I've recently been meeting people who only read non-fiction. Books about war, books about history, biographies (Ha mostly fiction anyway usually!) and some of them have the attitude that fiction is a waste of time because its not real. They don't understand why anyone would want to read about about space aliens and space ships and people of the future.
Well its pure escapism for me. I love getting so wrapped up in a character that I no longer notice myself. I get so enthralled by the story and the room disappears. I'm in the story, and if its really good, I fall asleep reading it and dream it all night. Maybe its the same for the history buffs, perhaps for them its like being there. I read the odd non-fiction. I have recently read "Stalingrad: The fateful Seige" and "The fall of Berlin" and indeed it was like being there. But it was awful being there. It was too horrible and it stayed with me for days, because it was real. It really happened to people and it was more than atrocious, more than awful. Fiction, I can leave behind. If someone dies, its just a story. If theres a war, well it never really happened. I can get wrapped up in the story without worrying about my emotions.
Either I have too much empathy and find reading such things too hard. Or I don't have enough and I should read these books because it really happened to our fellow man.
Anyway, where was I.
The first ever Science Fiction book I read was called "Dolphin Island" by Arthur C. Clark. I borrowed it from the Riverview Primary School library, a strange room, the carpet curved where the wall meets the floor and went up for about a foot. Plagues of black baby crickets would get caught in the synthetic carpet. But only in that curved bit by the wall. The classrooms were carpeted the same way and every morning, once a year for about a week, we would walk into our classrooms edged with a black ring of dying baby crickets. I could never figure out how they got inside.
The book was set in the future and had a runaway boy, scientists, life threatening situations, communication with dolphins and all sorts of other intrigues. I have a hard time recalling the exact details now. A few years ago I hunted down a copy on trademe yet couldn't bring myself to read it again. I didn't want the memory of that first magical dive into science fiction to be tainted by my adult perspective. My inner cynic would surely poke holes in the plot and rip through the one dimensional characters (though I doubt since Arthur C. Clarke is a pretty good writer....). I want to keep the memory of how it felt to read that book. Even if I cant remember how it ended.
I think we all have a childhood memories we keep safe like that.