How I became open to the Future

I remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1985 and I was a high school freshman, walking into my American Literature class. This day, however, would not be like the dozens of others that had preceded it that year. On this day, something new in the back of the room caught my eye. It was a poster promoting science fiction.

The literature teacher, a prim and proper Sr Lucille, always had various literature-themed posters hung in her class room. Most never got more than a casual glance from me. But for some reason, this poster intrigued me unlike any other. On it were pictures of different sci-fi novels, all with artwork that would today be described as “retro” and titles like The Robots of Dawn and Starship Troopers. I had not read any sci-fi at that point in my life, but something in me clicked on that day. I dont know if it was the interesting cover art, the exotic sounding titles or whether I was just looking for something new, but at the end of class, I walked up to Sr Lucille and asked her a simple question. “I’ve never read any science fiction. What would you recommend?” Her response was equally simple and direct. “I’ve always enjoyed Asimov.” She didn’t bother to ask me what I liked reading, or whether I preferred Star Wars or Star Trek…none of that. Her replay was simple, convincing and sparked my interest in the future. It also started me down a road I’m still on today, 30 years later. She started me on the path to being a futurist.

Now, I didn’t know at that exact moment I would become a futurist. All I really knew was that I wanted to read some books by Isaac Asimov. And boy, did I! Over the next few years, I ready all of the Asimov novels I could. They hooked me! Not only was Asimov an interesting and approachable writer, his vision of the future was one that I truly enjoyed and was believable. It was majestic and epic, spanning across the galaxy. It was, in many ways, like Asimov himself. As I read more of his work, I learned more about the man. Equal parts writer and scientist, Asimov had published books that span across 9 out of the 10 major classifications in the Dewy Decimal system. He was a Professor in Biochemistry, who invented the term ‘robotics’. To say he was interdisciplinary is an understatement. He was also most definitely and unequivocally, a futurist. His vision of the future touches on all the classic STEEP categories, with a good dose of wildcards. Looking back now, I see in those novels the Foundation (pun intended) of my own future taking shape. As I later branched out to the works of other sci-fi writers, such as Robert Heinlein, Neal Stephenson, Huge Howey and others, their works reinforced my love of the future. I also realized that all good sci-fi and futurism share the same characteristics. Both are intriguing, enlightening, profound and innovative.

Teachers touch the lives of students every day. Sr Lucille passed away last year. When I heard the news from an old friend, I immediately remembered her simple recommendations all those years ago and silently thanked her for opening my eyes to thinking about the future.