23 October 2012

Timeslips (1)

This is, functionally and organically, an extension of my first Vie Hebdomadaires post, “The puzzle that is me”, from 30 July. Perhaps extension isn't the right word; descendent or inheritor might be better. It's likely to be quite short; partly because I have only as long as it takes me to eat a bowl of soup, and partly because I don't yet know exactly where it is heading. It will have to be the first fragment of a self exploration in progress.
I said, back then in July, that a particular science fiction novel read in my early teens “changed me fundamentally and shaped my whole subsequent life”. To a more diffuse but equally real extent, that is also true of the whole gamut of science fiction which I read between roughly thirteen and sixteen. While this is a fact of which I've been generally aware for some time, over the past three months I've been thinking about it consciously and explicitly.
In second hand bookshops, charity stalls, digital reissues and the always excellent Marx Books, I've been deliberately looking out for copies of those titles and authors which I can retrieve from memory. Not according to a grand strategy; each quest is triggered by a chance association from another book read, by a day to day experience, by a remark in conversation.
I was a voracious reader at that time. Though many of the books concerned are, I now discover, quite slim, I nevertheless cannot any longer devour six or seven of them in a day. It's perhaps fortunate, then, that I can't remember enough bibliographic details to track down more than a few of them. Some I remember clearly and can go straight to them in a catalogue; Geoffrey Hoyle's October the first is too late was one such. Others I can find by following trails of breadcrumbs backward ... I could remember neither author nor title for Frederik Pohl's A plague of pythons, for instance, but searching online for a combination of things I did remember (coronets, mind control, science fiction novel, hoaxer, etc) brought them up fairly quickly. For some I have to rely on the black arts of which Ray Girvan is master; he has located several titles which defeated me completely, from almost no clues at all, and is currently chasing another for me.
There are several things that particularly interest me about delving back into what I read at a formative time in my life. The most obvious and superficial is finding out what it was, exactly, that so strongly influenced me – and why. There is also a historical fascination in looking back to how things were then. Even more interesting, though, is to discover what I was like then: to see what sort of teenager I must have been for this fiction to have precisely that effect upon my developing psyche. It's a fascinating voyage of self discovery.
I have to pick up my stylus and walk, now. A lecture hall full of eager (or perhaps somnolent) students awaits me. Rather than stow this and continue it later, this seems like a good point to break and post. I'll be back, in other (no doubt equally fragmentary) posts, to follow some of the threads I've started to gather here.

  • Fred Hoyle, October the first is too late. 1966, London: Heinemann.
  • Frederik Pohl, A plague of pythons. 1966, London: Gollancz.

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