My love of Reading
There’s something about the word that drips from the tongue, fan-ta-sy. Three syllables became my sanctuary. I’m thankful for them daily.
It all started when a little girl — not me, thank you very much — walked through a wardrobe and stepped out into snow. Wow! Could you? Would you?
There was a simple answer for one young lad who wanted his own space, his own little world to live in: yes. Perhaps it was isolationism or just a desire to dream during the safety of day instead of risk the terrible nightmares he suffered every night? I still can’t answer that, but my future was set. Not only this, but I secretly promised myself that at some point, at some time, I would write something that released others in the same way that the incredible C. S. Lewis did for me.
Once one develops a taste for a certain genre of writing it can rapidly develop into an obsession. It did, too. Every penny of pocket money, odd jobs and birthday money went on comics and books. We weren’t well off and neither were my extended family, but one advantage of loving the written word is that generally, you don’t need to be. I bought, collected and read. It made me happy.
As I grew from single figures into double and onwards, my lust for reading never evaporated although it was kept secret from my friends and even family to a degree. Being sporty, which I was and still am, it would have been unwise or at best ill-advised to advertise a passion for books to the world if you know what I mean. And so my secret horde grew. Foremost amongst my collection was the author Michael Moorcock and for one good reason: Elric.
Elric was first written as an exact opposite to Robert E. Howard’s classic Conan the Barbarian. Where Conan was muscular, powerful and epitomised physical might, Elric did not. The albino prince of a dying race, Elric survived on drugs and sorcery. He prayed to Arioch, a less than redeemable God, and had a general dislike for everyone: just my kind of guy. When Elric (and I can’t remember how he actually came to own it) finds the sword Stormbringer — wow, what a name — the circle is complete. Elric’s sword sucked souls and passed that vitality to its owner. The white wolf was born and my love of antiheroes with it. I read many Elric novels — Moorcock was ever prolific — and was staggered that right at the end of them, my hero was killed by his own blade. So many twists. So many possibilities. So much scope to learn from in my desire to write. I read EVERYTHING that Moorcock wrote and still own upwards of fifty of his novels. One of my few regrets of youth was not getting to meet him at a book signing. I drove, then walked many miles to get his autograph only to find it cancelled when I got there. For someone as shy as me to have plucked up the courage to do so was devastating.
Fantasy can be interpreted in so many ways and so my reading diversified. I vacuumed up Gene Wolfe’s poetic prose, Ray Bradbury’s never ending imagination, everything and everyone from age old classics to the latest in modern writings. I enjoyed them all and still do when I can find the time to read. Fantasy provided an outlet, an escape, a place beyond the sneers and angry words of what to me did and still does seem a vicious world. At times, anyway.
The best Fantasy authors have the ability to not only drag you into their worlds but make you think they’re real, possible, plausible. I think this is why I did and will always prefer Fantasy to Science Fiction. No matter how good a Sci-Fi novel is at its core you know it’s not actually happened, where just perhaps a Lewis or Tolkien might have been to their worlds. Maybe that’s just me, but I like to think it.
In these days where computer games deliver sights and sounds to our every sense, where cinema slams ideas in through our eye-sockets, I feel very sorry for those kids who aren’t given the freedom to use their own imaginations as of old. There is and never will be anyplace like the deepest parts of our own minds. We have such scope, such magnificent horizons available to us that lie just waiting to be unlocked. I hope children in particular can return to these places over the next few years. Things often have a way of going in cycles. One can hope. As for me, I’m now writing what I was once reading, and it’s still the only thing that really makes me happy. Long may it continue.
Thank you for reading
Richard M. Ankers
Author of The Eternals Series
Into Eternity (Very Soon!)
All Images courtesy of Goodreads.com