Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Believing in aliens

Here’s a post by David Levine at tor.com: The One Book That Made Me Believe In Aliens, which reminds me of a series of linked stories I rather liked back in the day:

I do believe in aliens as people—as complex beings with knowable, if not immediately comprehensible, motives, who can be as good and bad as we can, and not just monsters who want to eat us or steal our water or our breeding stock. And I can date this belief to a specific book.

I was twelve or thirteen when my older cousin Bill came from California to live with us for a summer. At one point during his stay he had a box of old paperbacks to get rid of, and he offered me my choice before taking them to the used book store. One of the books I snagged that day was Hospital Station by James White. It was the cover that grabbed me, I think: a realistic painting of a space hospital—a clear ripoff of Discovery from 2001, but adorned with red crosses. The concept of a hospital in space promised drama, excitement, and tension, and the book did not disappoint. But better than that, it changed my mind and my life in some important ways.

I think I encountered complex aliens who were people in CJ Cherryh’s work so early that this conception of aliens didn’t stand out to me. But I have always liked the intersection of SFF and medicine. You can’t beat Nick O’Donohoe’s The Magic and the Healing in that respect (The current cover is SO BAD, but the book is excellent). But I think Hospital Station might have been the first story I read where I saw this particular medicine/SFF combination. I agree with Levine: it also seems dated today. But I still have fond memories of the series, though I might not press it on modern readers.

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