Writing careers, like those of teachers, embody serious rewards but also require major investments in time and effort. And that’s not only in the actual performance on the computer, putting 110,000 words together into a narrative. Writers also face long nights in which they stare through a window at the moon while they struggle to compose a plotline that works.
But the rewards are limitless. There’s a sense of contributing something worthwhile to the lives of readers. An argument could be made that the same thing is true of everyone who holds down a job. But if you sell shows, no matter how good the shows feel, it’s unlikely anyone ever comes back and gushes about how great the footwear is. Traffic controllers work in airports keeping planes safe. But most us don’t even notice when the plane lands safely, or if we do, we’re simply relieved. I doubt anybody ever tracks down a traffic controller or even a pilot to thank him.
Writers not only get reactions from their readers by mail, but they often also get invitations to speak at science fiction cons and other events. I just returned from a glorious couple of days at Georgia Tech. They’ve been running a science festival with a fair amount of emphasis on the role science fiction plays in our lives. They invited me to participate in a panel Wednesday to explore how science fiction has inspired people to become scientists and, in other cases has simply opened people’s minds to future possibilities.
Also on the panel were Nadia Szeinbaum, an expert in microbiology; Casey Alane Wilson, a young adult SF and fantasy writer; and Sydney Perkowitz, a physicist from Emory. We were chaired by Charlie Bennett, a Georgia Tech public engagement librarian, who hosts several radio programs on WREK. Participating in this type of panel, with an enthusiastic audience crowding the building, was pure joy.
Charlie returned the following morning and recorded a podcast with me. He has indicated he’ll let me know when it’s ready to go, which means of course I’ll post the information.
The person behind the SF aspect of the project is Professor Lisa Yaszek, the Faculty Coordinator of GT’s SciFi@Tech School of Literature, Media, and Communication. After we put together the podcast, Professor Yazsek brought some of her students in for a seminar. Directed mostly by them, it covered a wide range of issues like putting plotlines together, how persons with writing ambitions frequently sabotage their own work, and why SF is so much fun.
It was a long ride home from Atlanta. I couldn’t help spending much of it trying to imagine what my life would have been like without SF.