Is there a more famous scene in all of Star Trek than the death of Spock? In an entertainment franchise that has more than its share of emotionally sterile moments, this one is an unforgettable gut-punch, especially if you’d already spent years enjoying those characters. Kirk and Spock are one of the great fictional duos. Kirk is creative, resourceful, and passionate, and above all, he never accepts defeat. Spock is the stoic, rigorously logical empiricist who occasionally checks his friend’s impulses before harsh reality does.
I often compare the work of my favorite non-fiction authors to more concrete experiences to describe what it’s like to read them. Reading G.K. Chesterton is like biting into a perfectly cooked steak. C.S. Lewis like being brought to the top of a high mountain to get a clear view of things that used to be too close and confusing. Ludwig von Mises is a bit like watching a chessmaster carefully surprise you with a sudden checkmate.
Whenever I tried to imagine a fantasy round table conversation with any three people then living (a neat mental exercise to see who you really admire), Professor Stephen Hawking was always first on my list. Partly because he was a rock star scientist, but mostly because he was the most uncanny real-life example of the principle of “mind over matter.” People face all kinds of adversity, and when that adversity is imposed by other people – evils like wars, man-made famines, or even just subtle persecution in the workplace – at least the human element makes it explainable, understandable, and possibly fixable.
My introduction to science fiction came at the age of 14 in a one-two punch of Clarke and Card. Arthur C. Clarke teased my imagination, but Orson Scott Card left an imprint on my soul. I read Ender’s Game three times before finishing high school, and at least another two after that. I can remember one reviewer on Amazon dismissing it as an indulgent tale for the moody kid who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else.
Many years ago I watched a made-for-TV movie called The Cold Equations. I found it extremely compelling, and apparently I wasn’t alone. It was based on a short story with the same title written by Tom Godwin in the 1950s. In 1970 the Science Fiction Writers of America gave it an award for being one of the best science fiction short stories written before 1965, and it was included in the first volume of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.