Booking through Thursday: Fantasy & Science-Fiction

June 18, 2009 at 12:57 am (Memes) ()

btt2 Sci-fi author Sharon Lee has declared June 23rd Fantasy
and Science Fiction Writers Day.

As she puts it:

So! In my Official Capacity as a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I hereby proclaim June 23 Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Day! A day of celebration and wonder! A day for all of us readers of science fiction and fantasy to reach out and say thank you to our favorite writers. A day, perhaps, to blog about our favorite sf/f writers. A day to reflect upon how written science fiction and fantasy has changed your life.

So … what might you do on the 23rd to celebrate? Do you even read fantasy/sci-fi? Why? Why not?

Well, perhaps I’ll try a new author or book on June 23rd, one I haven’t yet read. I’m sure I have one or two around here …

Why yes, BTT, I do in fact read science fiction and fantasy. I do it because I enjoy it, and I have a long history with it, from a very early age. I recall lots of fantastical stories being read out loud to my little sister and I, and after all, how many children’s books don’t have an element of the fantastical? Books like Maurice Sendak’s Outside Over There and Where the Wild Things Are had very prominent places in my library, beside the more matter of fact tales of Madeline and Spot. The Weaving of  Dream and beautifully illustrated versions of various fairy and folk tales were particular favorites, as was that imaginative creature Eloise.

When I grew a bit older, my mother introduced me to  CS Lewis, Mary Stewart, Madeline L’Engle, and Roald Dahl, as well as books like Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH and the Doctor Doolittle books. My stepmother (who once owned Beaverton Books) added John Bellairs, Brian Jacques, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and the excellent Amy’s Eyes to the mix, as well as Susan Cooper’s amazing The Dark is Rising Sequence. Movies like The Last Unicorn, The Never Ending Story, and The Princess Bride were also extremely influential, depicting fantastical worlds which I would later read about. In fourth grade, my mother let me read Stephen King’s The Eyes of the Dragon, which remains a favorite fantasy tale to this day. Books like those opened whole worlds for me, worlds that were outside my experience but were also immediately accessible. Children live in a world where fantasy is not all that unusual as they play their games of Pretend and What-If, and a great deal of children’s literature capitalizes on that fertile ground for their ideas. Of course, many people “grow” out of fantasy–and with no ill effects–but I did not.

I must have been eleven or twelve when my father bought me a copy of Glory Road by Robert A. Heinlein. We were on a camping trip in the wilds of northern Alberta, and it was a treat to keep me occupied (we always had a trip to Powell’s to stock up before long trips, but I must have run out). It was one of his favorites when he was young, and it was soon one of mine. Even now Heinlein is the single most represented author in my library–which is saying a lot–and his The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is always on my list of favorite books. From there I went on to authors like Douglas Adams, Piers Anthony (thankfully, a short-lived phase), Mercedes Lackey, Raymond E Feist, Kathleen Kurtz, CJ Cherryh, Anne McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster, Spider Robinson, David Wingrove, Robert Jordan, Tolkein, Neil Gaiman, and George RR Martin.

One of the reasons I keep reading fantasy and science fiction is that the best fantasy and science fiction isn’t just good story, it also communicates ideas and concepts that are relevant to the world in which we live. Sometimes it is easier for people to recognize an ugly–or even a plain–truth about themselves or their culture when it is portrayed by the trappings of an exotic and fictional culture. It can put our world in perspective to read about other worlds. Fantasy and science fiction often rely on symbols and imagery to which we can relate, despite their being embedded in another place or time. Essentially, they ask, “What does it mean to be human?” and provide us with possible answers–or allow us to come up with answers on our own by providing a framework for critical thinking and analysis.

Plus, they’re hella fun.

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