Growing into fantasy

I will assume that most of you who frequent this site have been readers for quite sometime. More than likely for most of your life. I began reading a little later than most. I learned to read in the 1st grade, but never really fully grasped “books” till the 3rd grade. I was lucky in that I was diagnosed dyslexic fairly early and had a string of amazing teachers who went the extra mile for me. I’m glad they did, because in the 3rd grade something happened. I read my first real “book”. I had finished Stuart Little on my own time with no lessons or guidance from teachers. It was an amazing experience for me and changed my life forever. I demolished E.B. White in just a short while. Then on to Judy Blume and those Choose Your Own Adventure books.

I quickly outgrew my own demographic and by the 4th and 5th grade I was consuming more and more mature stuff. I was still reading Choose Your Own Adventures (What can I say? They were awesome). I had an older brother who I was quite sure was the king of all things awesome. He was way into fantasy. He loved Conan, Gor and, of course, Lord of the Rings. After I finished his Conan Magazine collection, he told me I should read The Hobbit. I finished The Hobbit in the 4th grade, and my reading life once again took a major turn.

Seeking more like The Hobbit, I finished the rest of LOTR and attempted The Silmarillion and it was there that I had finally met my match. A little humbled by my attempt on The Silmarillion, I decided to go back to reading things in my own age group while I slowly devoured my local library’s Fantasy catalog. I dabbled in SciFi and Horror a bit, too. I read some Non-Fiction and Mystery, but Fantasy was home and has remained that way ever since.

That’s the story of how I grew into Fantasy. I would like to know how you discovered Fantasy. Was it a family influence? Was it by accident? Maybe, like me, a little bit of both? With my brother being a Fantasy fan and my voracious reading habits, I was destined to cross paths with Fantasy at some point, but maybe your path wasn’t quite so direct as mine. I’d like to hear about it. My favorite will get a copy of Devon Monk‘s newest Steampunk novel Dead Iron, the start of a new series. Compliments of Roc Books. (US only.)

From Roc Books:fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

“Dead Iron is Devon Monk’s foray into the mesmerizing, up-and-coming steampunk genre. Known for her popular Allie Beckstrom series that takes place in an alternate Portland where magic, ghosts, and other supernatural beings rule, Devon is a master of weaving romance and adventure into one exciting story!”

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JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.

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  1. Justin /

    My road through the mystical pages of fantasy literature began with the delightful forest creatures and mouthwatering food of Redwall Abby. Brian Jacques’ sandstone refuge sheltered me away from the bullies and stresses every fifth grader must endure. The next year, however, my path to fantasy enlightenment grew steep and treacherous. A friend introduced me to The Wheel of Time series, and I spent the whole summer reading the books.

    For an eleven year old, and perhaps adults too, Robert Jordan’s writing taxes the patience and endurance. By the time time I finished book eight, which was the extent of the series at that time, I was utterly exhausted, and I had the misconception that all women are b*tchy and manipulative. If you’ve read the series, you know what I mean.

    Then I learned about a book called the Hobbit. It was all about little people living in a “far green country under a swift sunrise.” That sounded like a welcome break from the rigors battling Forsaken with Rand Al’thor, and, indeed, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

    From then on, I took a more gradual approach in the scope and breadth of the fantasy I chose. Terry Brooks, David Eddings, and R.A. Salvatore followed, and I grew into the genre as I grew into adulthood.

    Now I am older and rarely read the authors of my youth, seeking more mature themes and characters. But, I still remember fondly the days at Redwall Abby. Rest in peace, Brian Jacques. You really made a difference for this little mouse.

  2. I started reading at 3 – mostly Charles Schultz’s Peanuts. My mother and I were living with my grandparents, and my grandfather spent a lot of time with me, encouraging me to read. From there I moved to Grimm’s Fairy Tales and a collection of Canadian fairy tales. By age 7 I had read Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia. And by 10 I had read Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of Nihm, The Book of the Dun Cow, A Wizard of Earthsea, and A Wrinkle in Time. Many kudos to my mom and grandparents for letting me read that stuff.

    However, the biggest game changer for me, when I was 10, was not a book, but rather a movie – the release of the first Star Wars movie. It sparked the dreamer in me. After I watched the movie, I went home and started writing my own stories. Up to that point, I had been reading YA novels, but my uncle had me tackle his copies of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

    The next big influence was my high school library. The books I had read to this point were usually given to me by someone. My high school library was the first time I had access to a huge selection of books, sorted by genre. On those sci-fi/fantasy shelves I found Elric and Amber novels, and I became immersed in the genre. Playing D&D, listening to Pink Floyd and Led Zepplin (the Ringwraiths are out in black!), and playing video games like Ultima complemented the books I was reading.

