I remember fairly clearly the first fantasy books I read. I was seven when an older cousin handed me a copy of The Hobbit, and said, "read that". I went home, read it, and came back in a couple of days time, and asked, in that cool, uninterested way that seven-year-olds put on when they want to look grown up, "That was pretty good. Have you any more?" And he grinned, and handed me Lord of the Rings.
It might be argued that that was a bit much for my age, but I was far and away above the normal reading level, and he knew it. I devoured the whole thing, appendices and all, in a weekend, and came back grinning. He didn't quite believe I'd read it, and gave me an impromptu quiz on it, which I passed. The names of the Nine have been seared firmly into my brain ever since.
Fast forward a couple of years, because I didn't really realise there were other books of the kind. In between, I found the Fighting Fantasy books, and dived into them, but they're not what you'd call high literature. It was when I was nine, waiting around a cold exhibition hall in a small shopping centre in Dublin, where my father was running an exhibition, that another exhibitor slipped me ten pounds, and said "Go and buy something to read." So I went to Easons, and bought Feist's Magician and Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters.
It's strange how much influence the first few books have on you. All right, if you take away Tolkien, a good bit of modern fantasy wobbles and falls over. But my D&D campaigns, my choice in further books, my ideas about how fantasy worlds work, how stories are constructed, and so on, are shaped to an enormous degree by Feist and Pratchett. Anyone who reads Feist's original trilogy will see the start of the massive, multi-threaded, hundreds-of-characters, world-spanning campaigns I favour. Anyone who reads Pratchett will see details everywhere that come up in my worlds - the victory of common sense being one of the larger themes I lifted wholesale from him.
No books I've ever read since have had such influence, and I can't help being thankful that it wasn't Eddings or Dragonlance that I encountered first.
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Posted by Drew Shiel at January 13, 2005 12:59 PM | TrackBack