Gateway or: A Science Fiction Classic Invaded My Dreams


I first read Frederik Pohl's Gateway (novel published in 1977 from a 1976 serial) in the early 1990s when I was in the Navy. I did a lot of reading during my off duty hours and while on liberty, mostly the classics of science fiction and fantasy, with a smattering of mystery and horror. I was writing a lot back then, too, and looking back on that time in my life, I must have been trying to escape from the daily hazards my military duty posed as well as my personal life which was a mess at that time.

Gateway transported me from my life to a future earth, which I must admit, seemed bleak, but fascinated me. Other classic science fiction novels had socked me with sense of wonder, but Gateway invaded my dreams. The idea of a space station built within a hollowed out asteroid housing alien ships that took crews to unknown destinations captured my imagination. The risk of death mixed with the possibility of reward (perhaps not unlike when I was out on search and rescue missions in old Vietnam era helicopters) resonated with me. At that time in my life I would have jumped in one of those Heechee spaceships in a heartbeat.

I've read this book a half dozen times and the thrill never diminishes for me. To me, Gateway is up there with Foundation, Rendezvous With Rama, Ender's Game, Starship Troopers, Ringworld, and so on and so on. But I love Gateway, and it will always hold a special place in my heart not only because of the sense of wonder, but because it also transports me back to a time in my life I shouldn't forget.

I thought of this book again when I came across a thread on Facebook about the new generation of writers not reading the classics of science fiction. I'm of the opinion that the classics should be visited by today's writers--even if the ideas and the sensibilities seemed outdated. I'm sure many years from now when the readers of the future read our work they'll balk at our primitive mindsets and barbaric sensibilities. This doesn't only apply to books--I feel this way about music and film and television, and art as well.

Learn from the past, but enjoy the past--the passage of time doesn't and shouldn't diminish the quality or the enjoyment of the classics.

Bonus: Syfy may be making Gateway into a mini-series. Also, back around 1992 video games were made based on Gateway, which I played and enjoyed despite the clunky interface.