When I was ten years old I became a member of the Science Fiction Book Club. I think I saw one of their ads in a comic book. I was drawn to their offer. Ten cents would get me five volumes of my choice (shipping included). And I only had to purchase another five additional books during the following twelve months. As I was a voracious reader I didn’t see any problem in fulfilling my obligation to the club.
Before I joined I asked mom if it would be okay. She said that would be fine. So I wrote them a letter in my ten-year old handwriting, enclosed a dime which I taped to the letter and sent this off to their office in Garden City, Long Island. Every day I would come home from school hoping that my package of five books had arrived – and one day – about two weeks later it did.
I was enthralled. As I began reading these works I thought about the SF Book Club’s motto – “Today’s fiction is tomorrow’s fact.” I was living in an era where Dicky Tracy walkie-talkie wrist watches were something that we might see in the future. Who knew that they would be eclipsed by cell phones?
I remember the volumes I purchased. Three of the books were Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation Triolgy,” Robert Heinlen’s, “Time For The Stars” and an anthology of short stories.
I couldn’t wait until I finished my homework so that I could dig into my new acquistions. I have to admit that I skipped through the homework without my usual thoroughness and focus.
Fortunately for my academic career, my parents always reviewed my schoolwork and noticed the sloppiness with which I had completed it. As a result, I learned that breezing through homework didn’t get me to my sci-fi reading any quicker. If it weren’t satisfactory I had to re-do it before I was allowed to do my extracurricular reading. In later years I would learn to be grateful for my parent’s concern.
But I forgot to tell you about the biggest bonus I got by joining the Science Fiction Book Club. With my five volume initial purchase I also received a certificate (approximately the size of a driver’s license) entitling me to a free passage on a commercial flight to the moon.
I have kept this document for many years and as it started to fray with continued handling, I finally had it laminated. (The plastic of the lamination is now very yellowed with discoloration). But I’m hanging on to it.
When the United States sadly abandoned our space program I was disheartened. But now I hear that Sir Richard Branson is actively exploring the possibilities of commercial flights to the moon.
If he is successful in his efforts, I plan on presenting my yellowed old certificate from the Science Fiction Book Club to him as evidence of my right of passage.
I sure hope that he accepts it.