If we compare my writing life to a volcano, it's uneasily dormant. Fumaroles high on the slopes are energetically smoking. And harmonic tremors are shaking the mountain, growing stronger and more frequent as the days go by. The thing looks set to blow its top.
But there the analogy breaks down somewhat. We know what causes volcanoes to erupt, or very nearly - it's all down to that molten mantle thingy and the vagaries of plate tectonics. But they don't have a purpose. They just blow, and they don't spend time before the big eruption considering why they're erupting, or what ultimate benefit their erupting will have. They don't look at the results of their eruptions and take pride in the fertile soils, spectacular scenery, and mineral wealth they create. They don't strive to be the very best volcano they can be, inspired by other volcanoes and by the folks who benefit from their hard work.
Being a writer is a lot like being a volcano, at least for me: long periods of dormancy followed by vigorous eruptive periods, and there's not a damned thing I can do about it. It's as inevitable as gas-rich magma rising up a vent and building up pressure until the whole thing goes boom. I'm sure neuroscience will, someday, explain that inevitability, just like plate tectonics made sense of volcanoes. But there's also a purpose, which volcanoes will never have. Unlike a volcano, I can strive. And this is it, the reason, the purpose, the meaning of it all:
I'm afraid I'll never be a scientist. There are many reasons, which I won't go in to here. But I've got it in me to tell damned good stories. And if I tell them well enough, I might just inspire one person to want to become a scientist. I might inspire one person to do something wonderful. And that, I can tell you, is a very inspirational thought.It was never about how accurate the science was in science fiction.
It’s about the wonder and excitement of the unknown. It’s about the attitude of characters like Spock and Data, how they attacked problems head on and came up with creative solutions. It’s even about building a interdimensional portal in your basement. That’s what inspired me to want to become a scientist. And maybe this means we’ll never have warp drive or transporters like they have on the Enterprise. But we’ll create something better. [emphasis added]
I will have left the world just a little bit richer than it would otherwise have been (and, bonus, won't have wiped out hundreds of square miles of the landscape and possibly buried cities under mudflows in the process). Worth striving for, that.
And at least now I won't feel so guilty about not getting the science 100% right.