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Influences: Early Fantasy Fiction Influences

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Part One

What counts as an influence? I think the answer is broad and can include a host of detailed responses, but for this post, I’d like to focus on fiction I’ve read. My mother had a huge bookshelf with fantasy books outside her bedroom, and I spent hours staring at the covers and trying to decide what type of story I could perceive from the picture alone.

Initially, my mother encouraged me to read kid’s books, but when I was 13, my mother caved into my persistence and introduced me to David Eddings. Beginning with the Belgariad, Pawn of Prophecy, I jumped into the world of fantasy fiction. In the late 80s there were a lot of Tolkien derivatives, and David Eddings’s world fell into that category with his protagonist, Garion, evolving through his hero’s journey. I will review that series in the future because it made such an impact upon me as my first fantasy series. My mind opened up to a whole new world of possibilities and adventures, and I read that series and Mallorean so many times, I have the ten book plot burned into my memory.

I moved on to Raymond Feist’s Magician duology, and I reveled in the similar yet different approach. Seeing Pug grow with astronomical power between two very different worlds opened my mind and approach to fantasy. An entire world filled with non-humanoid beings blew my mind. I didn’t read all the Riftwar saga, but Raymond Feist did a superb job of world-building and character development, and I remember Pug as a master of his magic, which varied based on where the magic came from.

As my mother consumed new series, I usually took interest in them to where she got annoyed. The list continues with Melanie Rawn and her Dragon Prince and Dragon Star series. I was amazed at the use of a drug to augment magic abilities, but it appalled me how it could also be addictive. There was violence, rape, and brutality in the series that I had not encountered before, and while I could appreciate the darker tone of the series, I didn’t know if the violent elements were necessary for the story.

I was pulling titles off the shelves, and I would discuss the stories with my mother, which brought a deeper connection with her. Next, I found Terry Goodkind. Though less reputable now, Goodkind’s fantasy turned even darker than Rawn’s in my opinion. The series definitely had a preachy feel, but I enjoyed the unique magic system which led me to appreciate how magic systems could be very different and how those differences played out in the story.

I became more selective in choosing fantasy; I didn’t want the roots of grimdark with doom and gloom. Fantasy provided a world of escape from the troubled times in my young life, and I didn’t want to escape into darkness. This is when I found the staples in fantasy fiction that many enjoy and list as favorites.

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