Friday, July 3, 2009

How Mike Resnick and The Goddess of Ganymede saved my life

Oddcube has posted a quite excellent review of this classic pulp ride, and I urge you, if you haven't already, to blaze on over and read it. Go on now! I'll be waiting here when you get back.

Back? Good. Now, here's how it goes down...

I was fifteen years old, not old enough to drive, but old enough to not want to hang around with my younger sisters, who were all the company I had. You see, we had moved to a new town. The old house was sold, our worldly goods packed up... and the new house wasn't ready. So here we were, parked in a small rental for the two hottest months of summer while things sorted themselves out. Without my books. Without a library card. To ice the cake, my mom decided that this was the opportunity for her to score points with the Universal Parenting Authority. It would be Morally Uplifting, she said, even Character Building for us to forgo the wretched box and do entirely without the mind-rotting influence TV for the duration of the summer. (We were vegetarians one year. Another summer we did yoga. My mom was nothing if not enthusiastic.)Instead, she purchased some board games.

I like Risk. But not that much. After a couple of weeks being cooped up my mom and two early adolescent sisters, I discovered a long-dormant love of recreational walking. There was a park that no one used, a lot of retired people and a small, uninviting corner market. With no summer job, I was relying on my meager savings for hanging out money. With some studiously cyphered calculations, I figured I could purchase one soda a day for the duration of my Babylonian captivity. Plus, the corner store had air conditioning, which our cheap, temporary rental did not.

One day on my daily trip to the cooler for my carefully rationed daily Dr. Pepper I discovered the paperback rack. It was a fluke as it was fairly well hidden against the chance that someone might actually buy one. I scanned it eagerly. Top row, westerns, next romance, next... more romance. As I started to turn away in resignation, my eye lit on one lonely, shop-worn volume on the bottom rack. "Ganymede" I could see at that angle.

It cost me 5 days soda rations, but I scooped it up, rushed home, and devoured it. Swords, babes, more swords, and bloodshed in exotic surroundings. And swords.

That summer I read Goddess of Ganymede 19 times. Fight with my sisters? Go read Ganymede. Bad round of Monopoly? Ganymede. Too hot outside to walk? Gan... you get the picture. If it weren't for Mike Resnick's Magnum Opus I would have been one of those stories you see on Court TV, about the quiet kid who suddenly went postal.

Mike Resnick saved my life.

A few years ago I got to spend some time with Mike at the Nebula Awards weekend. I made a point, perhaps with too fixed a stare and a little too much vibrato, of telling him how he, well, saved my life and all. The more I talked, the more agitated he became, until I got to the "read it 19 times" part.

"It was a pastiche!" he wailed. "I was only 16 when I wrote it!" And then he fled, muttering something about the statuate of limitation on pulp literature. He avoided me the rest of the convention, and when we occasionally did come face to face his face would crumple and he would whine something about having already paid for his sins, and why me Oh Lord. And something about the Book of Job.

So, thank you Mike Resnick, for saving my life that summer, nearly 40 years ago. There is no statuate of limitations on something like that.

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