Friday, October 1, 1999

There’s none so blind as those who won’t see


By Judith Tabron

There were years of my life when I didn't read a lot of science fiction. Presumably, I was busy doing something else, but honestly, my early twenties are all a blur to me now.

Then, a few years ago, I had a chance to go to the World Science Fiction convention of 1995 in Glasgow. It reminded me of a lot of things I had forgotten (like Samuel Delany's writing is fantastic), but it also taught me a lot I didn't know. I learned about Gardner Dozois' fabulous Year's Best science fiction anthologies, because people told me it would be a good place to look for a reprint of Joe Haldeman's "None So Blind." There was a lot of buzz about "None So Blind" that year.

"None So Blind" won the short story Hugo (Science Fiction Achievement Award) that year, and I was taken aback by the furiously enthusiastic applause that greeted Joe Haldeman when he went up to the microphone to accept his award. I became curious about this story. Obviously, it had a lot of public sentiment behind it. I read it and liked it. I then forgot about it until I saw it listed in the Fiction category (under "Sci Fi") at Memoware. Go ahead, download it, it's only 15K.

Someone at The Mining Co. (before it became arranged to have this story digitized, so you can distribute this version for free as long as you include all the information about the work and the author that comes at the end. That's pretty cool, and caused me to surf on over to Someone over there really likes Joe Haldeman; he was a featured spotlight author the third week of September 1999. Visit yourself if you'd like a pretty exhaustive guide to Joe Haldeman on the Web. And you will, after you read "None So Blind."

Several immediate reasons for this story's appeal come to mind at first reading. It starts out like a classic Heinlein tale (perhaps like a story about the legendary Grandpa Stonebender) by referring to the protagonist as a kid who makes the money he spends on computers "from education ...teaching his classmates not to draw to inside straights."

It's a story about the classic outsider, the kid who's way too smart for his own good, and yet, also a slave to his hormones. Cletus is short, he's young, he's homely, he's black, and he's a genius. All of those are strikes against him in the "love sweepstakes" of the Virginia town in where he is attending high school at the tender age of 13.

He finally settles his affections on Amy, who (no coincidence) is blind and can't reject him on sight. Amy is also a nerd, a music nerd, and even though she's twice his size, white, and rich, their minds meet and they become quite a fascinating "item."