“Jack Campbell” is the pseudonym for a retired Naval officer (and graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis). He lives with his family in Maryland.
by Jack Campbell
I once listened to another student giving a report on an ancient battle. “He should have used a lot of cavalry to outflank his opponent,” the student said of the losing general. But, the professor pointed out, the losing general didn’t have a lot of cavalry. “He should have,” the student persisted.
I have seen that a lot in discussions about history. “He should have done this.” “She should have done that.” But, they couldn’t, because (for them) those “solutions” were out of reach. That is history in a nutshell. It isn’t what people wished they could accomplish, it was what happened when people did what they could with what they had.
Which really does have something to do with writing.
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[Do you have an idea for a future Mind Meld? Let us know!]
Books have been one of the greatest influences on my life. I say this not to downplay the lessons and values taught to be my family and friends, but instead to emphasize the importance of reading in my formative years. A lot of what I believe and how I act is driven by the characters I have encountered and the fictional worlds I have explored. Frequently I remind myself that “Fear is the mind-killer,” a message picked up from Frank Herbert’s Dune years ago – a lesson that has carried me through hard times. There are many more personal examples I could state but I’d rather hear from some of the very writers that inspire me.
We asked this week’s panelists…
Here’s what they said…
The greatest impact it had on me was instilling in me a love of science, questing for information, and a deep love of creative and wild imagination. My life-long walk on the path toward passing those gifts on to others now means I make a living continuing to live all that. So I would say it had quite an impact on my life.
As to if it makes me a better person, I would have no idea. I would hope that my family loved and learned from me whether or not I had SF in my life. In fact, I find a sort of cultish devotion to any mantras learned from just SF to be problematic. I flinch from ideological insistence, and just because I adored a book at an impressionable age… well, I’d hate for that define the rest of my life as a thinking creature.
The lessons involve various snippets of things I’ve picked up over a lifetime that I’ve found useful. I’d hate to highlight a particular phrase out of the stew that makes me a human, as I’ve always loved Bruce Lee’s admonition to “Take what is useful, leave what is not, add something uniquely your own.” I didn’t learn that in SF, but it’s how I’ve approached all text.
But I can’t be the only SF fan who has found himself repeating the Bene Gesserit litany against fear after smacking his hand with a hammer… right?