FEATURE STORY: Hendrix wields the global lens of sci-fi
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Science fiction makes you see everything through a different lens, says Howard V. Hendrix, lecturer, Department of English. He believes that science fiction can help the human race think long-term instead of only in the here and now.
Hendrix started teaching part-time at Fresno State in fall of 1990 and came on more full-time beginning in 2000. Starting in the late 1990s, he began to publish science fiction novels. Light Paths, Standing Wave, Better Angels, and Empty Cities of the Full Moon were his first four books published by Ace Penguin. His next two novels after that, The Labyrinth Key and Spears of God, were published by Del Rey Random House.
"I was lead editor of a book that came out in 2011 called Visions of Mars," Hendrix says. "Now I’m mainly writing short fiction and essays. I do have a novella coming out in Analog science fiction magazine this year. It’s a fairly long piece."
Hendrix thinks his education was serendipitous.
"If you look at my educational history, you'd say it's perfect for becoming a science fiction writer ... biology as an undergrad, and English literature in graduate school," he says. "It wasn't planned. It just happened that way."
Hendrix was lucky while earning his degree in another important way — he met his wife in graduate school at UC Riverside, where they shared an office with another student. He has been married 27 years to Dr. Laurel Hendrix, professor in the Department of English. "We started dating, and the rest is history," he says. "It seems to have worked out. We haven't driven each other completely crazy yet."
Recently Hendrix has been publishing a series of articles in Boom: A Journal of California. "I had a piece on Florence Lake and Florence Dam — a comparison/contrast between that place, and the public attitudes toward that and toward Millerton Lake and Friant Dam," he says.
Next Hendrix has a piece called "WUI Space: Language of Exurbia" dealing with the wildland/urban interface. The subject matter stems from his work as a volunteer firefighter near Shaver Lake. "I’ve been a member of the Pine Ridge volunteer fire department since 2000 — late 1999 if you’re going to get technical," he says. "I've learned a lot about fire issues in California. I’m a science fiction writer, so I have to think about these things... about climate change and the landscape I live in. It’s part of my job."
Another article in Boom, "Elegy Written in a Country School House," deals with the fact that Auberry Elementary, up in the foothills, was shut down. "I like to use these local issues as lenses into global issues," says Hendrix.
His science fiction explores everything from raw cynicism to persistent hope — and not only about the future, but also about how both hope and cynicism are shaped by the past.
"One of the questions that goes way back into the very beginnings of my writing, in one of my first nationally published short stories, is ... there’s sort of a cynical moment where a character says the lesson of history is no one learns from the lesson of history," he says. "And that would truly be tragic. I hope we do learn from the lesson of history."
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