In 7th grade (1973) I was moved out of the regular English class and essentially given to the school librarian. It wasn’t a punishment...I was just a book nut at thirteen and I was in a school where most of the other kids (and a lot of the teachers, as far as I could tell) thought books and reading were about as much fun as being nibbled on by rats. Or maybe the librarian needed an Igor. Hard to say.
She turned out to be the secretary for a couple of groups of professional writers, and once I got permission from my parents to accompany her, she dragged me along to their monthly get-togethers. They definitely needed an Igor, and so once a month for the next few years I made coffee, fetched beers, and hustled chips and dip for guys like Sprague De Camp, Lin Carter, John Jakes, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and a bunch of others.
And though all of those writers were (and in some cases still are) literary powerhouses, two of them took some time to sit me down and tell me about how stories are created and crafted. And each of them gave me signed copies of their books. I’m delighted that both of them are still alive and well today: Richard Matheson and Ray Bradbury. I was incredibly fortunate in that as a young teenager I got to meet them, and both of these great writers took some time to talk with me about writing, about imagination, and about thinking outside the box. I’m not joking when I say that it was life-changing.
Bradbury gave me a signed copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes. The one he gave me is put away, but I read a copy of that book every year on Halloween.
Matheson rocked my world when he gave me a copy of I Am Legend when I was fourteen. He told me to read that one and The Shrinking Man. These books were my introduction to allegory, social commentary, and the subtle underpinnings that make genre fiction so much more than most people give it credit for. I Am Legend, though a very short novel, opened my mind up and truly showed me what thinking outside the box meant.
I wonder if the new Will Smith film interpretation will do it justice?
To catch the I Am Legend trailer, click here: http://iamlegend.warnerbros.com/