September 11th, 2012
I’ve been reading a book called Epiphanies that is about, well, epiphanies people have had. One epiphany I had while reading it is that collecting stories from other people and making them into a book must be easier in some ways than actually writing a book yourself, and pays just as well if not better (looks like people providing the stories don’t get a cut). Brilliant!
More seriously, I can recommend the book and got something out of some of the stories, although some of them were too much new age woo and self-deception in my opinion. Still, it got me thinking about epiphanies I’ve had and thought I’d share some myself and solicit some from you.
When I was about six, I decided that what put humans at the top of the food chain and in control of the Earth was our smarts. So I decided to prioritize intelligence and education in my own life. That drove me not to give up on tough problems when I got older because that would be giving up on my intelligence and I couldn’t do that. Later in life I did realize that intraspecies competition was as important as interspecies competition, and that being good at sports or being tall and handsome paid extra dividends over being merely smart. I got a lot of scholarship money for college, but I didn’t get anything close to what some student athletes got. Epiphanies can build on each other.
I had another epiphany early in my writing career I should have had even earlier. I knew more science than the vast majority of other new writers, and that was a strength I should play on. Play to your strengths. Duh. Me so smart to figure that one out late…
I somehow once thought that graduate school in science was like medical school or law school and that you had to take out big loans to go, but didn’t have the high salary job waiting at the other end. It wasn’t until my senior year of college I figured out that there were teaching assistantships to go and that tuition wasn’t outrageous. Forgive my ignorance — we didn’t have the world wide web in those days.
I believe I’ve told this story before in an old blog post, but I had an epiphany that I could be an astronomer the night one of my professors was out helping us with a cranky, broken telescope, and started cussing up a storm when he dropped his screwdriver down the counterweight tube. Astronomy professors suddenly became human to me, and someone I could envision becoming. I had a similar experience when a Big Name science fiction writer fell down drunk at my feet at a convention party and I helped him up. Heh, I can do what he does!
When I’d go to astronomy conferences other astronomers were usually more interested in my science fiction than my science (I was just another astronomer otherwise), and at science fiction conventions folks were usually more interested that I was a scientist (I was just another writer otherwise). My Launchpad workshop emerged from an epiphany that I should try to find ways of combining my science and science fiction in specialized niches where few could match my background.
I’ve had a lot of little epiphanies about writing, doing science, women, running, science deniers, and more, but just wanted to provide a few about science and science fiction that felt big to me at the time and still do in hindsight. I look forward to having more sudden insights in the future and expect there are an infinite number of them possible to experience.
I’d love to hear any epiphanies anyone reading might have to share.
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