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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15 Comments

  1. Violet said,

    wow…you do read a lot of fantasy. Where the Wild Things are has been on my wishlist for some time. I forgot to add Eyes of the Dragon inspite of having read it very recently 🙂

    Thanks for reminding.

  2. Novroz said,

    I love your detail answer.

    I like fantasy and sci-fi too, tho I haven’t read a lot of them but they are my fav genre beside horor

  3. Scifi Picks » Booking through Thursday: Fantasy & Sci-Fi « the stacks my destination said,

    […] Read more here: Booking through Thursday: Fantasy & Sci-Fi « the stacks my destination […]

  4. The Social Frog said,

    Wow, you do really like sci-fi & fantasy. I just can’t get into it but I know many people whom love it.

  5. Jennifer said,

    Hella fun indeed! And then once you look past the fun stuff there’s often plenty to make you think. Interesting answer. 🙂

  6. Jessica said,

    Great post — I love that fantasy and sci-fi allow you to use your imagination so much more.

  7. JoAnn said,

    I’m not much of a sci-fi/fantasy reader, but I loved reading your post!

  8. Shari said,

    Great post! I agree with you about the role that fantasy plays in allowing us to explore aspects of our own world. And I now have a great list of fantasy books to run out and read – thank-you!

  9. LDP said,

    I tend to avoid most hard sci-fi, but I do love my fantasy. Great post. Maybe I’d have more to add if you hadn’t already stated my thoughts on the genre as wonderfully as you did.

    Oh! Since you mentioned Eyes of the Dragon…

    As a teen, when I first began playing Magic: The Gathering, I thought the card Library of Leng was a reference to the passage in Eyes of the Dragon that described Flagg’s spell book as having been written on the Plateau of Leng by the madman Alhazred. I was still a few years out from discovering ol’ Howard Phillips at that point.

  10. Frances said,

    You and I share a lot of children’ titles but I did not move beyond that. I was surprised at just how much children’s fantasy titles I love.

    Love your point about truths embedded in these genres. Keep thinking about the far flung interpretations of Harry Potter including the Nazi Germany connections. Thanks for a well-thought out post.

    Happy reading!

  11. Kat said,

    I can’t believe I forgot Ronald Dahl, Susan Cooper as well as Michael Ende, Peter S. Beagle and that guy who wrote The Princess Bride. I have those books on my shelf too. 😀

    I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of reading fantasy. Here is mine.

  12. anthonynorth said,

    A great look at your sci fi past. You’re right – much of the good sci fi is visionary, in a way.

  13. Mish said,

    Quite a few authors and/or books I’ve enjoyed through the years. I haven’t read any Piers Anthony yet so I’m curious, why are you thankful that was a short-lived phase? If you haven’t read them yet, I suggest Rod Serling’s stories from the Twilight Zone.

  14. Schatzi said,

    Thanks, and you’re welcome to you guys.

    Mish: After reading most of his oeuvre through the mid-Nineties, I had an epiphany, namely that the man is a misogynist, and one with a somewhat alarming fetish for young girls. Plus, he’s just not a very good writer, as evidenced by the extreme phoning it in of the Xanth series.

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