    Once I got a car,I hit local used bookstores and came home with piles of paperbacks.

    So let’s see, my catalysts for growing into fantasy were: my grandfather, Star Wars, and my high school library…

  3. Melanie Goldmund /

    I managed to get my parents to take me to the library once a week, and I read everything that looked interesting. One of the first fantasy books I remember reading was a slim green book called something like Day of the Dinosaurs, where kids are transported from a museum setting back in time to when the dinosaurs actually lived. (Is time travel fantasy or science fiction? Or both?) Another book I remember reading at a young age was the much fatter volume Below the Root, by Zylpha Keatly Sneider, which I discovered all on my own. A friend of mine at school in fifth or sixth grade was reading The Two Towers, so I read that, too. Basically, it was my voracious appetite for reading anything and everything, with fantasy books being caught up whenever I cast my net in the library, and a little help from my oldest brother as to where to aim that net, that set me on the road to being a lover of fantasy (and science fiction.)

  4. Erin /

    I don’t remember at what age I started reading, but I read everything I could get my hands on. My parents were avid readers and highly encouraged reading, but it was my dad who got me into fantasy. He used to buy me these really big fantasy books that were way above my level, but I took it as a challenge and would work my way through them. I don’t recall what my first fantasy books were that I read, but the ones that always stuck with me were The Hobbit, The Wheel of Time series, and the Pern and the Tower and Hive series’ by McCaffrey. I remember reading through every fantasy book my local library had. I still have some of the books my dad bought me back then, that I was too young to understand at the time.

  5. Now I am older and rarely read the authors of my youth, seeking more mature themes and characters. But, I still remember fondly the days at Redwall Abby. Rest in peace, Brian Jacques. You really made a difference for this little mouse.

    Aww, you’ve made me sniffle. :)

  6. SandyG265 /

    When I was growing up my local library didn’t really have much fantasy and no one in my family read fantasy books. Fortunately we had a local used book store that had a large fantasy/sci-fi section. I remember when I was in grade school I used to lie in the backyard in the summer reading Tom Swift books. After that I moved into Robert Heinlein, Issac Asimov, and then Andre Norton’s Witch World series. Eventually I discovered The Hobbit. I’ve been reading fantasy ever since.

  7. I started reading Susan Cooper in 3rd grade, and then moved onto Narnia and Prydain in 4th and 5th grades. I got the Hobbit in 6th grade, because I finally got a teacher who didn’t discourage me reading that sort of stuff. I then read Lord of the Rings, all of the Brian Jacques books that were out at the time.. when I was in 9th grade I discovered Conan and finally tackled the Silmarillion. Then I started on the History of Middle Earth series, read the First Game of thrones book, Started the first attempt at working on the Wheel of Time.

    Those are the highlights. I’ve probably read close to a thousand Fantasy novels of various types over the last 15 years.

  8. Franzsika /

    I’m from Germany and like every German kid I grew up with fairy tales. I can’t really admit it to my fellow countrymen and women, but my favorite has always been “The Little Mermaid” (which, of course, is not by the Grimms but by Andersen. Shame on me :D)
    I inherited a tape recorder and some tapes with fairy tale radio dramas on them from my older brother that I loved to listen to. My grandma gave me a picture book for my second birthday in which she had drawn pictures from my favorite tales. So, I’d sit on the floor, listening to the tapes and looking at the pictures. Basically, I was already into reading fantasy before I could actually read :D
    I’m really damaged in that regard, too… because all these bloody deaths, evil witches and not-so-happy endings gave me a taste for the darker side of fantasy, that I’ve never gotten rid of :D.
    When I did learn to read, I read Charles Kingsley, George MacDonald, Lewis Carroll, L. Frank Baum… you get the picture.
    As I got older, I went on reading a lot of German writers, Wilhelm Hauff, Christoph Martin Wieland, later Goethe, Storm and Hesse.
    I moved to Mexico when I was in high school and was introduced to magical realism. And in between I’ve read everything that Fantasy had to offer, from Homer to Twilight (yeah, I know… it’s the trashiest book I could think of right now :D) Long story short: I’ve been reading Fantasy since I was a baby :)
    It’s a genre that I’ve always felt at home in. It actually took me a while to branch out and give other genres a try. That didn’t start until 7th grade or so, when I started reading some of Goethe’s work that didn’t include the devil :)

