Daniel Keyes passed away. I didn't know he was still alive, and I found out only because he isn't. He wrote Flowers for Algernon, a fantastic science fiction book that's only just so science fiction-y. Near future science fiction (Though I guess at this point it's near past science fiction?), in that you don't need a whole new vocabulary to comprehend the story.
I first read "Flowers for Algernon" as a short story, I think in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame volume that Isaac Asimov edited, which included other beautiful beautiful stories like "Mimsy Were the Borogroves" and "A Rose For Ecclesiastes". This kind of science fiction, deeply rooted in a reality that the readers know but is somehow also changed, has influenced my own thoughts and writing strongly. When the deeply familiar (or even casually familiar) is profoundly changed by environment or action, it speaks to us. It unsettles us. And it makes us think. This is the purpose of books, of writing, of science fiction and fantasy. I feel.
The topic of science fiction specifically was on my mind today, as we near summer. There's an adult summer reading program now, and we're supposed to "read across" Literary Elements, which include "Things you should have read in high school", "Classics", and "Self Help". Arguably, science fiction books could be used in each category. So, Flowers for Algernon is what you should've read in high school. Frankenstein is a fairly reliable "Classic", and The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead
could be "Self Help", yeah?
Poetry, I hit a snag. Science fiction poetry? Well, io9 came through for me, with "The Best Books of Poetry for Every Kind of Science Fiction Fan". Of course my library system doesn't have it, but Cyborgia
, by Susan Slaviero, immediately caught my eye and I ordered it on Amazon.The blurb describes Slaviero's "scathing playfulness", and I hope somebody says that one day about me, instead of "God, Jen, you're so mean."