03 May 2007

Happy 83rd, Bill!

One of my major inspirations as a writer is my father-in-law, William S. "Bill" Rothwell. He is 83 today--HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Bill was a real-live rocket scientist before he took up novel writing. We use that phrase all the time, "it ain't rocket science," or "smart guy, huh, what are you, a rocket scientist?", or "you oughta be a rocket scientist, kid" or somesuch. Just another bit of cultural detritus, tossed around like "hey, dude" or "my bad" or "whazzup." Think about it a bit, and you realize that rocket scientists are a pretty rare breed. There was a period in history--the mid 60's through Apollo--when rocket scientists and the engineers associated with them were a sort of archetypal American brain-iac. Pressed dark slacks, short sleeve white dress shirts, Brylcreemed hair, slide rule--all these things said "Space Race." After Neil Armstrong, the fickle American public lost interest in rockets, and the end of the Cold War was the final blow. Never mind that a major impetus to the fall of the Soviet Union was their genuine fear of American space technology and its ability--potentially--to defend against the armada of ballistic missiles pointed at U.S. targets. Americans, of course, still launch rockets. Rockets for defense, science research, commercial broadcasting, even an occasional astronaut ride. But the glamour is gone. Nowadays the smart kids work for computer and wireless phone outfits, or biotechnology startups. And, despite having the best universities in the world, the U.S. of A. is no longer the Science & Technology Center of Gravity. Places like Sweden and Korea are now innovation leaders, and this trend will continue. But that is another rant for another time. This post is a tribute to Bill. When he retired from Lockheed, he did something he always wanted to do--write. He wrote a loosely-connected trilogy of science fiction novels exploring a future both promising and terrifying. I think loyal TPP readers should take a virtual jump to Author House Publishing and do a search for William S. Rothwell. You'll find The New Life Clinics, Hide Me in the Grave, and Lethifer. Click the "Add to Cart" button and get to work! I've always had a hankering to write myself, and I always thought it was no more than that, an amateur's hankering. It dawned on me after a while that I would either write or I wouldn't, that one had to DO what one imagined doing. Bill did that. And that was one hell of an inspiration. Thanks, Bill.

1 comment:

Dave Bacon said...

Reminds me of a funny story which I hope you'll enjoy...

I was in Las Vegas with a bunch of geeks...er I mean friends...from my undergraduate days at Caltech. We had every spot at the table and were having a rockus good time (helps when over half of the people know the basics of blackjack counting systems!) The dealer started chatting us up and at one point asked us what we do.

First up was me. I'm a theoretical physicst. Okay, she moves to the next seat. My friend Lon, who is a electrical engineer. Next in line were a couple of mechanical engineers. Etc. Etc. Finally the dealer gets to the end of the table and says "What...you're going to tell me your a rocket scientist?" Amazingly enough, that very person she picked WAS a rocket scientist! Indeed he was the only rocket scientist at the table! We fell off our seats laughing so hard.