I fell in love with science fiction my freshman year of college. And storytelling not long after that. I’d become a last-minute fan of Star Trek: TNG just a half season before it ended. About six months after that, I saw Stargate and, for reasons that weren’t clear to me then, I kept going back to see it. Something drew me a dozen more times to see it before it left the theater. I was an undergrad. The only way I could afford a baker’s dozen viewings was to save my measly funds meant for vending-machine coffee and hit the cheaper midnight showings. I went back again and again, mesmerized by something a fellow student criticized as a “predictable flick with stock characters.” I assumed by predictable, she meant that the good guys won, and by stock characters, she meant villains and heroes.
Don’t get me wrong, I knew her opinion had merit, but I loved Stargate with an earnestness that never faded. Though, I now see that love as something else, something more.
I still think it’s a fantastic movie. But I know that I kept going back because, in the midst of trying convince myself I should major in medicine or engineering, in the morass of career counseling and tears over failing grades in the sciences…I had secretly fallen in love with the thing I most wished I could do. I wanted it to be my story on that screen. I wanted to be a screenwriter, or a film editor, or a director, or a novelist. I wanted to play any part of bringing that kind of magic to an audience.
Eventually I stopped jousting at the windmills of math and science. I settled into the liberal arts and got to know Kate Chopin and T.S. Eliot and William Faulkner and Elizabeth Bishop. I finished with college and, looking back, I’m pretty sure those little coin hoards saved up for the midnight shows were the best money I spent. I’m even more sure every time I think about Neil Gaiman’s passionate support of the value of fiction. (Now, if only he’d said that twenty years earlier, I could have skipped the semester of career counseling.)