I was 10 when "Star Wars" came out, and unlike many fans I had already consumed as much science fiction as I could find: the three holy names quoted by Martin Prince on the Simpsons ("Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke!"), plus whatever the local library had, and even the Tom Swift books. (Greatest book title ever: Tom Swift and his Triphibian Atomicar!) In the wake of the adrenaline speed rush of "Episode IV", I ate up everything in reach: John Christopher, Andrea Norton, Doctor Who and Star Trek, and all the TV junk food like Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica.
I was an early subscriber to StarLog and Omni, later followed by Analog, home of some great short stories in those days; I also scoured through collections of Hugo and Nebula winners. In my early teens, Larry Niven opened my eyes to a new, ambitious vision of hard sci-fi, followed by high adventure with Edgar Rice Burroughs and Philip Jose Farmer. Right on schedule I flipped out about Hitchhiker's, worked through brief flirtations with Piers Anthony and Robert Aspirin, slogged through Stephen R. Donaldson, read and re-read John Varley, and dabbled on the dark, sticky shores of Philip K. Dick's fevered mind. In college I watched "Blade Runner" about 15 times, and found Vernor Vinge, the great Tim Powers, and finally the true master, Jack Vance, lord of the language. Neuromancer may have changed a lot of rules, and I still read everything Gibson writes, but for readers who love words, Vance remains the master.
In adulthood I've read more widely outside F/SF, but I continue to believe in the power of genre fiction. To me, sharp observations concisely inserted into an exciting narrative can have not only a reach, but an intensity, often lacking from the dilated musings of more "serious" works. That's what I try to do in my own writing, including Ordobat's Folly.
Question: How long is long enough?
12 hours ago