When I was a kid, I read a trilogy about Heliconia by Brian Aldiss. A planet far, far away from Earth, Heliconia was subject to an ice-age of a thousand years that came about every 2,500 years. Civilisation would die and grow back, die and grow back again cycle after cycle. Imagine that! And all the while, the earthlings were watching via a space station orbiting the planet and sending back video to Earth. Just like Eastenders really.
I was taken by the vision of this alien and yet very familiar race. They were like us and yet not like us. They lived, died, ate, slept, loved and wrote books that had to be burned when the great winter came back. How heartbreaking.
The theme of Stranger in a Strange Land (a book by another Sci-Fi great Robert E. Heinlein) comes up in my thoughts and writing time and time again. Every book I read for pleasure and illumination adheres to this theme. James Clavell’s Shogun is a great example of this. It’s about an Englishman who went to Japan in the 1600s and became a samurai. His progress through the alien (to him) culture of Japan is inspiring in the extreme.
Both Brian Aldiss and James Clavell had successful careers as writers. JC started as a scriptwriter and progressed to novels when the guild went on strike. BA started as a bookseller, wrote some short stories based on his life at the time and sold them to a publisher as a book. When it attained moderate success he was asked for more material at which point he confessed to being a Sci-Fi writer. The publishers knew several people in high places who were fans, and the rest is history.
Both men are dead now, but they live in on their books and in my heart.