I acquired a taste for science fiction from an early age. It began with comics such as the Eagle, and movies such as “Rocketship XM,” which I could only see by asking an adult to escort me into the cinema. There was “Destination Moon” and “When Worlds Collide,” which came out when I was 10. I loved them all. There were lurid pulp paperbacks which I occasionally bought for pennies second-hand out of my pocket money.
I was 14 when I read Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation,” and was transfixed by its breathtaking sweep of a galactic-wide empire. I read most science fiction books either from the school library or the local public library because I couldn’t afford to buy any. They included everything by Asimov, plus Arthur C Clarke and Robert Heinlein.
I never supposed I would ever personally meet any of the authors, but I met Isaac Asimov at a Mensa conference in New York. I met Arthur C Clarke at a London hotel before the premiere of the movie, “2010: Odyssey Two.” I met Harry Harrison, author of “Soylent Green,” at a pub in Cambridge while at a conference there. And I met Anne McCaffrey, author of the “Dragonflight” series, in a Cambridge bookshop. I regret that I just missed meeting Robert Heinlein, who died before a mutual friend could introduce us. What characterized the ones I did meet was their mental youthfulness. They were like kids.