Sci-fi I grew up with

I don’t know where it started, or why, or with which book. But I do know that I read Tolkien young. I can remember my first bash at reading Lord of the Rings - I must have been 11? 12? I got stuck at the Council of Elrond bit, and left the book on one side for months. But I also remember reading the climactic chapters in a furious rush.

But hang on, Tolkien isn’t really science fiction. What’s the first sci fi I can remember?

Both my dad and my older brother read sf books. I suppose I waited until they’d finished books, then picked them up myself. My grandma always called me “bookworm”, and I was always looking for something to read. I don’t remember thinking “I must try me some stuff about space,” but it was there, it was all around me. I tried it without thinking.

The earliest ones must have been something like Asimov. I, Robot, then the Foundation trilogy.

My dad’s house had a lot of sf stacked on a bookcase at the top of the stairs. During rainy half-term holidays there, looking for things to do, I’d pick up anything I could find there.

I found Dune, of course. Then the next two in the series. I remember reading God Emperor of Dune and my dad passing by with a sniff: “That’s the one where he turns into a worm, isn’t it? All gets a bit silly, in my opinion.” Sillier than the floating bad guy and the gom jabbar in the first book? I wondered. But never mind.

There was one summer holiday in Wales (we went on lots of those) where my brother was reading The Many-Colored Land, and I read it when he’d finished. This was a world I really lost myself in, and I devoured all the sequels, the bridging novel Intervention and the later prequel trilogy. I loved every moment of all of it.

Another book from my dad’s bookshelf was The Mote in God’s Eye. This was another fast-paced adventure which got me reading other Niven/Pournelle collaborations such as Footfall and Oath of Fealty. Reading the Mote again more recently, I was struck by its outdated sexism, but still enjoyed the concept of the Moties themselves. They remain one of the best aliens.

More: Clockwork Orange, which my brother got for me as a birthday present when I was 13 or 14 or so. I remember there was some family discussion about whether it was “suitable”, but I read it anyway. I think most of it went over my head.