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Toddler Dreams of SF

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m working on my memoir, Nested Scrolls, which, although not SF itself, is partly about becoming an SF writer.

Memoirs are so big anymore. I was reading the NY Times Sunday Book Review yesterday, and I saw two or three of memoirs reviewed. One memoir by some cosseted literary mandarin, aged 62 like me, focusing on how worried he is about death. Aren’t we all…

My own memoir is going pretty well, now that I vaguely know what I’m doing. The rest of this post is a quoted bit about my earliest efforts towards science fiction thinking.

My parents tended to send me to bed before I was really tired. So I’d play mental games while I was waiting to fall asleep. I developed a little repertoire of fun things to think about, fantastic powers like shrinking, breathing underwater, or flying through the air. Looking back, I can see that, all along, I was meant to be a science-fiction writer.

One particular evening’s imaginings stick in my mind. I imagined being an inch tall and walking around my room. The space beneath my bed was like a dim, dusty hall. The mouse that sometimes invaded our house was there, the size of a horse. He could talk, and he was friendly. I rode the mouse into the kitchen and got us two slices of apple pie with chunks of cheddar cheese. It was more than we could possibly eat, but we tried.

I made myself still smaller, the size of one of the dust specks I’d noticed floating in sunlit air. I drifted across the kitchen and through the grill of the window screen. Outside a gentle breeze set me down upon a blooming flower at the top of our magnolia tree. I took a swim in a dewdrop resting on the flower’s petals. Music chimed from the palace-like structure at the flower’s center. Perhaps a princess lived there.

My mind turned back to the sensation of drifting up through the air—and I switched to imagining I could fly at will. I often had flying dreams—in the dreams I’d launch myself by hopping backwards, and instead of crashing to the ground, I’d angle upwards and float on my back as if I were in a swimming pool. And now, just like in the dreams, I launched myself into the air from the back yard of our house. I shot up through the clouds and followed the light to downtown Louisville where the big buildings were. I circled all around them, and I flew under the Ohio River bridge. And now I shot straight upwards, higher and higher to where the air was cold and thin. Looking down, I saw the cities of Kentucky and Indiana as splashes of light.

But now—as so often happened in my flight fantasies—I suddenly lost the ability to fly. So long as I believed it was possible, I stayed aloft, but the minute I doubted myself, I began a long tumble. The air beat at my face and fluttered my pajamas.

And now came the best part of the falling fantasy. There was a hole in the ground below. I was falling into an endless empty void, a canyon or mineshaft that went down forever. Lave dripped from the distant rocky walls, small goblins peeped at me. But I didn’t need to worry about hitting bottom. I would fall forever and a day, on and on, world without end.

4 Responses to “Toddler Dreams of SF”

  1. Steve H Says:

    Reads like Chapter One, starting with “My parents tended to send me…” and going on from there. Pick up with the who and what in the second chapter.
    I’ve been looking for and not finding a diagram Conan Doyle drew showing his life as a journey along a road, with places and events drawn in along the way.
    I’d say put EVERYTHING into the first draft, and then go back and take out the most embarrassing stuff(and post it anonymously on the web, woo hoo).

  2. Jeffrey Kegler Says:

    Re: Aging Literary Mandarin Memoirs (ALMM’s)

    Joseph Heller’s last book was _Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man_. A novel/memoir, it was (as you’d expect from Joseph Heller) the ALMM to end all ALMM’s. It’s short and an easy read — always a plus.

  3. rs Says:

    Doesn’t seem like anything has changed!

  4. ethora Says:

    This is such a fun blog entry to read. I’m almost finished reading the Hollow Earth, and now I see where some of these wondrous ideas came from! Really neat book, by the way.

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