I grew up in the 1990s. I spent the first two decades of my life traveling and moving all over the United States. I’ve been to something like fourteen schools all told, and lived in numerous towns in Northern Minnesota and Kansas, two climates that do not get much further apart. But in the early 1990s, I and my mom moved up to Southern Minnesota since she wanted to work at the Mayo Clinic, and we have lived in the area ever since. The grand total of my moves since then has been buying the house next door. I really don’t want to move again.

The 1990s were an interesting time. Cell phones were starting to come into existence. I was a fairly early adopter in the mass market getting my Nokia you could beat up a brick wall with in 2000, but the rich and upper middle classes had been slowly adopting them all decade. Star Wars had started publishing new stories, showing us the continuing adventures of Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa Solo, and her husband Han Solo as they fought the remnants of the corrupt Empire. We saw their kids grow up, saw Luke train a new generation of Jedi, and watched the original Rogue One dispensing truth and justice on Imperial Tie Fighters across the galaxy. Oh yes. And this little show called Star Trek: The Next Generation brought an entire new…ahem…generation into the glories of Star Trek. It was a decade of hope.

But it wasn’t all fun and games. It was also a decade of rising tensions in America. We’d had a pretty easy 80s from my perspective as a kid. Other than the Soviets that just might kill us all, but there was the Red Phone now. We could talk it out. But inside America there was a rising militia movement full of people who did not trust the government. I was still in school when the FBI killed those people in Ruby Ridge. I watched the flames of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Ironically, the Federal involvement in both cases started with gun charges. A Federal Agent contracted Randy Weaver to saw off a couple shotgun barrels for him, and then threatened to send Weaver to jail unless he joined the Aryan Nation as a spy for the Feds. And when Weaver refused, he was brought up on the firearms charges that would eventually lead to the Feds shooting his son in the back and his wife in the head. And the Branch Davidians had a lot of AR-15s that the Feds thought they might be modifying to fully automatic. So they raided the place, were fought off, then surrounded the place, and finally the Branch Davidians died when their compound burned down in a fire the Feds said they had nothing to do with. And a year later, the Oklahoma City Federal Building blew up in what would be the most spectacular attack on American soil of the decade.

The biggest lesson I got out of growing up watching all of that? If the government decided you were doing something wrong and you disagreed, they might kill. Not simply take you to court and maybe send you to jail. But shoot your family, your friends, and maybe burn down everybody you know. Or simply sit back and watch you burn. I learned before I was twenty that the government could destroy your life if you weren’t doing what they told you to do. That’s a hard lesson to learn when you are growing up. My generation learned it well. We don’t trust the government by and large. We don’t like it, comparatively few of us join it compared to other generations, and we generally live our lives hoping to avoid dealing with it as much as possible. We are nice to the government, we are brief with the government, we will fill out all our little paperworks for the government, and then we go home and try very hard not to deal with the government for the rest of the year. Because we know, deep down, that every single interaction we have with the government increases the chance of the Feds deciding we are a nail that needs pounding.

In my case, I buried my spare time into watching, reading, and writing science fiction. Because the real world around me was not something I wanted to live in. I wanted to explore the galaxy on the Starship Enterprise. I wanted to live with the Elves in the Last Homely House East of the Sea, or walk on the beach beneath the walls of Cair Paravel. I wanted to fly with Wedge Antilles, or be one of Luke Skywalker’s new Jedi. I wanted to discover the technologies of the long lost Star League and bring them back to humanity. I lived in a land of imagination because I could do what I wanted. I had the power to help people in that world.

I guess that’s why I write stories about people who help now. I saw so many things being torn down in real life as I was growing up, that I have a deep antipathy towards telling stories like that. Towards being part of them in any way. I detest them on a level I did not understand as a young man. So now I tell stories about people who build and seek to make things better. It’s my way of building our world up just a little bit. My way of helping now that I am entering the middling of my years. Now that I better understand some of the things I learned growing up.