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"We lived close to nature. ... I recall the look and feel and smell and taste of whatever grew in the sand: the wonder of sleek green acorns swelling in their ornamental cups on the low-growing oak brush we called shinnery; the magic promise of a tiny tender watermelon growing out of its dying bloom; the mystery of the sensitive plants that shut their leaves when you touched them. There was sweet nectar to be sucked from one white, deep-necked bloom. Grassburrs and goatheads had to be avoided in the summer, when we were happily barefoot.
"I enjoyed them all [my classes], but one I loved was called 'Literary Figures.' A wonderful way of self-education, it let me pick one or two inviting writers and explore them with a little group of curious students. ... Best of all, I was allowed to teach science fiction. When a newspaper described the pioneer course that Mark Hillegas taught at Colgate in 1962, I proposed one of my own. Though some of my colleagues considered it 'fluff,' the department approved it, and I taught it for a dozen years, from 1964 until I retired.
"Though writing is another social thing, it's lonely, the responses long delayed. In the classroom, what you say and do gets instant feedback. And you belong. You're accepted, commonly respected, sometimes even loved.
"Science fiction remade my life when I found it long ago in those early pulp magazines where it was being invented. Its name was strange at first to nearly everybody. Not that many cared to know. Not then, because the magazines looked like trash. They were cheaply printed "pulps: with queer machines and horrid monsters on their cover, but for the few of us who dug them, even their names were drenched and dripping with wonder. Amazing Stories, Astounding Stories, Astonishing and Startling and Marvel; even Wonder Stories. ... Most of these once-beloved magazines are gone now, and all of us have changed. Yet I think we need wonder more than ever now ..."
Berne is currently focused directly on nanoscience and nanotechnology investigators, to understand the formulation of their personal motivations, beliefs, aspirations and goals, as well as the development of individual ethical frameworks, as these are connected to their research in nanotechnology.