the last visible dog (intertext) wrote,
the last visible dog

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Childhood Reading

a_d_medievalist was writing about how she's just always been an sf/f fan without even thinking about it, partly through her early television viewing habits. Like many others, she cites Andre Norton as her first conscious "sf" reading. (I think mine might have been Eleanor Cameron's Mushroom Planet books, if they count).

Anyway, that got me to thinking, about how one's reading tastes are shaped, and all that "give me a [girl] before the age of seven" stuff, and what was I reading at seven and at fourteen, and have I always been an sf/fantasy reader even if I didn't know it?

Well, yes.

I was reading fantasy before it was a "genre," and before YA was even invented as a marketing tool.

At seven, my mum was reading me The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe out loud, and I wept when Aslan died. My other favourite books were the Arthur Ransome series. That trend continued. I seem to have had parallel affections for "magic" and "realism" - perhaps the mindset that seems to have so many readers of sf also reading Patrick O'Brien or Dorothy Dunnett. Through my elementary years, my favourite books were the Narnias, the Moomins, and the Carbonels. My absolute favourite book, if I had been asked at nine years old, was Alan Garner's The Wierdstone of Brisingamen. I also loved Arthur Ransome and the Little House books, and Noel Streatfield, so there you go.

At twelve, I discovered Tolkien, and I was lost. I also read Ursula Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea around that time (the next two in the trilogy came out when I was in my early teens; Tehanu not till I was in my 30's). I had been reading Lloyd Alexander as well, and Joan Aiken, so by this time my tastes were getting pretty much locked into the fantasy area. Also Over Sea Under Stone by Susan Cooper came out around that time. Boy. Someone was saying something about this being a "golden age" for YA or children's fantasy - what were the 60's and 70's, for heaven's sake???

I remember my first real experience of science fiction rather than fantasy (other than the Mushroom Planet books, that is): Ray Bradbury's S is For Space, that my mum got me one weekend from the library. I was completely captivated, and hooked, though I've never been as much of a "hard" science fiction reader as I am a fantasy reader.

I can't remember exactly when I first read Patrica McKillip, but The Forgotten Beasts of Eld appeared in paperback somewhere in my late teens, early twenties, and I was reading the Riddle Master trilogy when I was at university. I remember because the man I was in love with then, the great love of my life, gave me the last book in the trilogy when it came out, and he had read it first, and he teased me by pretending to tell me how it was all going to turn out... Oh, memories.

Old Prufrock may measure his life in coffee spoons; I measure mine in books.
Tags: books, fantasy, memories, sf, taste

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