There are many interesting things I fondly remember about my childhood, like sneaking into our leaving room in my pyjamas and eavesdropping on adult conversations about politics, class and religion; or my parents trying to teach me about redistribution of wealth by forcing me to give away my hard-won stockpile of marbles. I’m not going to lie that one actually stung…and still does somewhat. Listen, unless you’ve spent countless hours kneeling in a dusty alley battling your little neighbours to divest them of their biggest pieces and drinking their tears of defeat like the sweet nectar of victory, you simply cannot understand the pain of losing those marbles. Redistribution of wealth be damned!
But I digress.
I’ve always been a vivacious child full of energy and questions, wanting to understand the why and how of things. I was surrounded by adults who nurtured my endless curiosity and never dismissed my constant queries. My father, ever the dedicated teacher, taught me how to read at a very young age. I can honestly say that I don’t even remember learning the alphabet. “Books are like treasure troves filled with knowledge” he use to say and so I fell madly and deeply in love with them.
On a fateful summer day, my beloved father brought home a stack of books. This was our little bonding ritual you see. Everyday, before coming home from work he would buy me a comic book or a children’s book and I would patiently wait for him at the bottom of the stairs to receive my little “surprise”. On that day however, he didn’t just bring home one book but rather three of them. If my heart could have leaped out of my 6yr old body out of excitement, it would have. I was delirious with joy and I kept hugging these books as if they were the most precious things to have ever grazed my little hands. Later that day, my dad sat me down and we began to read them together. The first one of the bunch was called Vingt mille lieues sous les mers (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea) by Jules Verne. This book had it all; an electrically powered submarine, a deep-sea monster, and adventures around the world. Boy, was I hooked! I didn’t know it then but this was to become the beginning of my ongoing love affair with science fiction.
In matters of weeks we breezed through Le tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours (Around The World in Eighty Days) and Voyage au centre de la Terre (Journey To The Center of the Earth). I was left speechless and my 6yr old brain was blown away. Needless to say that soon after, I too was embarking on my own adventures with my trusted feline sidekick Mish Mish—he was truly the best cat a little girl could have asked for—into the deep and dark reaches of the forest, which in this case happened to be the few bushes in our backward. I wanted to grow up and become an explorer, have my own submarine and fight all sorts of big scary monsters.
A few months later, I stumbled upon what would cement once and for all my undying love for science fiction: the original Star Trek series. It was dubbed in French and would come on every Friday afternoon. I would seat there from beginning to end completely captivated by every single episode. Just like in Verne’s books these men and women were explorers. For the first time in my young life I started to grasp the sheer vastness of the Universe and just how small and fragile human life really is in the grand scheme of things. It was simultaneously exciting, humbling and terrifying.
This was a lifetime ago and yet to this day science fiction gives me the same thrill, the same sense of wonder. Along the way I have discovered other talented authors such as Asimov, Bradbury, Herbert, Heinlein, Vonnegut, Delaney, Le Guin, Butler and so many more who have made me laugh, cry and ponder. Jules Verne however remains the one that started it all for me. So, yes I totally blame him for turning me into the unabashed and unapologetic geek I am today.