  9. You guys are awesome. Great stories, all of them.

  10. Amber /

    I did everything in my power to avoid learning how to read. Somehow I had acquired a belief that, should I know how to read, my father and big sister would no longer read stories to me. I was a big fan of stories, and so clearly my only option was to never learn to read on my own. First grade quickly stripped that option away from me, however, and I begrudgingly did the bare minimum that was required to pass my classes. Noticing my complete lack of interest in reading (it was very odd for my family – my parents both love reading and my sister was reading at a 2nd grade level by 4), my dad tried just about everything he could to get me to want to read. The thing that finally worked? He read 3 pages of The Hobbit to me every night when I was in second grade. Even if it was in the middle of a sentence, at a crucial point in the plot, or how much I begged – he would not read another word. He knew me well enough to know that my impatience to know what would happen next would quickly top my stubbornness regarding reading. I finished it on my own a few months later, and I’ve been hooked on fantasy every since!

  11. I always loved reading, even as a child. when i was in the 4th grade I read a book called brother night by Australian fantasy author Victor Keleher. It was the first time a book really rocked me and I thought wow!
    I remember going to the bookshop and picking out a fantasy book mainly because the cover looked good. I couldnt read it. I was about 9 years old by this stage and the language used was for the moment just so far ahead of what I could comprehend that I had to put it down.
    Fast forward a few years and i ws 13 in the 8th grade with some spare time on my hand. I found this book had gathered some dust so i thought i would give it another try. This book was Legend by David Gemmell and was the second time a book rocked my world. within the year a had read everything he had ever written and I have been a fantasy tragic ever since. After Gemmell I read Sara Douglass’ Axis trilogy which I believe is criminally underated and then I moved on to Robin Hobb. These three authors are the first three that made me shake my head in wonder and awesomeness!

  12. “By the way, dearie, there is such a thing as a tesseract.”

    It must have been the fourth grade when a teacher read to us from A Wrinkle in Time. I can see the teacher in my mental vision, and hear her voice. I was captivated. I don’t remember what I was reading in the fourth grade except that it probably had horses in it. This book changed that.

    A Wrinkle in Time captured my attention like a beam of light in a twilight landscape.

    I remember our school library. We lived in a town where, the joke went, both sides of the tracks were the wrong side, and I went to a very poor public school. Of course I didn’t know that then. The library was a separate one-room building on the other side of the playground. I loved getting to go there. You had to up three steps that weren’t exactly connected to the building, and cross a small gap to get in. An old building with structural problems, or a magical threshold? You decide.

    I could not tell you what the library looked like, but years later when I read about Baba Yaga’s cottage with the chicken legs, an image of my school library popped into my head.

    By the fifth grade I had discovered Andre Norton, first there in that cramped one room with the window that showcased the school buses and the uneven floor, and later at the town library where my mom would take me every week. The first Norton book I clearly remember is The Time Traders with two heroes named, if I remember right, Ross Murdock and Gordon Ash. They were time-traveling archeologists (maybe?) who discover that aliens have come to earth and traveled back in time to do things that will change the evolution of humanity. Or maybe just to open a WalMart, I don’t remember exactly, but I know it was exciting and different.

    Time Traders, or whatever it was really named, led me to other Norton books and eventually to the Witch World series. By then I was hooked on books that had magic and strangeness. I was a latecomer to Tolkien, reading The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in my first year of high school. I get no credit for this; Lord of the Rings was very in and the strange outcast group I hung out with was reading it. Later we all read Dune and sneered at people who wasted water. (One day one of my high school friends looked out the window, shuddered, and said, “Waste of water!” It was raining.) This led me to Ursula LeGuin, Patricia McKillip and Marion Zimmer Bradley; Lord Dunsany, Theodore Sturgeon and ultimately people like John Crowley. So a decade later, when I had to read A Hundred Years of Solitude for a class, I couldn’t understand why other people were struggling with it. “Did this really happen, or did they imagine it? Is it a folk tale?” It’s just magic, people. What’s the problem?

  13. The winner for this contest was B.T.

    Congratulations B.T. Be sure to hit us up via the contact form and we’ll get your prize sent to you ASAP.

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