When I was 16 I discovered science fiction, and one book in particular, which, in a roundabout way, changed my life.
It was 1977 and the sixth form English Literature class was given Graham Greene’s “A Gun For Sale” to read as a set text. Teenagers being teenagers, most of the class hated the book before they had so much as cracked the spine, simply because it was given to them by the teacher. But I took it home and read it overnight, and enjoyed it. The next day, when the teacher, Mr. Hunt, told us all to get the book out and read it in class, I had to, of course, tell him that I had finished reading it. So I was sent to the school library to choose something else to read while the rest of the class caught up.
While I was browsing, another sixth form English Literature teacher approached me, wondering what I was doing in the library during lesson time. When I explained, he was so surprised at finding a pupil who was actually happy enough to read set texts voluntarily that he suggested I try reading Franz Kafka’s “The Trial”. I did and I liked it too. When I returned it a few days later, the same teacher then came up with the suggestion that I read something by JG Ballard. I found “Vermilion Sands” and that set off a series of events that led to me marrying my husband.
It may seem like a huge stretch from reading a book in the sixth form, to getting married six years later. The stuff of fiction, in fact! Having fallen in love with JG Ballard’s book of short stories, I discovered the genre of science fiction, which so inspired and captivated me, that I went on reading little else for years. In 1980 I joined the British Science Fiction Association and learned all about such things as fanzines and conventions. left home and went off to college. While I was there, I decided to go to a science fiction convention that I had read about in the BSFA newsletter. And there, I met a certain 18-year-old gentleman who worked in the local SF bookshop. We have been together ever since, sharing our love of books and especially SF. So, it could be said that JG Ballard’s “Vermilion Sands” completely changed my life. Or would you say that it was “A Gun For Sale”, by way of “The Trial”? Either way, without my passion for books, I would never have met my husband and my life today would be a different one. A life without books? It doesn’t bear thinking about!