Thursday night, poetry group.
As always, we range rather widely in our discussions - Sarah finding delicious tidbits from the worlds of science, Mark providing apt lines from his hundreds of memorized poems, and me providing folklore and Appalachian woodcraft.
As we concluded our discussions of our poems, we started to discuss science fiction. Mark and I shared our list of formative books - Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Left Hand of Darkness, Childhood's End, and all those Ray Bradbury stories. We were teenagers when we found them - I wrote about discovering Bradbury in this essay - and the paperback books had a powerful lure that was more than gaudy covers and a sense that this was a transgression, a straying from the world of literature as it had been defined.
Mark said that it was in science fiction that he developed his moral sense - and that remark sent a shiver of recognition through me.
"What it means to be human," I responded.
And that's what we learned from the books about alien worlds and non-human peoples - what it meant to be a human being, to be a person, how one was to act in world that was new and changing.
Good training for these times.