If it weren’t for British and Japanese entertainment, I probably wouldn’t be a writer.
My rural childhood was extremely boring. One day, when I was caught up with my farm chores and no one else was in the house, I turned on the TV and saw, on PBS, a completely fascinating show called Dr. Who.
My first thought was, “What the heck is this?” Silver-haired Jon Pertwee was the Doctor in that episode. I later learned that lots of actors have taken on the role of time-traveling Dr. Who over the years. Pertwee played the part with a jaunty James Bond-style air of adventure and sophistication.
I was instantly intrigued by Dr. Who’s sophisticated accent, and well as the chirpy, cheerful voice of his assistant, Jo Grant, who always started each question with “But Doctor!” And I was entranced by the monster: a Chronovore, or time-eater, that looked like a cross between a canary and a flying chess piece. I also loved the show’s quirky scientific principles and wild plotline.
The next year, I had the opportunity to see King Kong Escapes at a drive-in, and that, too, was utterly enthralling and exotic to little country-boy Mark! It featured King Kong fighting a mad doctor (named Dr. Hu … quite a coincidence!) who plots to take over the world with the help of a giant mechanical version of King Kong. (I used to think the movie was Godzilla Vs. MechaGodzilla, but eventually I came across the right movie at a store and my memory cleared up once I watched it.)
Speculative fiction, in print and movie form alike, gets a lot of flack because some people think it will inspire readers and/or audience members to evil. But really, evil folks don’t need inspiration. They’re bad to begin with. In most cases, speculative fiction inspires people in a good way.
Dr. Who and that King Kong movie made me realize there was more to life than just country life and chores. Those shows, with their high-flying adventures, did me a huge favor by planting discontent in my heart. They made me discontent with the thought of a boring future in a rural area where I didn’t have any friends.
I often hear people talk about the fact that they are discontent with their relationships, or careers, or their lives in general. Many, for example, are discontent with their lack of opportunities. Many worry if they’ll even have a job the next day.
Well, don’t just shrug off your discontent by saying, “Oh well, I can’t do anything about it. Things will get better eventually.” Don’t paste on a fake smile and say everything is peachy. Embrace your discontent and learn from it, and then get rid of it by doing something to correct or improve the situation.
Pursue your future. Don’t wait for someone to drop it in your lap, because that may never happen. You’ll only end up with an empty lap and a lot of wasted years. If you hit a roadblock, drive around it. Build a new road if necessary.
Eventually I discovered writing, and now I write constantly, both at home (where I’m writing this) and as part of my office career. See Mark write. Write, Mark, write. Mark has friends now. Mark is happy.
Speculative fiction is the literature of inspiration, and it is a good thing because it can encourage people to take action in their lives. It is also the literature of escapism, and that’s good, too, since it can remind trapped people that yes, they can escape from unhappy situations if they are willing to work hard on their own behalf.
So thank you, Dr. Who, Dr. Hu, and King Kong, for inspiring an unhappy child to work toward a better future.