Lightspeed Transmission to Tau (1986)

If I say my first love are books, that would only be partly right. I do not remember the first prose book I read, but I still remember my first SF book. I knew there were other books before, but nothing that had made enough of an impression to survive the ravages of time and faulty human memory. But my first SF book did. My father, always believing in tangible things, gave it to me because he had no idea what to do with it. Despite being heavily interested in technology, he really didn’t get the appeal and gave it to me (I must have been somewhere between 8 or 10 years).

It wasn’t an instant moment of transcendence, with my whole being transformed into the science fiction reader I’m today to the exclusion of so many other things. But the book had enough traction that I remember most of the stories, at least in fragments, to this day. At that time, I didn’t even knew the word science fiction. I grew up in the endgame years of the GDR, but there still seemed no unifying term for what is essentially called science fiction these days. They had futuristic fiction, Utopian fiction, scientific speculation or combinations of similar terms (often using the word Phantastik, that has no exact translation in English). I read mostly GDR authors or translations from other countries behind the Iron Curtain.

In terms of style, the two major modes of science fiction (though obviously I’m simplifying here to some extend) where either heavily encrypted criticism of the system or a sort of campellian science fiction with a socialistic spin and of course the intersection between those two modes where things got a little bit strange. My first science fiction book – see cover (title roughly translated as Lightspeed Transmission to Tau) – was an anthology that worked mostly with the socialist campellian mode: optimistic, technophil, solution-oriented (or maybe that’s what I remember).

Like I said above, I had no major epiphany, but I was impressed enough to search out more stuff like that. Over time, this accumulated into a live-long habit of reading science fiction, thinking about science fiction and in the end, seeing it a the major defining element of my life. Even in years where only a small portion of the stuff I read is science fiction, it tends to be the stuff I remember in the long run and the stuff I think most about.