It’s so funny to me now, but when I was a kid I really didn’t like science fiction or fantasy. I wanted my stories to take place in the real world, thank you very much. This anti-fantasy bias most often showed up when I was deciding what to read, but it wasn’t limited to books. No, I refused to like Star Wars and Star Trek for a very long time as well. (Yes, I like them both. Call the sci-fi fandom cops.)
In retrospect, a lot of the “normal” stuff I did like growing up had a bit of a fantastical element to it. I mean, the members of the Baby-sitters Club never aged. That’s weird. And really, even Jane Austen’s stories of Regency life are fantasies for so many modern readers (this one included). Don’t believe me? Check out Austenland, a novel about an English resort that caters to Austen-obsessed women and their Regency fantasies, or perhaps you would prefer to watch Lost in Austen, a British mini-series about a modern Janeite who ends up switching places with Lizzie Bennet in Pride and Prejudice.
The first fantasy novel I remember reading was a Stephen King book called The Eyes of the Dragon. I read it in seventh grade because my friend pretty much made me. (Looking back on it, I guess I didn’t really have to read the book just because he lent it to me. But at the time, I felt like he had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. Not in a mafia way, though.) I remember almost nothing about the book (including the title until about 20 minutes ago when I searched Amazon), but I do remember that I liked it. I hadn’t expected to like it, and I was probably kinda annoyed that I did, but I did. In fact, I want to look for it at the library some time.
Enjoying one fantasy novel didn’t really change my opinion of the genre, though. I was still pretty much anti. It was actually television that first started me on a path towards sci-fi and fantasy fandom. Specifically, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I think I mentioned this before, but I watched “Welcome to the Hellmouth/The Harvest” (the two-episode pilot) expecting it to be stupid. It wasn’t and I was hooked. From there, it was a pretty easy jump to Charmed to Angel to Alias to Firefly to Lost (you get the picture). At this point a fantasy element is almost required before I watch a new TV series (which is why I will never, ever watch Friday Night Lights).
The book that really got me to enjoy fantasy novels was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I was pretty late to the Harry Potter party. I’d never even heard of the series until Goblet of Fire came out while I was working in a mall record store across from a bookstore. All of a sudden, though, Harry Potter seemed to be everywhere. So I decided to buy the first book in paperback to check it out. I loved it. I went back to buy Chamber of Secrets in paperback. Loved it too. But now I had a problem, I had exhausted the supply of Harry Potter books available in paperback. I told myself it would be okay; I could just wait until each book was released in paperback. That didn’t last very long. After reading Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets several times each I gave in and bought Prisoner of Azkaban in hardcover. Then Goblet of Fire. And then I joined the millions of people around the world who anxiously awaited each new release and pre-ordered a copy. I even considered skipping my cousin’s bachelorette weekend down the shore after it was scheduled for the weekend that Deathly Hallows came out. (I’m pretty sure I was the only one who cared about Harry Potter of the dozen or so of us who went. It was weird.) I also eventually bought Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets in hardcover to complete my collection. If you’re interested, Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite.
One of the things I’m most grateful to the Harry Potter series for is that it got me to stop being a snob about book genres. Now, I’ll read any book that sounds interesting to me and the list of books I want to read that I keep on my iPhone is proof of that. Expanding my interests to include sci-fi and fantasy also allowed me to foray into the world of graphic novels. Not that I’m a big comics or graphic novels person, but I have found several graphic novels that I really enjoy and I never would’ve checked them out 15 years ago.