When I lift up my eyes I spot rows of book-backbones, neatly standing to attention on my shelves, leather-bound and gold-lithographed. They are my envoys into the land of imagination, fittingly named Fantasia by Michael Ende in his classic The Never-Ending Story, and they carry such illustrious names as Twain, Pasternak, Dumas, Shakespeare, Verne, Goethe, Le Carre and all the other great classics “everyone wants to have read, but nobody reads,” as Twain himself put it once. They tell me stories of War and Peace, of a Scarlet Letter and a headstrong girl named Scarlet, of three and more Musketeers, Counts of Montecristo or Muenchhausen, lovers on balconies, spies who came in from the cold and time machines. They take me into Fantasia, 20,000 miles under the sea, lost islands, Middle-earth, even the center of the earth or any other places only my own flights of fancy could find. Each story is distinct; each one carries a note of uniqueness. But at the heart they all tell of the same struggle humanity has been going through since they waddled out of the prebiological soup or were expelled from the Garden of Eden, take your pick. All of these stories, much like their writers, have been trying to find the one answer: “Who am I?”
It is not just sci-fi–it is all of literature, ever since some homo erectus dabbed his fingers into dirt and streaked cave walls with self-portraits. Sci-fi and fantasy take only the extreme approach, disguised in alien-masks, robot-suits and riding space-ships or horned horses. But fundamentally all of literature is working on the problem.
And I sure hope they won’t find it; that will give me the chance to kick the questions around a bit.