Colin Timothy Gagnon (sacredspud) wrote,
Colin Timothy Gagnon

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Incidentally, R.I.P., James P. Hogan

James P. Hogan died yesterday.

No, it's fine. I didn't know who he was, either. But his name rang a bell the moment I read that he was the author of Inherit the Stars.

When I was growing up, my best friend was a kid named Ben. He was a little older than me, and a little less responsible than me, and by the time he reached high school, he'd been branded a Bad Kid. His family moved a couple of towns away and he ended up in an alternative education program where he designed his own curriculum around the cultivation of cannabis, an art he'd been practicing since he was 13. Then, one Friday night in May of 1996, his parents went out of town and he hosted a wild, house-damaging party, put 500 miles on his step-dad's new SUV, and disappeared until I had graduated high school. When he showed up again in the August of 1998, he told me that he'd tracked down his real father in Canada, done a lot of drugs, stolen a car at gunpoint, and could he borrow two dollars, please? So that was that. His story was probably true, and I did get to talk to his parents, who were obviously hoping that I'd steer him in a different direction, but we only stayed in touch for another week or so. He called me that Thanksgiving, but I blew him off to spend time with my girlfriend, and I never saw him again. CCAP says he still lives in Wisconsin, and that he's been to court for paternity and various misdemeanors, and none of that surprises me.

This post is only marginally related to James P. Hogan, by the way.

Anyway, Ben was a year ahead of me in school, and he "read" Inherit the Stars when I was in second or third grade. I enclose the word read in quotation marks because I have serious doubts as to whether he actually finished it. More likely, he was excited about the cover illustration, which was of a skeleton in a red space suit being excavated from the lunar surface by a couple of astronauts. I was somewhat less sophisticated when I was nine, and I thought skeletons were pretty cool. Uh, anyway, Ben and I had similar tastes in literature, so I asked him if it was any good and what it was about.

"Well," said Ben, "it's about archaeologists in the future who are digging for a lost alien city on the moon, but instead they find a dead astronaut with a Russian flag on his space suit."

"Wow," I said. "So the Russians got there first?"

"Yeah," he said. "And they run some tests on the skeleton and it turns out to be more than a thousand years old!"

Obviously, Ben was making up the plot, but he wasn't teasing me; he just didn't want to admit that he hadn't read the book, and he thought that Commie-spacemen-during-the-Norman-Conquest sounded like a profound and ironic plot twist for an engaging novel.

It didn't take me long to figure that out, but I also never bothered reading Inherit the Stars, and until Mr. Hogan's death notice, I probably hadn't thought about it in twenty years.

Wikipedia makes the real book sound reasonably good, but seeing the cover again makes me want to novelize Ben's version in the style of R. Lionel Fanthorpe, Mike "Doctah Pussay" Talbot, or Jim Theis.

On the other hand, life is too short to write deliberately asinine novels.
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