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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.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2007 10:29 pm (UTC)
I have to say, except for the Foundation books, which I tried to read at 12, and couldn't get through, I've always liked both, I think. I read the first two Dune books at my dad's when I was 14 or 15, and Stranger in a Strange Land and Cat's Cradle at about the same time. And when I discovered David Brin and William Gibson, I was happy as a clam. And despite the Pern books' allure, I always liked McCaffrey's other books, especially the ones co-written by Elizabeth Moon, much more. I read the first three of Julian May's books when I started college, and loved the way they blended sf with faery, but kind of lost track after that.
Jun. 6th, 2007 04:34 am (UTC)
I don't read either sci-fi or fantasy! Still friends? Someone gave me a few McKillp books as a gift, though, so I'll try some.

We were always at the library and the second-hand bookstore. I liked Rumer Godden and Frances Hodgson-Burnett and any story about kids left to their own devices, from Nesbit to Hinton. I loved poetry, and one of my favorite books was actually Archy and Mehitabel. I loved detective stories too, especially Agatha Christie. When I was quite young, 11 or 12, my mom started to buy me all sorts of classics, and though I didn't understand them all, I read them avidly. Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, and so on. I believe I told you about my mom being called to school because I was reading Jane Austen. I have never trusted the public school system since!
Jun. 6th, 2007 04:50 am (UTC)
Of course we're still friends!! As long as you don't mind that I do (read sf and fantasy)?? I don't think it matters what you read; it's THAT you read, and that you value reading that counts. And YOU love poetry. That's worth gold.

I don't think any of my great friends shares my taste in reading... noone ever does, really, except perhaps LJ friends :)

I love Archie and Mehitabel. I used to read bits of that out loud to my mum and giggle over it.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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