Why I’m any kind of Fantasy reader
I blame my dad. Which is funny, as he doesn’t read any sort of speculative fiction at all. Neither did my mum.
But Dad read to me every night before bed until I was about eight and he read me countless historical adventure stories, mostly nautical in nature, instilling a love for history into me at an early age.
These were mixed with Colin Dann’s The Animals of Farthing Wood, Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story and other children’s classics.
Thus when I discovered the library, not so coincidentally also at age eight, it wasn’t a great leap from the historical adventures to Arthurian sagas, mythical tales, and Narnia. After I discovered Narnia, anything with the pictogram for either historical or fantasy books on its spine was fair game and I was a most regular visitor to the library, where I read not just fantasy but anything I could get my hands on.
This went on for a few years and then I encountered the works of David Eddings.
The reason was rather embarrassing—it’s a story of a boy, unrequited love and his love for Eddings, let’s leave it at that.
Anyway, at age fourteen I lost my heart to fantasy and it never returned it; almost twenty years later I’m a staunch fantasy reader and while I might now realise how clichéd Eddings’ use of tropes was and that his characters are in fact not that strong, I still have a very soft spot for them in my heart.
From Eddings I moved on to Mercedes Lackey and Raymond E. Feist. At which point my Dad re-enters the narrative.
You see, he went to Cambridge for a work conference and brought me back a book. Knowing I’d gone mad for fantasy books, he tried and bought me one of those.
Dad, however, never realised fantasy books often come in trilogies or larger series, especially in the early nineties, so he brought me back Jordan’s Lord of Chaos. That’s right, he bought me book six of the Wheel of Time.
So I went and bought The Eye of the World, and later books two to five, from my allowance and was thus introduced to one of the more influential series of recent fantasy history.
So that is how I came to read fantasy, but what was it about fantasy that hooked me and why am I still fascinated by it today? I think that originally, like Graeme, I was taken in by the escapism of it all.
I wasn’t the world’s happiest teen, so being able to disappear into a book and be someone else in a completely different world was heaven.
But as I’ve grown up and become more widely read, not just in speculative fiction, but in general, I’ve found that fantasy can be far more than just an escape; it can be a way to examine the world’s problems at a remove, to explore human emotion through the eyes of a non-human, and to hold up a mirror to humanity and show us the human condition without apportioning blame.
It’s this combination of layered depth and unadulterated fun that keeps me coming back for more and which makes me proud to say I’m a fantasy reader, any kind of fantasy reader. So, thanks Dad, I owe it all to you!