Today’s “Speak Out With Your Geek Out” post covers the fairly broad topic of written Science Fiction and Fantasy.
Yes, I’m a fan of that kind of thing. I even go to conventions.
I can’t pinpoint when I first really got into SF. It’s kind of been there my whole life. I don’t have many memories of my really early years, but one that I do have is playing on a really cool slide for a long time. It was just me and my mum there, and my dad and my brother were elsewhere. It turned out that elsewhere was in a cinema watching Star Wars: A New Hope. I think we were on Jersey at the time, but I wouldn’t like to bank on it
Despite not having seen the film, I recall that moment quite well – as well as attempting to draw pictures from a film I’d never seen. I’m not sure when I actually got to see it, but it was probably quite a lot later. But I think from then on, if not from earlier still, I was hooked.
As a kid, if it was space related, I was probably interested. If it was science fiction or fantasy related and on TV, I’d want to watch it – cartoons, kids tv drama, films… you name it. I was the same with books, too. I gradually ploughed through my dad’s collection of classic SF (by which I mean things like Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Larry Niven – that kind of thing), and through some of my brothers. I also started gradually acquiring my own, aided greatly by semi-regular visits to Hay-on-wye to stock up on second hand books. Libraries helped too, as did the Invicta second-hand bookshop in Newbury. There was never a shortage of old SF in there.
Along the way I strayed over into Fantasy, too. I dabbled with Horror occasionally, but only found myself appreciating it when it was paired with science fiction or fantasy. My tastes in genre have stayed largely that way every since… although I’ve largely drifted away from Military SF and towards more big idea, tight story SF.
Similarly my tastes in Fantasy have changed over the years, too. I used to read the odd bit of it here and there, but it was David Gemmel that made me sit up and take note. It was the first fantasy that I read which was gritty without being bleak or dull, and which did a good job of keeping pace without getting to repetitive. I still read a lot of other fantasy, but it was the odd bit here or there – when there was anew David Gemmel or a new David Eddings.
So now I was reading mostly SF, with the odd bit of Fantasy… and I thought that was how stuff would stay. But one of the “odd bits of fantasy” that I read was a little book (hah!) called “The Dragonbone Chair”, by Tad Williams. That was a gamechanger for me. It’s still right up there in my “favourite books” list, although I’ve not read it for many years. Last time I tried it was still too familiar after too many reads. When I say “too many reads”, I mean that I’m on my third copy of the book after the first two fell apart through a combination of ill treatment (reading in the rain, anybody?) and just plain overuse!
For a while after that, epic fantasy started to come out of the woodwork. Robin Hobb appeared on the scene with the Farseer Trilogy and the Liveship Traders – which I also devoured with a passion. Authors like K J Parker soon joined the mix with “Colours in the Steel”, starting a steady stream of protagonists who turn out to have moments that could be seen as… less than heroic.
Then came George R R Martin. Of course, these days he’s big news because of the TV adaptation, but reading the first book of “A Song of Ice and Fire” was like a gale of fresh air… blowing the airborne corpse of a previous victim straight into your face. Suffice to say that certain developments at the end of “A Game of Thrones” were somewhat unexpected – as viewers of the TV adaptation discovered in Episode 9.
But I digress. I should actually be summing up by now. So, to conclude:
I like losing myself in a good book, and the really good ones will be shoved into the hands of all and sundry. When it comes to written SF, I seem to be quite effective as a memetic infection vector. If I like a book, I’ll identify others who I think will like it too, and won’t shut up until they’ve read it too.
In recent months, for various reasons, I lost the ability to read books for a while. I won’t go into the details, but reading is such a big part of my life that it was pretty horrific to lose the ability. I could read the words, but I couldn’t make them stick. I had many other symptoms, some of them quite unpleasant, but not being able to read and enjoy a book was the killer. I went about five months without reading a single book, and a couple of months before and after where I was scraping through maybe a small book a month.
I’m still a long way from being back to my old reading pace, but I’m getting there. It took me about four weeks to read George R R Martin’s “A Clash of Kings”. About a week later I’m about three quarters of the way through “A Storm of Swords”, and I’ve read a couple of graphic novels in between.
I reckon in a few weeks I’ll have caught up with A Song of Ice and Fire and will be back to my old reading pace. When I’ve managed that, I have a backlog of books to read, and an SF reading group to rejoin.
I’m rather looking forward to it.