Patterns: The Pi Man

This is the first of an occasional series of posts centered around my fascination with patterns: visible patterns, audible rhythms, simple habits of being.

How I first came to read science fiction is anybody’s guess. I don’t think any of my friends read it, and I can’t remember any adult steering me in that direction. Possibly, the main draw was that the town library (as I recall) maintained a completely separate section for fantasy and SF — completely separate, that is, from the age-defined “children’s books” and “adult books” sections. Unlike those in the kids’ area, the F/SF section’s books weren’t big-format with lots of pictures. They had lots of words, like the inch-thick (and beyond) monsters of the adult section. But, unlike with the adult section, the librarians didn’t care how old you were. No one took F/SF seriously enough. How could anyone, even a child, possibly come to harm of even the psychological sort by reading about adventures in science, space, and time?

Of course there was plenty of conventional SF available — space operas, mad scientists, that sort of thing. But every now and then, especially in the SF anthologies of short stories, you’d come across something which really made your little pre-high-school brain jump to its toes, throw its arms wide, and turn inside-out. One such story for me — one of the most disturbing stories I’d ever read, remaining so for a long time — was Alfred Bester’s 1959 tale called “The Pi Man.”

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