I had trouble sleeping the other night; my mind was reeling with Story. I’d gone to a matinee to see the new Star Wars movie one more time before it left theaters, watched a Game of Thrones episode with my husband, read my current book Angels of Destruction by Keith Donohue, and mused upon my own grand fantasy story I’m thinking about returning to and finishing once and for all. Images of space battles, swordfights, angelic visitations, and magical visions flashed through my head, jumbled together in one big fantasy soup.
It got me to wondering what it is I so love about this genre, and why I choose to write in it. I love reading realistic fiction just as much, the classics as well as contemporary, but feel totally incapable of writing realistic fiction. Whenever I try to write a “normal” story, I experience an uncontrollable urge to throw a dragon into it, or maybe endow a character with telekinetic powers. I just can’t resist the pull of the paranormal.
I blame my early influences in adolescence and my twenties. Childhood, of course, is full of magic, but I never really grew out of it. It began with Star Wars at ten years old, as I sat rapt watching The Empire Strikes Back. That was it for me; I thought of nothing else for several years. Eventually I looked for something similar, but my mistake was equating Star Wars with science fiction (it was in space, after all). I picked up a few Isaac Asimov books, but all I found were dry, philosophical narratives on robots and rules. Zzzzz…No offense to Asimov, who was brilliant in his own right, I guess, but it just wasn’t my thing. Where was the adventure? The romance? The captivating characters? For me, decidedly not here.
Once I realized Star Wars was fantasy (or “space opera”), I found my tribe. I discovered serial high fantasy with Robert Jordan, vampires and witches with Anne Rice, historical fantasy with Guy Gavriel Kay, and Arthurian fantasy with Marion Zimmer Bradley and others. I got lost in these worlds, and was eager to discover more.
In my thirties I discovered Tolkien through the Lord of the Rings movies, George R.R. Martin, and many other fantastic writers in the genre, including Ursula LeGuin, Storm Constantine, Jacqueline Carey, Delia Sherman and Ellen Kushner. The success of the LOTR films made fantasy “cool” and more mainstream, and there’s been an explosion of quality fantasy/paranormal/speculative fiction ever since, as well as a blending of genres (“literary fantasy” like Station Eleven by Hilary St. John Mandel). I feel like we’re in a Golden Age of fantasy for film and books.
These days I try to read widely in many styles and genres (Jane Austen is next to Justin Cronin, obscure authors next to bestselling names), but fantasy is still my true love. Guy Gavriel Kay is, after 30 years, still the most talented fantasy writer out there, in my opinion, and I’m looking forward to his Children of Earth and Sky in May. Note to self: do a blog post about Guy Gavriel Kay! I can’t sing his praises enough.
So that’s my paean to the fantasy genre and all the worlds that I fell in love with. They all inspired me to create my own worlds, and set me on this writing (and reading) journey.