At the end of the film The Time Machine, Filby and the Housekeeper realise that three books are missing from the shelf. They have been taken into the future!
There’s a scheme by Porcupine Books at the next Eastercon for people to give a short talk on a book that has influenced them. I’m one of the writers due to whiffle on about a book, but not one of the following three.
A friend of mine gave me three books for my <cough-cough> sorry, birthday. They were The Mortdecai Trilogy by Kyril Bonfiglioli, Einstein’s Monsters by Martin Amis (for the essay Thinkability) and Who Will Remember the People by Jean Raspail. The three books that influenced his life.
What are these books for me, I wonder.
I think they are The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham, Introduction to Pascal (Second Edition) by Jim Welsh and John Elder and Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. It’s rather an odd collection now I write it down.
The Day of the Triffids is also rather a stand-in. I could have chosen The Chrysalides, also by Wyndham, or any number of others. I trying to recall that book that got me into Science Fiction, but I’m not sure I remember it or that there even was one. I wish there was one, but there really isn’t. It might be one of the Target Doctor Who books. The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy came much later and I’m a fan of the radio (and perhaps a theatre) version. Telly with Doctor Who and Blake’s 7. It’s all a bit rubbish compared to those who say The Lord of the Rings changed my life.
On the other hand, Introduction to Pascal was the manual of a life change. I went to University to do Civil Engineering – mad idea, what was I thinking – and I realised my enormous mistake about four weeks into the course. Somewhere I have the very fluid mechanics test that left me high and dry, and pushed me over the edge and into deep water – as it were. I turned the page over and made notes on the back as I went through the University prospectus to find an alternative course, any alternative course. So, after Anthropology, Astrology, Astronomy, Biology and Carpentry had all turned me down, Computer Science was next in the alphabet. They accepted me on a Friday to start the following Monday. I was four weeks behind, I panicked. (As it turned out I was further behind in Civil Engineering than I was in Computer Science, but I didn’t realise that at the time.) I bought the only book on the recommended reading list that I’d been told about and I read it cover-to-cover – twice. I didn’t think I followed it at all. During the first workshop on programming, we were given twelve questions and I was hopelessly stuck on Question 6. You can’t turn a computer round and make notes on the back about Cover Design, Drama, Education or English Language. (As if I’d do any of those.) Oh god, I thought, I have just wasted my life.
I turned to one of my brand new colleagues and whispered, “I’m stuck on Question 6 – help!”
“What!” they replied, “but we’re all stuck on Question 2.”
I love programming in Pascal, still do, even though it’s now hidden in an IDE called Lazarus.
Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran did change my life. I wanted to know where I was academically with writing, so I did the MA at Birmingham City University. I sort of walked it, but then I had been doing all the modules on an ad hoc basis over and over for the past dozen years. I wish I’d not done the intensive version and spread it out over two years, because I enjoyed it so much and it would have been nice to appreciate the scenery during the journey. I even snuck into film course I wasn’t doing run by Andy Conway. (It’s his book I’ll be whiffling about at Eastercon.) We got chatting, I started to give him lifts home and he said I should self-publish.
“Oh, but isn’t that vanity publishing.”
“No, not at all, read this ebook by David Gaughran.”
So I did. Interesting, I thought. By page 5, I thought I must get a Kindle one day; by page 10, it was on my Christmas list; by page 15, I’d ordered one and by page 20, I was coding in html. My conversation from occasional playwright to committed indie publisher was faster than someone with a road map to Damascus asking for a bit of light to read by.
Would I take these three books off to the future with me?
Probably not, because I’ve read them.
A Kindle can contain more books than you can read in a lifetime, so, if you could only take three books to the future, surely you’d choose a Kindle and… two other Kindles.
You know, perhaps I should have added the first novel I published to this list of books that changed my life, but it’s kind of cheating. Or should it be the first one I completed? To steal and paraphrase an anecdote from Peter Ustinov, the favourite book of my own is, of course, the next one. (Actually, it’s not as it’s being a bit awkward.)
And your three books?