Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Ronald Reagan -- protogeek

When I was younger there was a big reprinting of Edgar Rice Burroughs books. He wrote Tarzan and several other series and I read every one I could find. So I was amazed, amused, and yes, a bit proud to read the following from a letter by Ronald Reagan:

I, of course, read all the books that a boy that age would like -- The Rover Boys; Frank Merriwell at Yale; Horatio Algier. I discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs and read all the Tarzan books. I am amazed at how few people I meet today know that Burroughs also provided an introduction to science fiction with John Carter of Mars and the other books that he wrote about john Carter and his frequent trips to the strange kingdoms to be found on the planet Mars. Then came all of Zane Grey, Mark Twain, and others.
From Reagan: A Life in Letters, pg 8.

Reagan is writing about his reading from the age of ten onward, and he had the same tastes in books that I did at that age. I loved the John Carter books. I mean, you have this great hero adventuring around a dying planet in flying boats rescuing beautiful naked red-skinned princesses. What's not to love? (Martians didn't go in much for clothing. Actually, many of the societies in Burroughs's books didn't go in much for clothing.)

But the real money quote is this one: "I am amazed at how few people I meet today know that Burroughs also provided an introduction to science fiction..." Do you realize what that means? Do you? Reagan couldn't have been amazed about people not knowing about Burroughs unless he what? What? He must have brought up the subject! That's right, Ronald Reagan, president of the United States, was the kind of geek who would talk science fiction with at least some regularity. That's enormous. It validates all my bad conversational habits. What will I learn next? Did Reagan enjoy discussing seventeenth century British Empiricism? I can hardly wait to find out.

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