“My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”
–Richard Adams, Watership Down
It’s a funny world.
When you ask people who love our genre—who write it, who read it, whose art is inspired and enriched by it—what books helped to form them, you’ll hear the same titles over and over again, shuffled like a deck of cards. Tolkien. McCaffrey. Bradbury. Butler. Some writers might cite Lewis or Lovecraft or Shelley, while others go to King and Friesner and Tiptree. But one strange constant—strange in the sense that it’s not really a genre novel at all, it’s not set in a fantasy world or filled with rockets shooting for the distant stars; the only monsters are all too realistic—is a quiet book about the inner lives of rabbits. Watership Down has, somehow, become a touchstone of modern genre, inspiring writers to write, readers to keep reading, artists to create, all in an attempt to touch once more the feeling we got from a book that owed as much to the British Civil Service as it did to the myths inside us all.
Richard Adams, author of Watership Down and many others, was born in 1920, and passed away on Christmas Eve of 2016. I like to think he knew how much he, and his work, meant to the creators of the world. Most of us did not know the man, but we knew the books he gave us: we knew how they changed us. We knew that we belonged to his Owsla, because he told us so.
Now we will tell you why.