Why I read speculative fiction, Part 1

What follows is the true story of how I came to read, and later write,
science fiction. It has to do with two seemingly unrelated facts, that my
mother was a dancing instructor and my father worked in naval intelligence.

In late 1954, my mother Patricia Chamberlain worked at the Arthur Murray
Dance Studio in Sydney and instructed famous author Ivan Southall, at that
time best known for reporting on the adventures of aircraft designer and
test pilot Simon Black. They became friends, and at the annual Arthur Murray
Christmas Ball and Graduation Ceremony, Ivan introduced my mother to Simon
Black himself, visiting Sydney to brief a certain Richard Brown of naval
intelligence on his adventurous flight to Mars and the dangers of cosmic
radiation. Richard also came to the ball. My mother danced with all three
men and took a particular shine to Richard, who looked quite dashing in his
lieutenant’s uniform. In the following weeks, Patricia and Richard saw each
other frequently, but then Richard volunteered as crew for Simon Black’s
flight to Venus in 1955 on the Firefly 3A.

Not many of us need to be reminded of that gruelling adventure, of how for
many weeks the world thought Simon Black and his crew were lost to the cold
darkness of space. When they miraculously reappeared above Earth’s skies
seventy six days after first leaving for Venus, no one was more overjoyed
than Patricia. Needless to say, Patricia and Richard married. A few
months later I was born, and they named me after their heroic friend. As I
grew up I spent many hours listening to Simon Black tell in his own modest
and quiet way his stories about spaceships and aliens and adventures among
the planets. Then, when I was nine years old, Simon Black disappeared on his
expedition to Titan in 1965. I swore to honour his memory by writing about
those very things he personified so dramatically during his life.

And still, secretly, I look up into the night sky, hoping to see the
tell-tale orange flames of Firefly 7‘s rocket engines heralding the return of
Simon Black.

 

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