Saturday, December 04, 2010

December is Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month

Over at his blog, The House of Sternberg, writer/editor Stewart Sternberg has suggested that we SF/Fantasy fans support a movement to make December Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month and he invites bloggers to post about the writers of the past and their importance to the development of the genres, in order to promote quality work and to perhaps point new readers towards writers and books they might not be aware of. I think this is a great idea. I don't want anyone thinking something like Twilight is as good as it gets.
My own interest in SF/Fantasy began pretty much from the time I could read, and really from a bit before that. I've talked before about how my mother collected Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and the Gold Key Tarzan comics. Pouring over those comics I was already enthralled by lost cities, dinosaurs, beast-men and such before I could read a word. In the school library, I gravitated toward works with fantastic elements almost immediately. There was a series about a boy scientist named Danny Dunn and those were my early favorites. Danny traveled in time and got accidentally miniaturized and had all kinds of SF adventures. From their I moved on to Madeleine L 'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and it's sequels. I remember being pleased that one of the protagonists was named Charles. Somewhere in there I discovered the Chronicles of Narnia. (I recall that I began with The Voyage of the Dawn Treader because I liked the cover.)
All of this reading led to good grades in school and a ravenous desire for more books and stories. My brother Doug becomes important at this point. Doug was two years my senior and three years ahead of me in school. He didn't like to read (He does now.) and he knew I would read anything I could get my hands on, so he often did did book reports by giving me books he had been assigned and then having me give him a verbal summary of the book. One of these books was Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. I can't tell you what an effect that book had on me. I think I read it three times in a row and then I sought out all the Ray Bradbury books I could find. Dandelion Wine. Something Wicked This Way Comes. The Illustrated Man. The October Country. The Halloween Tree. By the time I reached fifth grade, the state wide reading tests concluded that I could read on a college level. That's what a love of reading can do for you, kids.
I began to think of myself as a science fiction fan. I read Frank Herbert's Dune series, Issac Asimov's Robot and Empire books, and various books by Robert Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Keith Laumer, Arthur C. Clarke, L. Sprague de Camp, and many others. In the early 1970s I discovered Alan Dean Fosters Pip and Flynx in the novel The Tar-Aiym Krang. I loved the mighty minidrag Pip. Pip was a tiny, flying, extremely venomous snake-like creature. What kid wouldn't want such a pet? I read through all of Fosters 'Humanx Commonwealth' books as they came out. Great SF and great adventure.
At Christmas of 1973 a favorite aunt gave me a stack of new comics, one of which was an issue of Marvel's Conan the Barbarian. That was my introduction to sword and sorcery. I learned pretty quick that Conan was a character who had appeared in books and that those books were out of print, but that didn't stop me from tracking down other sword and sorcery writers including Lin Carter, John Jakes, Gardner Fox, Michael Moorcock, and best of all, Fritz Leiber. Leiber's 'Swords' series, (Swords Against Wizardry, Swords Against Death, etc.) collecting the adventures of Fafhrd and the gray Mouser should be required reading for anyone interested in the history of fantasy. I kid you not. Eventually I would get my hands on actual Conan books when ACE took over the property from the defunct Lancer books. I didn't know at the time that the Robert E. Howard stories had been 'edited' by l. Sprague de Camp, but that's another story.
A high school teacher had tried to interest me in The Lord of the Rings early on, but I initially found J.R.R. Tolkien slow going and didn't finish The Fellowship of the Rings. a couple of years later, after reading Steven R. Donaldson's Thomas Covenant trilogy, I decided to try LotR again, and this time enjoyed it thoroughly. Sometime after finishing The Lord of the Rings I became enamored of crime fiction and wandered away from SF/Fantasy. But I would be back.
Anyway, there's a Reader's Digest version of MY history with Science Fiction and Fantasy. I didn't get around to talking about John Carter of Mars, or Andre Norton, or C.L. Moore, or Larry Niven, or Lin Carter's Ballantine Adult Fantasy series or any number of other authors, but you can find posts about all of those somewhere on the blog. (with more coming) Science Fiction and Fantasy have been a big and wonderful part of my life and I'm always glad to recommend books in both genres. Now get out there and get to reading.

If you want to support Science Fiction and Fantasy History Month, step over to Stewart Sternberg's blog:

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