my first or the greatest book that was given to me, helped me to feel a certain measure of commonality with those writers & thinkers of an age gone by.
One story I have a particular affection for : "The Fifth Dimension Catapult" by Murray Leinster (1931).
I was so captivated by the story, I asked my father to read it & he did. The memory of the discussion we had about the story is very close to my heart. A moment frozen in time for me about a story written 40 years before I was born. A memory of my father & I that I'll forever remember as a milestone in my fascination with speculative fiction.
Time moved on & my father has been gone for well over 15 years now. Of all the talks we had, of all the birthdays & holidays, the memory of our discussion about that book stays imbedded in my mind & heart.
The book I keep in a revered place on my bookshelves. It's always there for me when I need to be reminded of those times.
The meaning of "the Catapult" has deepened over the years. I can see how I enjoyed it more than the others. I am grateful that Mr.Leistner was moved to write the story a full 8 years before my father was born. He had no idea that he would be writing something so meaningful to both myself & my father so far into his future.
So, I want to thank Mr.Knight for introducing me to that story.
It will be remembered.