Sunday, August 23, 2009

Science fictions and mysteries

When I was a lad, well-meaning county officials would send, monthly, the bookmobile to our benighted community, a stingray's ride from my house. The back wall (over the rear axle) was dedicated to mysteries. And science fiction books, mostly serial compilations of short stories from SF pulps like Analog.

This phase represented the second in my development as a reader. Prior to the age of 10, I focused on biographies, looking for clues on how to be.

In science fiction, I was looking for clues about sex. And there were plenty. I recall one in which people of the future wore appliances in their pants with living tissue that satisfied their desires. This was designed to insure domestic tranquility. The pre-teen protagonist, too young to have been issued his gear, wondered why folks had pot bellies when nutritional science had been perfected.

A few years later, I bought a Vespa and could work after school in the real public library, as a book page. Sixty cents an hour, shelving returned books. This gave me access to stuff like Philip Roth and Updike and the two Kinsey Reports, so I could continue my investigations.

Now kids have sex ed and the internet. And we really know nothing about nutritional science.


Billy Glad said...

I shelved books at the Rosenberg Public Library until they canned me because my shelves were all "piggly wiggly." But I didn't give up. I went on to read the transcripts of the Nuremberg War Trials while I was shelving books in college. Sex in science fiction is always entertaining. Subject Of Science imagined a future where people had sex with barriers of impermeable sheets of tissue between them. Wall to wall dams.

Ross Hancock said...

I liked shelving, when I could linger alone among the Henry Millers and William Burroughs and sift for sex scenes. There was another thing -- I forget what we called it -- where we had to go out as a swarm, shelf by shelf to resort out-of-place books -- that I hated. So I quit at 16.

Billy Glad said...

I believe that was called shelf reading.

Ross Hancock said...

That's it - reading the shelves. Man's penance to Dewey Decimal. I'd find Emily Bronte accidently but happily paired with Jack Kerouac, and it was my sworn duty to return her to her all-work-and-no-play sisters. (But someone once said that without me we probably wouldn't have Wuthering Heights, at least not in the form we are accustomed to.)