My Sci-Fi Neighbor

If I have a choice, I prefer hard cover to paperback. But I have several exceptions in my library. In each case the paperback has a personal connection. Today I write about Ben Bova’s When The Sky Burned.

Hank and I rented a condo when we first moved to Taos. It was one of four units enclosed in a small compound within walking distance of the Plaza. Ben Bova, a well-known sci-fi writer, and his wife, Barbara, a literary agent, owned the condo kitty-corner from us. They lived most of the time in Florida, but when they were in Taos, they were cordial neighbors.

I am not a sci-fi fan, but when I spotted the paperback When The Sky Burned in a second-hand book store, I had to buy it. The subhead beneath the title and Ben’s name said: “He had to return through space to the nightmare savagery of Earth.” The cover has a couple — he’s muscle bound and she’s got cleavage and a mini-dress — running from something awful. Behind them, a rocket soars above a vast field of red.

Here’s a bit of the plot. Fifty years ago, the sky burns when the sun releases a massive flare. The main character — the muscle-bound guy — is Alec Morgan who is part of a lunar settlement. He has deep issues with his father, who lives on Earth.

The next time I saw Ben, I asked him to sign the book. I ran inside to get it. I joked that I spent $2.50, a buck more than the book cost in 1973. He wrote: “To Joan — Hi neighbor! Ben Bova 3 Sep 06.”

I haven’t seen Ben since we moved to our own house. I heard his wife, Barbara, died a few years ago.

The book isn’t in the greatest shape. It’s broken in several sections from the binding. But I plan to hold onto it because it’s a nice reminder of a former neighbor.

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