Friday, July 9, 2010

How I Got Into Reading Fantasy

This post is inspired by Gail Carriger's latest post, "What Got You Into Reading Fantasy?", in which she asks:
I'd love to know, what got you into reading fantasy? Did you start out reading fantasy at a young age? Did you get into reading via a cartoon or movie or video game? Or did you come at it via steampunk or some aesthetic movement? Were you born into fandom, did you find fandom, or did you have fandom thrust upon you? Or do you not consider yourself part of the SF/F culture at all?
I was going to respond with a comment, but then I realized I probably had enough to say to make a blog post, so I came over here instead. I know I've said some of this before in previous posts, but please don't skim too much and bear with me?

As soon as I was old enough for bedtime stories to be novels, my dad read me The Hobbit, followed by Lord of the Rings, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Greek and Norse mythology. (Also Huckleberry Finn, which we're not counting because it's not fantasy, and Dune and Icelandic sagas, which we're not counting because they didn't get finished.) Mom chipped in by reading all seven Narnia books with me, and the five books in the Dark is Rising sequence. The last bedtime stories I got were His Dark Materials, by which point I wasn't getting read to to put me to sleep, but because it was something Dad got to share with his daughter and he was as hooked on the story as I was.

Of course, my parents didn't just read genre fiction to me. They also bought it! My memory of my formative years is sketchy, but they must've given me my copy of The Hobbit when I was 7 or so. I read it about four times in the first year. I can't even begin to list every book I've owned over the years, so I'm going to list one that's been incredibly influential to me, and which never gets old: The Hunter's Moon by O.R. Melling.

My parents certainly set the foundation for me, but my local and school libraries cemented the process. Even in the '90s before the whole YA fantasy craze really took off, a whole lot of the books in the kids' sections were fantasy or science fiction. I read my way through Lloyd Alexander, the Borrowers series, RedwallMonica Hughes, Bruce Coville, the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and a number of one-offs, all before I hit puberty. (Also mythology, also urban legends, also paranormal non-fiction, also mummies.)*

I think what draws me to fantasy is the possibilities, the different worlds, the magic, and the adventure. I love seeing how people react in completely foreign situations. I love how various mythologies get woven  into stories and how writers integrate them into the real world. I love the idea of having abilities beyond average-human. Anything that's not genre pales in comparison: why would I read about a boy struggling in high school when I could read about a boy struggling in an alien high school?

I wasn't born into fandom, but I was certainly born into a geeky family. My mom's considerably more mainstream than my dad, but it was her idea to rent Ghostbusters and she's the one who goes to superhero films, not Dad. Fandom came in my third year of university, after I'd had a few encounters that didn't take. There was this show, you see, that my best-friend-and-roommate had gotten hooked on over the summer, and as one does when one is hooked on a show, she forced me to watch a few episodes. Which turned into me keeping tabs on when the next episode was airing, which turned into me looking at fanart and fanfic, which turned into writing and, uh, yeah. The rest of my fandom experience is here.**

Like I said in that last link, I've more or less fallen out of any overarching fandom. I'm still a fan of various shows and authors, though, and like most fans, it is my sacred duty to get as many people hooked on the stuff I like as I can. I've managed to get the aforementioned best friend into Firefly, and two other people into Discworld in a big way. My Supernatural DVDs have been leant out, as have a few books to people I trust. (I have utterly failed with my dad, however.) And of course, I work in a bookstore and spend a lot of time online, so my field of influence is pleasingly large. I have plans to try to reenter local fandom later on this year—starting this weekend, actually—and I guess we'll see how that goes.

So that's me. What about you? How did you get into reading fantasy?

*My teen years gave me Xanth, Pern, and Discworld, plus a lot of classic lit we're also ignoring even if Shakespeare is awesome. They also gave me Harry Potter because Mom started reading that to my sister.
** I don't know if that counts as having found fandom or having had it thrust upon me. Probably a bit of both.

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