six weeks since my high school reunion and I still don't have
it quite figured out. Albany High School Class of '76. More than
500 kids in the graduating class, and maybe a thimbleful of school
spirit among them. There was no five-year reunion, nor a ten.
We managed a fifteen-year gathering. The quarter-century mark
would no doubt have passed without notice had it not been for
efforts of a handful of alumni, and one in particular.
I took on
the job of tracking down my former classmates. As I often say
these days, I don't know what I would have done without the Internet.
I searched Anywho.com and the others, sent out a few hundred pieces
of mail, kept all the results in an ever-expanding Lotus Organizer
file. I probably put in a couple hundred hours, but I didn't do
it for school spirit. More the thrill of the hunt. I was actually
ambivalent about the reunion itself.
Saturno, Brad Velcoff, Mark McGarry, Eric Spencer, at the post-reunion
picnic at John Boyd Thacher State Park, outside Albany, N.Y.
I attended the
fifteen-year reunion, but I don't remember too much about it. I
did spend most of the evening talking to the same gang I've stayed
in touch with all along. That kept me occupied, as did my new fiancee
(later my bride, now my X). No new friendships were forged.
Not that I had
anything against my former classmates. Not that I had been bullied
(much), or given any other reason to become a member of some proto-chapter
of the Trenchcoat Mafia. But I was a quiet sort, a bit of a loner,
and pretty much kept to myself. I had a few close friends, and kept
many of them to this day. I ran track for a season and a half. I
edited one edition of the literary annual. But I didn't hang, drink,
smoke pot, or do much socializing of any kind. And, naturally, I
made my social awkwardness a virtue. I was different, more thoughtful,
more contemplative, with more depth. I identified with those protagonists
of a whole genre of science fiction, the outcasts with dormant powers,
the sleepers who would awake.
Doyle, expressing astonishment that someone does not remember her
from high school. (It is hard to believe.)
Was there ever
a science-fiction writer who was captain of the football team, dated
the head cheerleader, pulled straight A's and was warmly regarded
by teachers and classmates alike? Certainly the cliché is
that we're misfits. Certainly most writers are observers more than
participants. We are observers even of our own lives. Many times,
a part of me has heard words spoken by a brokenhearted lover and
thought, "Wow, good line," as if it were well-crafted
dialogue and not a bit of anguished conversation. It's all material.
As Milan Kundera put it, "The novelist destroys the house of
his life and uses its stones to building the house of his novel."
So I went through
high school observing, and expressing an offbeat personality only
and Jim Saturno
Most of my memories
of high school are of the times after the dismissal bell rang. But
there is one event that took place during the school day, and more
than any other single incident, it set me on the path toward becoming
a writer. Our final project in my senior-year English class was
to make some sort of presentation, form and topic open. I wrote
a science-fiction story, "Becalmed," and when the time
came our class decamped to the auditorium and my best friend, Jim
Saturno, read the story aloud. He had a better reading voice ...
and my place was not center stage, but offstage. Early on in the
out in a neat row. Four Warlocks, each lying in his own casualty
well, all of the same height and build, or nearly so, differing
only in the condition of their corpses. One, face contorted, had
bit through his cheek completely. Another, blood-spattered, looked
to have clawed out his own eyes. Another --
And one of the
girls in the class said, "Ewwww!" And that, my friends,
was my first taste of how the writer can stir the soul or, at least,
roil the stomach.
Foster and Gwendolyn Shutter Peters