Why I Write Fantasy: A Suitcase of Treasures, Part 1

In the mid 70s I lived for a couple of years in the USA. When we moved back to Scotland, a large green suitcase came with us. This piece of luggage lived in our garage for years, and when I eventually explored it, I discovered that among the many odds and ends it housed were quite a few books. Two in particular caught my eye, and came to have a lasting effect on me. Both were parts of a series, and for years I did not have access to the other books in those series, and so read and re-read these books in splendid isolation.

The first was Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny. I was utterly captivated by it. Like Tolkien and Lewis, he offered a vision of our world connected to something much grander, filled with mystery and magic, just the turn of a corner, or a page away. Corwin is just the most fun to be with as he tells you his tale, a rich saga of betrayal, heroic failure, (the assault on Kolvir with Bleys is just immense!) and the beginnings of revenge. Because I only read this first book in the series for about six years, I spent a lot of time imagining what was going to happen next, how Eric was going to be defeated and what Corwin would do once he had triumphed. For years I searched in used book stores for more of the series and came up empty. Then I happened into a Forbidden Planet shop in the early 80s, idly looking yet again, and was shocked and incredibly excited to find all five books (I had no idea there would be five) sitting there on a shelf, waiting to be bought! One mad dash home to collect my saved paper-round money, and they were mine! Little did I know I was going to meet a bird who discussed Schopenhauer, or how many years would pass before I understood the reference!

Roger Zelazny’s writing sings to me. “I saw the Old Moon with the New Moon in her arms…” That line stuns me every time. There are so many more. His willingness to experiment inspires me. His ability to pack so many ideas, actions and adventure into relatively few words (his novels, for all their incident, tend to be short), is intimidating. I love his humour, am dazzled by his intelligence, awed by his facility with language, and feel grateful to have found his writing and been so transported by it. My desire to create undersea cities is entirely down to him and Rebma! He is one of my literary heroes, a master from whom I hope I have learned much.

But what of the other novel I dug out of that suitcase, shoving aside multiple books by Lobsang Rampa to get my paws on an intriguing cover of a woman in white emerging from the sea? That can wait until next time!

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