Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Gateway Books

I have a confession to make: I am a fan of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. I have read all of the books multiple times, I post regularly at wotmania.com, I religiously follow Jordan’s blog, and I anxiously await the final volume in the series. However, my ‘addiction’ to that series has served as a gateway to other speculative fiction works. I began visiting the message boards at wotmania, which eventually lead me to it’s OF section. Now, WOT was not the first fantasy I’d ever read – before the internet proved to be a catalyst to my ‘addiction’ I had read The Lord of the Rings, the Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide, what was available in Steven King’s Dark Tower series, way too many Star Wars novels, a few Weiss-Hickman books as a young tyke, and a few others. However, WOT truly awoke an addiction in me that has lead me discover just how wide a genre speculative fiction is and some its literary merits.

These gateway books, as I refer to them, come in many flavors. Perhaps it was the Chronicles of Narnia for you, or The Wheel of Time, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Star Wars, Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons, Weiss-Hickman books, Eddings, Goodkind, Moorcock…the list could go on. People’s views towards these beginnings change often change with time. Some regard their original gateway books with nostalgia; others despise the very works that brought them to the speculative fiction realm. Some shun the genre altogether or gradually loose interest. The latter is a real shame since speculative fiction has so much to offer beyond cliché and tacky cover art. Serious works of real literature are not uncommon, if less common and obscure. And the former is an equal shame, as those books have merit all their own and at the very least served a mean to an end.

So, while I’m still anxiously awaiting Book 12 in The Wheel of Time, I’m also eagerly exploring the world of speculative fiction. Terry Pratchett’s humor and satire, Neil Gaiman’s satire and gritty truth, China Miéville, Charles de Lint, Steven Erikson, Gene Wolfe, Kim Stanley Robinson and others have all shown me that speculative fiction and literature do overlap, yet still entertain. What’s next? Well, more of the list above and new (to me) authors like Jeff Vandermeer, Umberto Uco, Gabriel García Márquez, etc; and Robert Jordan of course.

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