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Page 6 — Origin Story


The conversations around the dinner table with Mr. Aitken primarily involved Zen practice but often enough strayed into politics, religion, the environment, the human condition and sometimes, literature. My stepfather, always of sharp wit and comedic intent, kept everyone laughing between very long and serious stints of deep conversation. I simply listened — but intently — gulping down that pink pie like the dusty and sunburnt little woodland savage that I was. I thought haiku was delightful, its sparkling, vivid brevity and its focus on nature and the seasons greatly appealed to me and made every bit of sense to my every sensibility. I loved nature, in fact — but ultimately, I loved the concept of science fiction even more.

I also enjoyed fantasy, especially the work of J. R. R. Tolkien, with The Hobbit being my single favorite book of all time. Standard sword and sorcery fare, for example, Conan the Barbarian (the original Marvel Comics series from 1970 onwards) was always a delight. The poet Will Staple loaned me his vast collection of Conan comic books one summer and I read each of them with gusto, on a deck surrounded by blue oak and gray pine, sometimes reenacting battle scenes with a bamboo stick, heroically attacking fragrant — and entirely pacific — manzanita. Dungeons & Dragons became a wildly popular pastime along the way, as well. But still, I loved science fiction. Nothing compared. It was a realm of the mind that ignited my fascination like no other.