Dragon Battle Book Sculpture by wetcanvas.
First sentences are important. Introductions are important. Not gonna lie, I’ve been writing in my head for weeks trying to figure out the perfect start to this blog, and failing miserably, I finally just decided to jump in with a line from George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords, which I’ve been rereading recently:
Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time.
Most of the books on my shelves are Fantasy and Science Fiction—the remainder a hodge-podge of history, miscellany, and whatsit—but I can guarantee that the oldest of my old friends are Fantasy. The golden age of Science Fiction might be twelve, but I’m pretty sure that the perfect age for Fantasy is numberless. I signed on to this venture as a nominal blogger on the topic (Fantasy, not ages), but fair warning: I’m probably (definitely) going to zip around a lot, and I will undoubtedly go on about things at such a slant you’ll wonder at how I ever arrived (or started from) any given point. (I’ll also abuse parenthetical statements.) But this much is true: Fantasy is important to me, and if you’re reading, I bet it is to you too. (If not? …Awkward.)
Any fan of genre literature knows of what I speak. There’s always that one story above all others that draws you in, every time; there’s probably a book you reach for when you’re sick or miserable or just need to be somewhere else for a while. I know a ton of people who reread Lord of the Rings every year because going to Middle Earth is like going home. When I was thirteen, I reread the Pern books from start to finish (well, to All the Weyrs of Pern, anyway) multiple times because as far as I can tell, the only thing that can make adolescence bearable is thinking about the telepathic bond you had with your dragon.
And c’mon, we all had telepathic dragon bonds, up and admit it.
I’d like to have this space to revisit old friends, and hopefully make some new ones, too.
The next three columns are going to be a bastardized whiz-bang through the history of the genre. You’ve heard Shakespeare’s yarn on how the past is prologue, and hopefully we can at least agree that the best place to start is at the Beginning. I’m going to start at Beowulf—can the sighs, kids, it’s the best monster story ever, you know it is!—and I’ll close around, ah, yesterday. I made a rough outline of where the year can take us: touching on Sword & Sorcery, Lost Writers, Women in Genre, Non-Western Fantasy, Fantasists of Color, Urban Fantasy and Genre Mash-Ups, Fairy Tales… I’ll probably (likely) get distracted on the way. Should we talk about Science Fantasy? I think we kind of should! And anything and everything in between, forwards and backwards.
I hope you’ll write in with recommendations, and I hope you’ll want to talk about your old friends. I expect we’ll have a bunch in common, but maybe we can all meet some new friends in the new year, too.
Photo of architect Gianni Botsford in his home, with his self-designed library. My library is neither self-designed nor neat.