When I was about 12 years old, I was inducted into the First Presbyterian Church. As part of the process, a Church elder took me out to eat and to have a conversation with me about joining the Church. I ate very little–I was a very skinny kid–and so the elder offered to take me to the adjacent Wal-Mart and buy me a book, if I liked.
Oh, did I like.
There was one novel in particular I had had my eye on–but hadn’t saved up enough allowance yet. It was called The First Book of Swords, by a man named Fred Saberhagen. It had been on the shelves for a while, and I was afraid it was going to rotate out-of-stock (no such thing as internet shopping in 1983). The Elder actually called my mother to get permission to buy me the book (had to use a pay phone, in fact; this was long before cellular telephones), and she gave it–although she later accused me of somehow strong-arming the fifty-something year old man into buying it for me. Did I mention that I was twelve?
At any rate, I finally got the book. It was not the first novel I had read–that honor belongs to Star Wars, A New Hope, when I was six (so unlike what the franchise later became), followed soon thereafter by The Andromeda Strain by the inimitable Michael Crichton. This novel, however, (and the trilogy which spawned from it) was what cemented me into the fantasy genre. An absolutely brilliant story of gods and demons, magic swords and heroes, forgotten technology, families, loss, and change. I read that series many times, eventually tracking the preceeding series (The Empire of the East)–but not before devouring the Wrinkle in Time series, the Dark is Rising series, and every other fantasy book I could get my hands on. Science fiction, at the time, was pretty much limited to Star Trek–which meant that it was always preachy. But fantasy? Fantasy was all imagination!
I have little time for reading per se, these days, but I do have regular long drives. Thanks to the invention of the digital audiobook, I have yet again worked my way through The Empire of the East and the Book of Swords trilogies. I am even beginning Saberhagen’s concluding work, the Book of Lost Swords series, which I had not previously read. I find that I like them no less for being a bit dated–after all, so am I.