I was quite a naughty kid. Nothing evil but I was a handful. On my parents’ first parents evening my teacher told them despite this, I was a huge help in the reading corner. I’d put the books back on the shelves in the right places the other children had left on the floor. I’d try to straighten the books back out that had been bent. I’d tidy up the beanbags and cushions and put them back in the reading corner. I’d tell the other kids off if they mistreated the books. I was 4 years old and this passion for keeping books as sacred continues to this day (rather shamefully, a memorable argument my fiancée and I have had is when she dipped my book in the swimming pool on holiday – we laugh about it now).
This passion had started at the beginning of and all the way through (and beyond) childhood, taking in the stories of Roald Dahl followed by Harry Potter, The Hobbit and The Edge Chronicles. I never did read His Dark Materials, and still haven’t. I now own a beautiful hardcover gift edition that I will read over the next year at some point.
As a kid I read Encyclopedias in bed; I’d have rather gone to bed without food than be stopped from reading. As such I’m a fountain of useless knowledge! I feel like Fantasy and Science Fiction have always been an interest, which is why I reject the opinion that Fantasy readers are missing something or cannot accept the real world and look to fantasy as an escape. Perhaps some do. I think what we all have in common is the love of a good story and expanding our imagination. That’s what fantasy and science fiction really is. Escaping the bonds, restrictions and limits of life and exploring endless possibilities, going wherever we want to go. I see our outlook as what has made the human race so successful; making the impossible possible, stretching the boundaries of reality and reason. We are dreamers.
In a time of political tension and a struggle for those marginalised or less able bodied, less privileged or less confident than others, we can’t underestimate Fantasy and Science Fiction as an aid. You may roll your eyes or laugh at such a statement; surely people can’t rely on a genre of fiction? Imagine you have a physical health condition that means you can’t travel far away, or are struggling with mental health or confidence to the extent that you can’t leave the house. Most people need an escape and to explore. In the words of George R. R. Martin, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads lives only one.” Fantasy and Science Fiction provides this for so many. It provides a community and an escape for so many and as such I’m proud to be a very small contributor to such a community.
It’s for this reason amongst others that I’m so glad to have found my way back over the last year or two. Having been to University and by necessity having to rush books, to quote them academically and return them quickly in order to take out other supporting evidence really took my enjoyment of reading and cast it into a fiery chasm. I associated reading with stress, anxiety and pressure, the negative feelings that books should help to alleviate.
This had the added negative factor of stopping my seeing books as an almost magical item, needing protection and care, to a pile of dead trees with highlighter marks, library stickers, years old coffee stains and more, tarnishing my world of books.
I’m now reading around a book per week with less time on my hands than before and the feeling is fantastic. It genuinely contributes towards my feeling of happiness and wellbeing. There are few feelings like holding a solid new book, ready for a new adventure.
I just wanted to share a few thoughts. I’d love to hear your own relationship with books, your journey and opinions on fantasy or books in general! Thanks for reading.