The very first short story I wrote made my father very unhappy with me, because it was pro-suicide. It posited a science fiction world where spores from outer space infected people and if you were infected the only thing to do to save the human race was to throw yourself into a fire in the middle of every town called The Saving Fire. The sign you’re infected is your skin gets blue. In my story there was a sort of fire drill. The main character, a boy named Hug has a blue dye dripped on him by his father. His father wants to see if he will be brave enough to throw himself into The Saving Fire. Secretly the father has turned off the fire. He just wants to know if his kids is brave. But the kid is not brave — he fails the test — when the father drips blue ink on him he just runs to his mother. The story ends with everybody being ashamed of the kid and not wanting to play with him.
As I said my father was very unhappy with me for writing this short story and I felt very ashamed. That first moment when I was ten years old introduced an element of shame and hiding into my relationship with my father. I never showed him any of my short stories any more, and I when I became a writer I moved away to California.
I started to write a series of stories about a boy who loses his father and meets a new father: the Father of Electricity. This new father is, unlike my father who was a fairly unsuccessful storefront attorney, a Wizard of the Electron. The boy in my stories thinks his actual father — who was if i remember correctly a typewriter salesman who became unemployed by the introduction of the personal computer — is his father but in the middle of the night the Father of Electricity reveals to him that he is his true father and takes him to the middle of a lightning storm in the Nevada desert in a veloci-gurdy where they are struck by lightning and in a beautiful scene they both learn the importance of the imagination.
I have a son who much prefers the Electric Father to me — he is my Electric Son.
I found my bravery just not where I expected it. Day follows day and I am less and less while the Electric Father blazes like a bolt of lightning that never stops flashing but stands permanent in the night sky, like a whiter and superior sun.