I used to get sick as a kid. The kind of sick you only get in the tropics when you live a long way from a doctor. I have vivid memories of lying on a cane daybed in the living room while my mum read to me. She must have been worried, sitting by me hour after hour. But I don’t remember the shivering or the fever or the convulsions; I remember those stories.
That was how fantasy began for me, with a Little Mermaid that longed for immortality, only to turn into foam … and live forever in my mind. I stepped into Narnia and more worlds spun themselves around me. I followed silken threads into the caves of George McDonald and with Tolkien’s help, stole Gollum’s ring. Soon my bike became a Pegasus. Treasure lay buried under every rock. Each day dawned a new quest with a new foe to vanquish.
I must have been lonely; I needed those stories like I needed a friend.
I grew up, and those stories became like my bones. Indispensable, inseparable, invaluable.
I guess people write for many reasons. To achieve something. To get recognised. To get something out of their head. To make a buck … or not. For me, I want to feel those worlds again, and have a hand in spinning them into reality just as they were spun for me.
Besides, stories matter. They are air for our minds. They give us a lens to see through, and guess at what is and what isn’t, to approach the true and the real beyond the plastic veil.
But don’t be fooled, there is a hard edge to fantasy. It can take you down a path you may not have chosen. You can get beguiled into thinking the villain doesn’t really exist, only to discover they live in your mirror, fit your clothes and sleep under your sheets.
The best fantasy isn’t safe; there’s no growing in that.