Further than I could possibly imagine.
A for Andromeda
I wouldn't be writing SF for a living today without this series. Not only did it turn me on to SF, but its themes have also resurfaced in my own novels - and seeing as I saw Andromeda the year I started school, that's some tribute to its impact.
I was five years old, watching the title sequence of the first episode on a tiny black and white Sobell TV. I asked my mother what Andromeda was, and I remember her exact words -that it was a group of stars so far away that "the light takes millions of years to reach us."
Even at five, I was blown away by the idea that light could take that long to get anywhere, and that there were places so far away. It sowed the seed of a preoccupation with what might be "out there" and I watched the series religiously, even though much of it must have gone over my head. I'm not sure that I have a real feel for the magnitude of that distance today, even though I can calculate the kilometres, but if anything qualified for instilling a sense of wonder in me, that did. And it was pretty good going for my mother to come up with that fact on the spot, seeing as she left school at 14 and didn't do any science.
I bought the series DVD this year more out of nostalgia than anything, but watching it more than forty years later, and seeing the themes of my own books in it - the uncertain line between human and alien, the influence of politics on science, the nature of identity - genuinely shocked me. I had no idea I could have taken all that on board as a small child. To think my adult career ultimately hinged on a few seconds of a title sequence and a comment about it from my mother - who doesn't recall it, ironically - is sobering.
I've told that story at a number of SF conventions and it was referenced in the acknowledgments page of my first novel, City of Pearl. Readers are usually surprised that I name a TV series rather than a book or an author as the biggest influence on my writing, but I'm very much a child of the TV age.
2001: A Space Odyssey
I'm a visual thinker, and as a kid, 2001 was (and still is) a real sock in the eye for me. Despite being a writer, I'm not a reader. All my influences came from TV and film. The sense of otherness that I got from 2001 was what started me writing SF as a hobby, and that led to a professional career today. I don't think you can find anything more life-changing than that.
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