For my A to Z Challenge, I’m going back to books that influenced me in some way or left an unforgettable impression, and for letter E I struggled to pick one title out of the three that readily came to mind. The decision turned out to be quite tough, but once I realized I might mention two of the titles in my other posts, I was left with just one book, or rather a novella, which I’ve read only once. And it was over twenty years ago.
These were my teenage times, when I only started dipping my toes into the big pool of fantasy and science-fiction, and my dear friend lend me issues of “Nowa Fantastyka”, Polish oldest (and I believe longest-running too) speculative fiction magazine.
Every issue contained both Polish and foreign fiction, and in one of them I came across Barry B. Longyear’s novella, “Enemy Mine”. I leaned more towards fantasy fiction back then, but as an avid reader, I couldn’t just skip the part of the magazine without even trying, and before I even noticed, I was biting my nails following the story of a human pilot and an alien, stranded on a desolate planet.
I might have exaggerated a bit in the top paragraph, I might have read the story several times before I gave the magazine back, but the twenty years since my last contact with it still stands. And I still remember it, maybe not in detail, but in the images the story brought, and in the memory of tears its last sentence brought. Because “Enemy Mine” told a beautiful story of friendship formed between to completely different beings. Both Willis Davidge and Jeriba Shigan (yes, I had to look their names up) need to overcome their hostility toward each another, and learn to work together to survive, and in the process, as you can imagine, they learn to understand the other one’s culture and the way of thinking.
In a way, it’s a simple story with simple message, that those who are different or follow different paths don’t have to be fought against, and that understanding and communication can bring peace. But the way it is told, not from the perspective of waring races, but on a very personal level, had a lasting impression on me.
Over the years, I made several attempts of getting my own copy of the magazine, but the circumstances always prevented me of acquiring one, and I might not have been persistent enough. I also bought a DVD with the movie adaptation, but I never brought myself to watch it. Why? Because twenty years after the first read, and that story is still vivid in my memory, still rings with emotions, even if I can’t recall the exact wording.
And do you have such a book? The one you’ve read only once, but it was enough for years?
Joanna Maciejewska is a fantasy and science fiction author who enjoys all things SFF: books, movies, and video games.
Her short stories appeared in magazines and anthologies in Polish and in English.
Her epic fantasy adventure series, starting with By the Pact, is available in ebook and paperback at all major retailers.