Or at least for me I am often mystified when I plunge headlong into yesterday whilst sitting in the present. And that is how I felt this morning when reading this piece in the Times about Madeleine L’Engle's celebratory, "A Wrinkle in Time."
I wasn't always intrigued by science, but I was always seeking answers to the unknown. I called myself a phenomenologist rather than a scientist, or a meta-physicist rather than a seeker of the strange, unfathomable tomorrow.
The first science fiction book I clearly remember cherishing and reading, not once but several times was Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End."
Not all science fiction appeals to me, but John Varley captured my attention in the early 90s, as did Roger Zelazny and Marion Zimmer Bradley several years later.
The Amber Series was my staple in 1992 as I drove across the United States searching for the unknown and the beautiful in the country, and rifling through second hand bookstores for the continuing saga. Of all the books I've owned and discarded, I believe I have a complete set of second hand copies of this thrilling boy book. It was the metaphysical that enthralled me, that ability to transport that has always captured my imagination and was one of my erstwhile wishes. Here's a review of the tarot deck that was created and does not bear any resemblance to the story itself.
Bradley's Darkover Series is probably not that far away from a "girl" science fiction story, and while not similar in either style or content to L'Engle, several of the books are driven by strong female characters. A rather long series , it has no single protagonist, but rather notable families.
But it is and was The Saga of the Renunciates, The Shattered Chain, Thendara House and the City of Sorcery that captivated and captured my attention. The Free Amazons, as the main characters are named, light up the stage for these three stories in the wider series and stand apart. While many object to the sagas conclusion, it shouldn't be neglected as it fits into the whole. The Amazons are a splendid band of women who exhibit all those traits we find in women willing and able to take risks, some of which end in disaster.
I'm not certain I ever wrapped my head around all the Darkover books, nor am I certain I read them all. What I do remember is that several were very difficult to find. Hawkmistress may have been among the last to be read. Zimmer Bradley permitted others to join her in the fiction and her fandom wrote many spin-offs with and without her.
Most of all my free associations are what surprise me: where I heard of the books; where I was when I read them; how I found them.
Varley I learned of when I interviewed someone for a position when I was working at Brown. Why were we talking about books? And why science fiction? I don't recall, but I came away with several recommendations written on her resume and never offered her the job.
My friend, Bill, and once neighbour in Shutesbury (MA) introduced me to the Darkover series in 1995. He had many of them. I read all of his and then started to collect my own. Living in the Pioneer Valley, and in particular in the low lying woods of the Berkshires was one of the best times of my life and the worst, so many images appear and disappear from view as I recount those years.
The Amber Series may also have come as a recommendation, and I know that I read most of them on the road, in youth hostels, cafes and friend's houses and found the last one in Bozeman, Montana when visiting my dear friend Joan in July of that year.
I talked with some friends and a young videographer about this 1992 adventure only last night at a surprise party for NW. Traveling alone for months, across this huge expanse we call the "United" States" is without parallel in both mood and memory.
One of my last half hour, at a minimum, tasks is to sort more books, but I know that even if I discard more, and I have already given dozens upon dozens to the library, friends and the thrift shop, Roger Zelazny and Zimmer Bradley will remain on a shelf.