The Right Coast

February 28, 2006
A rocket blast from the past
By Tom Smith

I was in the university library looking for stuff on Agatha Christie for Patrick's school report, when I came across some of the books of Arthur C. Clarke. It brought back powerful memories.

Clarke and Isaac Asimov changed my life. Unlike my kids, I did not discover reading until I was in eighth grade. Until then, my passion in life was football. (All the other kids had not yet gotten bigger than I.) I also loved skiing, and war movies. That was pretty much it. Then I caught pneumonia, and had to spend three weeks, maybe more, at home. I asked my dad to get some books for me at the library, and suggested science fiction, thinking vaguely it might be less boring than other books. He brought home a stack of Clarke and Asimov books. There was 2001, Childhood's End, collections of short stories. I was entranced. My sickbed was transported to the stars, where philosophical paradoxes played themselves out on the largest of scales. From there I decided I had to find out about astronomy, philosophy, theology and every other topic these writers touched on, however superficially. I am quite sure that had I not fallen ill, and spent weeks with nothing to do but read, and come across these very thought provoking, if not literary, books, my life would have been a lot less interesting. Maybe it is just a symptom of middle age, but I think nothing can recapture that excitement, of your mind opening up for the first time. It was even better than listening to the White Album for the first time.