Sunday, January 10, 2010

I like Dragons and the people who write about them.

I enjoy reading. Reading has had a monumental influence on my life since I was five years old. I enjoy reading a lot of different kinds of books from many eras and from many genres. I enjoy classical literature by Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas. I enjoy early 20th Century authors like Steinbeck, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. I enjoy some deep thinking literature by the likes of C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton. I enjoy some modern writers like Ken Follet and Kurt Vonnegut.

I also enjoy Fantasy Literature.

(insert pause for derisiveness)

For reasons unknown to me, Fantasy literature and Science Fiction literature are considered as some sort of sub-genre that is substandard to other literature. I have encountered this prejudice on numerous occasions. I'd like to say I'm above it, but when I get to the check out register at Half Price Books, I sometimes feel the need to pretend that the Fantasy novel I am purchasing is a present for someone else. I will at least make sure it's on the bottom of the stack, underneath the Wharton and Salinger. I am not sure why, but if a book involves anything happening outside the realm of normal experience, it is somehow considered to be a lesser work of lesser value. (This snub carries over into the film world as well, where Fantasy and Sci-Fi movies are regular passed over for the ''serious'' awards and seem to only be eligible for Best Makeup, or Best Effects.)

Today I'm taking a stand! No longer will I feel the need to justify myself for liking Dragons and Wizards in the same way I enjoy The Sun also Rises. I can like Tolstoy AND Tolkien.

There are some amazing writers in the Fantasy world and they shouldn't be disregarded. There are also a lot of Hacks who can't write. Every genre has the greats and those we don't know how they found a publisher. Here is a short guide to the Fantasy World. I encourage you to broaden your horizons and dive in.

1. J. K. Rowling - The Harry Potter Series
Some have chosen to disregard this series simply because of its popularity. It isn't cool to like something that is so universally loved. That's lame. Quit being lame. If you dislike something simply because other people like it, then you are as simple minded as those people who like something simply because other people like it. This series is amazingly written and is much darker and deeper than you might guess. I enjoyed every minute of every book and have read the series multiple times. Great Characters. Great writing. Great books.

2. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman
These two authors have teamed up on numerous occasions, but I am going to give you my two favorite series they wrote together. They write beautifully and create deep and moving characters.
The Death Gate Cycle - This is a seven book series which starts with the book "Dragon Wing." I started reading this series when I was in Junior High School and spent the next six years in agony, waiting for each subsequent book to come out. The truths of the book come across a little Taoistic in nature, but that didn't stop me from enjoying every page of each book.
The Dragonlance series - The Dragonlance world can be a confusing world to navigate because after it was created by Weis and Hickman, many other authors wrote books in their world and used many of their characters. Some of those writers could write very well. Some of them were ogres which somebody taught to type. The original book was titled "Dragons of Autumn Twilight" and if you start there you won't go wrong. I am going to be honest with you. I cried several times reading this series. I'm not much of a crier. Not that this series is sad. It's just that you can grow quite attached to the characters.

3. Orson Scott Card - The Homecoming Series
Mr. Card is most well known for his book "Enders Game" but I enjoyed this series much more. Book one is titled "The Memory of Earth." Deeper messages abound and the characters are quite compelling.

4. J. R. R. Tolkien - The Lord of the Rings
See Above. Don't disregard something just because it was made into a beautiful movie. This is a great story and worth your time. This series was originally intended to be one book, but since the publishers did not see it that way, you will need to start with "The Fellowship of the Ring." If you want to do it even better, you should first read "The Hobbit." This children's story is not part of the series, but does tell you what happened earlier and introduces you to the characters you will meet in the much more adult Trilogy to follow.

5. C. S. Lewis - The Space Trilogy
I am sure you were expecting the Chronicles of Narnia. I also love that series also, but I REALLY love Mr. Lewis' Space Trilogy. Book one is titled, "Out of the Silent Planet" and begins the story of Ransom and his adventures through space. The second book of the series will teach you a great deal about the concept of Original Sin and the choices we make. The third book is an apocalyptic novel and gives the reader the opportunity to consider the end of the world from a rather unique perspective.

So there are five opportunities (though actually more than 40 books) to enter the world of Fantasy Literature and not be immediately turned aside by the aforementioned ogres of the writing world. I think the broadening of horizons can be a good thing. See if yours can stretch a little.

Many Blessings.

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