I was talking with Kim last night about how I wish I had three-month summer vacations now. I’d never say I was bored like I did back then, to which she laughed and said, “Sure.” I like to think I’ve evolved enough to be able to find things to entertain myself as an adult, but maybe there’s a glimmer of truth to her belief.
I got bored a lot when I was a kid, which is why I turned to books. Anything I could get my hands on, either at home or from the library, became fodder for my lazy days. My formative reading years were probably from 1972-1978, during which I discovered my love for history, and my deep abiding love for fantasy and science fiction. The former was a thin field, at best, but I read Tolkien, Eddison, Howard, Lovecraft, Pratt, de Camp, Carter and more. I cut my teeth on the sword and sorcery genre mostly because that’s all we had, Tolkien and some of the older writers excepted. And let me tell you, as much as I fondly recall those books, they were dry. Really dry*. I can’t read Tolkien these days because of that. Eddison is in the same boat. The Worm Ouroboros is a classic, but so dry it could drink the Hudson river and still be thirsty.
As to science fiction, well, I read the masters: Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury, Heinlein, P.K. Dick, Lem, Leguin, and moved into Niven, Pournelle, and that whole generation quickly.
While reading was its own reward, I actually had a good reason to want to read: we had no air-conditioning in our house at this point. We lived in a split-level colonial, so we had two attics that you entered via the same entrance. The lower attic had steps up into its crawl space, and at the end of it, was a huge fan that sucked the hot air through the house and outside through the attic. I would set up a beach chair at the entrance to the lower attic, and with the dim bulb overhead, plant myself with a book within the wind that the fan kicked up at that section.
It was the only comfortable spot in the house when the sun was baking the world.
And so, I read my summers away. I went through the limited science fiction section in the West Hartford Public Library rather quickly — most of it was crap from authors one rarely heard of even in their heyday of 1952 — but I did make some discoveries. The Witches of Karres by James H. Schmitz remained with me for years, until I was able to snag a copy for myself a decade later at a large cost. Simple, but fun, it embodied everything good about space opera. Apparently, I’m not the only one to enjoy the book, as some well-known authors (Lackey, Flint and others) wrote two sequels in recent years, and Miyazaki, himself, did the cover for the 1987 and 1996 Japanese editions.
That’s why I think I could make do with long summer vacations now. I’d grab my kindle and sit out on the deck, weather and heat permitting, and lose myself again in journeys across deserts under alien suns. If the weather was bad, well, I have air-conditioning now. It’s a modern miracle.
That most assuredly would not suck.
* Lovecraft may be dry, but I still can read his work with ease. What he accomplished with sparse prose is simply astounding to me.