When I was very young, Madeline L’Engle tricked me into liking science fiction.
This is partly because I had no idea what a tesseract was (and when my dad tried to draw one for me, I just got really confused). I knew on some purely hypothetical level that mitochondria were real, and that farandolae weren’t, but the distinction between speculative science and magical creature wasn’t at all clear to me. In my mind, farandolae weren’t real in the exact same way that dragons weren’t, and honestly, I wasn’t even a hundred percent on the mitochondria. Basically, she tricked me into thinking I was reading fantasy.
I believed that science fiction was Isaac Asimov and Dune and sometimes William Gibson or Philip K. Dick, but only when I wasn’t enjoying them. I believed that it was cold and didactic and highly technical. In this regard, Madeline L’Engle didn’t fit with my preconceived notion at all, because there’s such a complex emotional relationship between her characters and the scientific phenomena they interact with. The science is inseparable from the people. The constant striving is for the fate of the universe, and for the planet, and the individual, because everything is interconnected, everything is circular and intertwined and tesseract-shaped.
Of all the Murray/O’Keefe books, A Wind in the Door is my particular favorite. I’ve always thought that the relationship between the macrocosm and the microcosm is glorious and fascinating. Antimatter, stars and cells dying in tandem, the rending of galaxies by the flapping, shrieking doppelgängers of elementary school principals—as I’m writing this now, I realize I’m talking about all the things that indisputably define the work as science fiction, but when I was eight, I had no formal context. I truly believed that it was just fantasy with better dragons.