Looking back at my childhood, it’s no surprise I ended up a fan (and writer) of speculative fiction in all its many forms.
My parents were both avid readers and huge SF enthusiasts. As soon I was reading novels, they passed on their collection of favorites to me, and so I grew up on the great books of the decades before I was born: The Hobbit and The Martian Chronicles, Dune and A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Left Hand of Darkness. My dad wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out on any movies, either. I have fond memories of watching Slaughterhouse-Five and Logan’s Run with him (on laserdisc, of course. He tended to champion the new and innovative technology that was destined to fail. We also had a Beta VCR). Our “family” television shows included Star Trek: TNG, The X Files and the new Twilight Zone.
So when I ventured into the bookstores and libraries on my own, I gravitated toward anything weird or fantastical or out of this world. The children and teens shelves introduced me to Roald Dahl, Madeleine L’Engle, Diana Wynne Jones, and too many others to name. Then one day, when I was eleven, I came across a book called Dragonsdawn in the young adult section. After finishing it, and realizing it had been mis-shelved, I ventured into the adult Fantasy and Science Fiction section for the first time. You could say that Anne McCaffrey was my gateway drug. After inhaling all the Pern books I could get my hands on, I moved on to Stephen King, Douglas Adams, and Terry Brooks.
At the same time, I started trying to write my own novels. The first one I finished, in my first year of high school, was a mishmash of high fantasy cliches and bits borrowed from books, movies, and video games. The two main characters were named Rydia (Final Fantasy IV) and Sorsha (Willow) and certain plot points owed rather more than they should have to the Death Gate Cycle books. Even I could see there was a problem, or several. But I’d finished it! I celebrated that fact while burying it in the back of my hard drive where I hoped no one, including me, would ever have to look at it again.
And then I wrote another.
At the same time, a whole new world was opening up on the internet. Over the course of high school and university, my online explorations led me to new (to me) authors like Connie Willis, Haruka Murakami, and Lois McMaster Bujold. They also led me to fellow authors. I shared stories through the SF&F Online Writing Workshop, learning from critiquing and being critiqued, compared experiences with fellow aspiring writers, and read the wisdom of those no longer aspiring.
Now, fifteen years after I started that first novel, there’s a hardcover book sitting on the bookcase beside me with my name on the front, because Henry Holt published my paranormal YA Give Up the Ghost last month. (Why young adult? Mary E. Pearson expresses the awesomeness that is YA more eloquently than I could over here.) I’m still drawn to the weird, the fantastical, and the out of this world. And I’m hoping I’ve picked up at least a little wisdom of my own. I’ll be sharing my thoughts on those subjects, YA lit, and writing, as well as dipping into my background in psychology, here at Tor.com over the next few weeks.
While I’m getting settled in, I’d be curious to hear: what’s one book from your childhood or adolescence that helped turn you into an SF fan?