And it was an epic quest. . . .
Posted January 19, 2011on:
Just so you know, this is a super long post with a funny at the end. Not unlike an epic quest. . . .
I describe this website as offering Science Fiction & Fantasy reviews. But going through my list of reviews, I’m seeing far more fantasy than science. Maybe I should just describe it as a fantasy review site? Or a gateway to fantasy review site?
When I was a kid, I was an adamant SF fan. Much of my youth was spent building spaceships out of legos and watching PBS shows about astronomy. I craved scientific explanations for everything. I wanted to know how everything worked.
While my friends were reading Lloyd Alexander, I was reading Interstellar Pig. As they moved onto Tolkien and Raymond Feist and Katherine Kurtz, I moved onto David Brin and Robert Heinlein and Frank Herbert.
To me, Fantasy was wizards with long beards, royals who went on quests where their soldiers and magical armor protected them, and elves and dwarves who spent the first half of the conversation telling you their lineages, and embarassingly rediculous cover art. really nothing else. I had no understanding that “high fantasy” was only the tip of the iceberg of the genre. My limited experiences with high fantasy let me know quickly that I didn’t care for it.
And then I started reading manga, a form famous for mixing genres. Cyborg mechas using laser guns against a castle and fighting flesh and blood dragons that guarded hoards of treasure? no problem. Kids who get wisked away from their regular life to fight demons and spirits and collect magical shards? piece of cake. Vampires, martians, aliens, dragons, time travel, often in the same series. And it worked, like magic.
Wait, wasn’t this, um, fantasy? It sure was fantastical, and it sure wasn’t hard scifi.
With blame falling squarely on Neil Gaiman, Charles deLint, my husband, my friends, manga, and the internet, it was all down hill from there.
I still can’t get into high fantasy, but there is this magnificent, wonderful, most delicious thing called Epic Fantasy, and suddenly my SF books are collecting more dust than usual on my bookshelves.
Maybe five years ago my husband put a copy of Steven Brust’s The Book of Jhereg into my hands and said “you probably won’t like this, but give it a try”. I devoured t, and have since bought every Brust book I can find.
Similar experience with Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor series, which was followed by Michael Moorcock, Robin Hobb, my induction into the cult following of A Song of Ice and Fire, and then The Name of the Wind, which was a major game changer for me. Joe Abercrombie followed shortly after, and my library request list was never the same.
If I could go back in time visit my twenty year old self, I imagine the conversation would go something like this (I’m visualizing this as a mash up between Grandpa from The Princess Bride and Allie Brosh)
* * * *
20 yr old me: I love science fiction! I’m reading the entire Asimov Foundation series and all the Robot stories! I attend an engineering college!
current me: That’s nice, good for you. You should try some Robin Hobb.
20 yr old me: bah! that crap is all magic and quests and stupid stuff. I want science! I wanna be an engineer and a mythbuster and an astronaut when i grow up! even though I suck at calculus!
current me: you should try some George R R Martin. there’s blood and violence and hot sex and people die, and it’s epically awesome! I bet your engineering buddies are already reading it.
20 yr old me: bah! that sounds dumb! only science fiction is cool. only going to outer space is cool. I read some Dragonlance stuff and I didn’t like it. Thus, all fantasy sucks.
current me: Wow twenty year old me, you are a stubborn pain in the ass! Fantasy and science fiction are not mutually exclusive, you idiot. You don’t have to give up any of your SF to enjoy F. Let me introduce you to this kid named Fitz and this other guy named Kvothe. I’m pretty sure they had trouble with calclus too. Oh, and this dude named Vlad Taltos. He’ll teach you how to throw knives. And he kills people for a living. and his wife is super cool.
20 yr old me: . . . . fantasy sucks. you suck. I’m not stubborn. I read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman and a Sheri S Tepper book, they were cool.
current me: and this fellow named Locke Lamora? he’s super hot and the woman who broke his heart is a redhead. . . .
20 yr old me: oh?
current me: and you suck at pouting.
* * * *
it only took ten (and a little) years, but my epic quest to turn my 20 year old self into a fantasy fan was a success!