We all have them: people who have influenced us and shaped the person we have become. Often they are teachers, parents, mentors, or friends. Sometimes, though, they are people we’ve never even met. For whatever reason, their stories resonate with us and teach us a valuable lesson about who we are and what it means to be human. In no particular order, here are nine people I should probably thank for changing my life.
1. Tom Baker
Thank you for the Fourth Doctor. As surrogate TV fathers go, you were the best. <3
2. Elisabeth Sladen
I wanted to be Sarah Jane when I grew up. Thank you for teaching me that “there’s nothing ‘only’ about being a girl” and that it’s never too late revisit something that you love.
3. Mur Lafferty
I saw you speak at CREATE South a few years back. Seeing you there in person and hearing that you were an SF writer prompted me to listen to your podcast. Your supportive message and your frank discussion of the ups and downs of your daily writing life got me back into writing. You also introduced me to the world of literary SF fandom. You have changed and enriched my life. Oh, and when I get old? I want to be the Red Granny.
4. Douglas Adams
You’ve given me the gift of laughter even though first drafts were so difficult for you to finish that they might as well have been written in blood. Thank you for teaching me to never give up and that it’s better to finish late than to never finish at all.
5. Terry Pratchett
You introduced me to the fantasy genre’s conventions by turning them on their head. I’ve followed your work since I was in middle school. In a way, you and Granny Weatherwax, Rincewind, Vetinari, Carrot, Vimes, and all of the rest are some of my oldest friends. You’ve continued to write and to publish despite the Embuggerance. Thank you for teaching me to live with dignity and to be courageous even in the face of death.
6. Oscar Wilde
When I was a teenager, I saw a movie about your trial. A couple of years later, I had a dream about you that prompted me to read more about you. Thank you for not letting an unjust law dictate who you were and how you lived your life. Your life and that terrible court case ultimately struck a blow for equal rights, even though you never got to see change happen in your lifetime. Thank you for your sacrifice. I wish that ugly wallpaper had gone instead.
7. John Nathan-Turner
You busted your ass to bring Doctor Who to the US in the 1980’s, and you made the show work long after you wished you were done with it. Thank you for teaching me that sometimes you should keep doing a job even though you’re sick of it.
8. Sarah and Angelina Grimké
You grew up in Charleston, SC in a slave-owning family. You came to understand that slavery is flat-out evil. Rather than keep quiet, you shook the dust of your hometown from your feet and left to fight for emancipation. When you realized that people discounted your efforts because you were women, you began to fight for women’s rights, too. Thank you for being locals who were on the right side of the fight.
9. Robert Downey, Jr.
You had to hit bottom that second time before you were finally able to change your life. Thank you for showing me that it is possible to change your life if you are serious about doing so. I’m proud to share a birthday with you!