Nuggets of Wonder
By Lenny Kraft
I was nine years old when I fell for
To keep me from getting bored on a class
trip, my mother handed me a book: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams. Not only did this book have quite an influence on my
developing personality (especially my sense of humor), but it also opened a
door into a completely new world.
I have been an avid reader of science
fiction ever since. While I do read the occasional novel in other genres, I
always return to my one and true love.
Because there is something in science
fiction that I rarely if ever find in other genres. It is not only the
strange worlds and the visions of what if. Fantasy offers that, too.
But what pulls me to science fiction is the occasional moment when an idea
leaps at me and I hold my breath for a second and go "I'd never have
thought of that." Perhaps you have experienced it, too -- an idea that was
so intriguing, so unique or simply so cool that it jolted your brain and set
your mind in motion and for days afterwards you found yourself coming back
to this idea as a starting point for a completely new direction of thought.
A few months ago, a novel that gave me this
feeling was A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge. One of the key
elements of the plot is a species of aliens that form collective
intelligences. One creature has the mind of an animal, but four to six form
an intelligent individual.
I'd never have thought of that.
During the weeks after I had finished the
book (which, by the way, I warmly recommend to anyone looking for a good
read), I spent several hours turning the idea over and over in my mind. I
twisted it, stretched it, and of course wondered how much of it I might
steal for my own writing. My mind, and thus my world, had become a little
It is not just novels, of course. While a
novel may present an idea as a polished jewels, perhaps the most yielding
source is short stories. The short story does not leave much room to explore
an idea, showing it instead as a raw gemstone. The in-depth exploration is
left as an exercise to the reader -- and it is an exercise that I sometimes
enjoy more than the story itself.
It does not happen in every story. And I am
not actively searching for these idea-nuggets, or I would be disappointed
most of the time. But whenever I start reading a new story, I enjoy the
possibility that this one might rock my brain.
As you can imagine, this is what I want to
accomplish with my writing, too. I am a science fiction writer, and so I aim
for even more than believable characters, fascinating worlds and gripping
stories. I try to come up with original ideas and tweak them around so that
some day, somewhere, one of my readers will put the story down for a
heartfelt moment of "I'd never have thought of that."
Because this is what made me fall in love
with science fiction, and this is what I want to pass on.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -
Douglas Adams - Del Rey Books - ISBN 0345418913
A Fire Upon the Deep - Vernor Vinge - Tor
Books - ISBN 0812515285