I consider reading the greatest bargain in the world
The creator of Star Trek sends some words of encouragement to a fan
In April of 1975, a teacher at a New York school wrote to Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, and told him about Roger, a teenage pupil with severe learning difficulties who had been making great progress when reading science fiction stories. As many of Roger’s favourite words were in some way related to Star Trek, and the person he most admired was Roddenberry, Roger’s teacher was certain that some words of encouragement from his idol would likely give him a huge boost and inspire him to continue with the hard work.
The following letter soon arrived.
I have been told of your exceptional progress in reading during the last year and that you are especially interested in reading and writing science fiction. It was also suggested you might want to know how I feel about books.
First and most important, I consider reading the greatest bargain in the world. A shelf of books is a shelf of many lives and ideas and imaginations which the reader can enjoy whenever he wishes and as often as he wishes. Instead of experiencing just one life, the book-lover can experience hundreds or even thousands of lives. He can live any kind of adventure in the world. Books are his time machine into the past and also into the future. Books are his “transporter” by which he can beam instantly to any part of the universe and explore what he finds there. Books are an instrument by which he can become any person for a while—a man, a woman, a child, a general, a farmer, a detective, a king, a doctor, anyone. Great books are especially valuable because a great book often contains within its covers the wisdom of a man or woman’s whole lifetime. But the true lover of books enjoys all kinds of books, even some nonsense now and then, because enjoying nonsense from others can teach us to also laugh at ourselves. A person who does not learn to laugh at his own problems and weaknesses and foolishness can never be a truly educated or a truly happy person. Also, probably the same thing could be said of a person who does not enjoy learning and growing all his life.
The reason I have written you such a long letter is that we not only share a love of science and science fiction, but we share something else. When I was a child, I was disabled by illness. Although my problem was different from yours, it did keep me from enjoying many things enjoyed by other young people. In a way, this turned out to be fortunate for me, since it turned me toward books. In those days, I used to think that it would have been better to have no physical problem and to have become a great football star or something like that. But now I realize that my love of books gave me much more happiness than anything else could have done.
Please do try your hardest to persevere at reading. You will never regret doing that.
Very sincerely yours,
Found in Letters to Star Trek, edited by Susan Sackett and published in 1977 by Ballantine Books: a charming book, long out-of-print, but second-hand copies can probably be found in the usual places. Mainly letters from fans, along with a few generous replies from Roddenberry, such as this one.
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