Walking through the stacks in the history section of my college library, I happened upon a wall of old books surrounding a door with a small plaque that read Comprehension Corridor. I had been in this section of the library many times but the door was new. Alone, I edged closer to the door, opened it, and walked into a time from the not so distant past. I exited from a brick wall, collided with a man, and fell. As I lay on the curb, I noticed the cars on the road and the clothes people were wearing. It had to be the mid-1950s. I also recognized the man.
“Where did you come from?” As he helped me up from the curb, he saw the book I was holding. “Do you like Asimov’s work?”
“Oh yes, he’s one of my favorite authors.” I clutched the hardback copy of The Foundation Series. I had been prepping a report for my literature class. I might have been dazed by this turn of events but at least I had the presence of mind to add, “The Illustrated Man is my favorite novel by you, Mr. Bradbury.”
“Not Fahrenheit 451?” he asked with a smile, seemingly pleased to be recognized.
“That’s a great book, but The Illustrated Man with the many different stories tied together by tattoos really caught my imagination. I hope to write something that creative one day.”
Ray pointed across the street. “I’m meeting some friends in the pub over there. Join us, I think you’ll enjoy the company.”
While I knew I was in the wrong time period, I had no clue how to get home, so I accepted. After all, I couldn’t pass up the chance to talk to the man who wrote Something Wicked This Way Comes. I looked down at my clothes, relieved I was wearing capris and a top that could almost pass for a fifties look. I looked a little odd, but didn’t draw too many stares, except for one lady who walked by and stuck up her nose, probably appalled I wasn’t in a dress.
Ray guided me into the pub and to the corner where Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke, the three top rated science fiction writers of the 1950s sat discussing literature.
Isaac’s I Robot was the first science fiction I ever read. Turns out he was a professor of biochemistry. That certainly explained why he could write hard science fiction that was believable.
Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers (book, not movie) were my favorites by Robert Heinlein. He had attended the U. S. Naval Academy and gave politics a try before he turned to writing.
Not surprising, Arthur C. Clarke was a big proponent of space travel. His fields of study were math and physics. 2001: A Space Odyssey is a wonderful book that does make sense. If you watched the movie without reading the book, you could be forgiven for thinking Clarke was a madman. I had read the book but still found the movie to be a strange thing. Of course I couldn’t discuss the yet-to-be-made movie, but I wondered what Clarke would think of Stanley Kubrick’s interpretation of his work.
We talked until closing, discussing authors from E. E. Smith, the father of the space opera, to Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose best know series are Tarzan and John Carter of Mars. Of those we discussed, Edgar Rice Burroughs had received the least critical acclaim.
We parted ways outside the pub. It took some fast-talking, but I convinced them I lived just around the corner and needed no escort. I cut down an alley and watched from the shadows to make sure they each got in a cab or walked out of sight before I returned to the brick wall. I stared at it, unsure what to do next.
Suddenly, an elderly librarian walked out of the wall and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw me. “Thank goodness, child. Never open a library door if you don’t know where it goes. You could end up anywhere.”
“Or anytime,” I replied happily as he shoved me through the wall back into the library and the mid-1970s. I couldn’t wait to find other doors to open in the library.