I didn't even daydream about an idealized future career as a death-defying spaceship pilot when I was a kid, though I'm pretty sure plenty of my classmates did. My generation grew up on Star Wars and the Alien movies. I had several classmates who owned ET dolls.
I wasn't one of them. ET creeped the hell out of me. But that wasn't the reason eight-year-old me wouldn't have accepted a career at NASA if it had been handed over along with a billion dollars, a live unicorn, and a lifetime supply of get-out-of-doing-math-homework-free cards.
The very idea of outer space itself scared me off.
The fear actually wasn't as intense when I was young. Yes, I really, really disliked the idea that there was a big, black, gaping, lifeless void lurking beyond the comfy little atmosphere of this planet I call home, but I could live with it as long as it continued to stay where it was. The night sky may have looked dark and spooky, but at least I knew it wasn't going to come down here and try to coax me into a windowless van.
It got worse as I got older and gradually developed the intellectual capacity to fully wrap my mind around how immeasurably huge space is. How unknown and unpredictable. How chock-full of horrendous things capable of snuffing out life as we know it on this fragile planet of ours in a heartbeat, without warning. Sometimes I get to thinking about it, and I end up lying awake in deepening existential horror as my mind uncontrollably crowds itself with images of black holes, free-floating clouds of deadly cosmic radiation, supernovas, giant-ass meteors, and even gianter-ass solar flares. Then I sleep through most of the next day and have to admit to myself that I didn't get any writing done and the house looks like a disaster area because I spent all night worrying about the possibility that the universe might kill us all with giant space-rocks.
With all this in mind, what do you suppose child-me made of a certain children's book?
The one about a civilization inhabiting a tiny planet that hurtles at breakneck speed through the boundless ether, without even the small protection of being tethered more or less in one place by the gravity of a dying star.
The one in which a superior being comes to the aid of said civilization, promising to hold, protect and cherish their wayward world for all time.
The one in which said superior being is immediately beset by other, more vicious and small-minded superior beings, who tear the teeming planet away from him and callously cast it into the murky depths like the meaningless speck of dust that it is in their eyes, leaving its people to lie forgotten and abandoned in the darkness for however many years, centuries or millennia it takes for their protector to find them again.
You know which one I'm talking about.
Yep, that's right.
Dang you, Horton Hears A Who. Dang you straight to heck. Not only did you speak to my fear of being an insignificant speck of dust floating through a hostile universe, you also planted the idea in my head that the greater forces controlling this universe may be sentient. That some of them may be actively hostile. That they may be DOING THIS SHIT ON PURPOSE.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I might as well take a nap now and get my nightmare about rogue planets out of the way as soon as possible. I hope you're happy with yourself, you smug-ass, clover-loving pachyderm.