Science-Fiction, Fantasy, and You

Written by Grant Goodman, 2/16/2015

Time travel. Rocket ships. Wizards. Dystopias.

You will meet many people in your life who look down on “those kinds of stories.” They are the serious types. They believe in their serious literature.

We can let them believe in that.

They can have their stories about sad people in sad cities. Because, honestly, we read those books, too. Every now and again, we need a palate cleanser, a waystone that lets us step back into our own world.

The deep truth is this: we like other worlds. We like worlds that don’t already exist.

Besides, the biggest milestones of human storytelling tend to be about magic and dystopias.

The Odyssey is full of witches and sea monsters and Cyclops. Beowulf fought a dragon. Shakespeare filled his plays with ghosts and wizards and prophecy. Mary Shelley brought the dead back to life. Jules Verne sent humanity to explore the moon long before John F. Kennedy was born.

Reading fantasy and science-fiction connects us to the roots of the world. The desires to explore and to escape and to imagine are built into us.

That’s why we need Suzanne Collins to send us into the arena. That’s why we need Darren Shan to show us the hidden world of vampires. That’s why Ray Bradbury once wrote, “I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”

So go ahead and dive into sci-fi and fantasy.

But don’t be afraid to dip your toes into realistic fiction, either. There’s excellence to be found there, too.

5 More Amazing Sentences from YA Novels

In case you missed the first installment, check it out HERE.

1. “This is the first kiss that makes me want another.”

–Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

2. “Too late, I found you can’t wait to become perfect, you got to go out and fall down and get up with everybody else.”

Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes

3. “We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.”

–Peter Beagle, The Last Unicorn

4. “…there’s something about a girl and a night and a beach.”

–Cory Doctorow, Little Brother

5. “Autumn has a hungry heart.”

–Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Margin Notes: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M. Valente

Margin Notes: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M. Valente

Written by Grant Goodman, 12/9/2014

The Quote:

When you are born…your courage is new and clean. You are brave enough for anything: crawling off staircases, saying your first words without fearing that someone will think you are foolish…But as you get older, your courage attracts gunk and crusty things and dirt and fear and knowing how bad things can get and what pain feels like. By the time you’re half-grown, your courage barely moves at all, it’s so grunged up with living.

The Notes:

Life wears you down. That’s the truth for most of us. You want summers and sandy beaches and ice cream and smiles. Maybe, for a few weeks in a row, you get that. Then that other stuff happens. The sleet, the flat tire, the rust. They come in many forms. Illness, exhaustion, too much homework, your parents’ divorce.

No matter the age you are, you know what I’m talking about. There’s stuff that slows you down and saps your energy. It’s terrible. (And for those of you who may think that adults have it all figured out, I’m sorry to tell you that we’re just as lost as you are. There’s no magic button that we suddenly press when we’re 22. It’s probably better you find out now.)

The passage above is gorgeous because of its ability to capture all of those aspects of life and turn them into a small work of art.

Those of you who are in school, you know what it’s like to deal with the fear of what others will think of you. Others can be cruel. Plenty of people tell you to speak your mind, but the reality is that so many people are afraid of being judged. Your courage, indeed, can get all gunked up.

In Fairyland, you can have your courage scrubbed clean. It’s a physical act. Sadly, we don’t have that luxury here on Earth. We have something close, though. It varies from person to person. There’s something for each and every one of us that restores us.

Maybe it’s the alchemy we call cooking, maybe you need to breathe in the deep, green scent of the woods in the spring. Perhaps you pick up your paintbrush and capture your heart’s desire that way. Some of us get lost in the rustle of paper pages and find that little piece of us that somehow went missing.

Whatever it is, it won’t scrub you sparkling clean again. It will, however, fill you up with sunlight again and remind you that you can still glow.

From there, it’s up to you to deal with the shadowy stuff.

It’ll be easier, though, even if only a little.

Book Trailer: THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne M. Valente

I am only fifty pages into this fairytale novel and I am completely in love with it. Clever times a million, whimsical times a billion, spellbinding times a trillion. Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

Watch the trailer and then purchase immediately.

BONUS POST: A Quote From Pat Rothfuss

You can’t go wrong with Pat Rothfuss. The man understands language, story-telling, kindness, and humor. He crafts novels that strike me on a deeper level than most authors ever do. He also knows how to write an excellent book review.

Now, I haven’t read THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING by Catherynne Valente but I immediately went ahead and added it to my queue after reading this quip from Rothfuss:

“This book is beautiful. The language is lovely without being pretentious. The story is careful and playful and smart. This book made me tear up in places. Not because it is particularly sad. But because sometimes when a story is true and sweet and perfectly shaped, it puts its hand around my heart.”

I think that’s what all of us want in a good story. That’s what makes us into lifelong readers.

-Grant