I don’t like my “Fantasy” to floofy. And I don’t like my “Science Fiction” too militaristic.
But there is a sweet spot where Science Fiction and Fantasy meet. A place where you’re allowed to see battles and weapons but also magic and rainbows, where you’re likely to find talking animals, armies of witches, and castles in the clouds. A place where anything goes, but where the life and death stakes are still high.
You never forget your first love, and mine was the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. After that I read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. And then all of Michael Crichton’s books. I also read Piers Anthony and Orson Scott Card (“Ender’s Game” was a life changer, but the following books in the series flew over my head completely.)
In my “life or death” early 20’s, I only wanted to read the classics. Emerson and Thoreau led me to Whitman, who led me to Twain and Steinbeck and Hemingway and Heller and Vonnegut, who led me to Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who led me back to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, and on and on in circles…
Now that I know all of life’s secrets concerning God and Happiness and Civilization and Meaning and Immortality and Purpose and Consciousness – naturally I have less interest in philosophy and literature. I have time and energy to appreciate again the beauty of genre fiction.
This shift coincides directly with my fascination for story and the storytelling process. These fantasy writers are no shmucks – they don’t pretend to try and solve all the world problems – they’re concerned with telling slambang, out-of-this-world, get-yer-money’s-worth Stories.
At one point I was too scholarly to read a Stephen King novel. Now I refer to him only as “The Great One.”
These days, my hero’s are self-published authors like Hugh Howey and A.G. Riddle and Andy Weir, to name just a few. I love these authors because of what they stand for – the fact that, these days, ANYBODY can potentially tell a good story and find readers.
I read “The Golden Compass” this week, by Philip Pullman, and it was a pure delight. I can’t wait to read “The Subtle Knife” and “The Amber Spyglass.”
More coming soon on what I learned from “The Golden Compass.”