What was the first science fiction or fantasy book did you ever read and how did it change you?


Books

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The Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs: Dejah Thoris danced in my dreams for years lathe and nacked. To an 11-year-old boy in rural Indiana, it was some heady stuff, the year was summer of 1971. The scope of my world exploded to include John Carter, Tars Tarkas, and Dejah Thoris. It made me aware of just how big the screen of the imagination really is.


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Dune - I spent the next thirty years believing I was smarter than everyone else


Lord of the Rings. A friend loaned it to me in middle school the year after my dad passed away. Impacts of various sorts-friendship, a whole new world out there beyond my science books, and then some.


The first such book I can recall reading was "At The Earth's Core" by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I was about 9 years old and was completely hooked on the Pellucidar series. I still own the ragged and many times read paperbacks.

I had been reading for a few years before that, but mostly books about science. I sort of focused on astronomy and paleontology things. Pellucidar, though horribly wrong about the prehistoric world, opened up a vista for me where dinosaurs still lived. And the Mahars were terrific villains.


I can't even remember. It was probably a fairly smooth transition from little kids fantasy stories, fairy tales or the like into more adult fantasy and SF as I grew up.

I do distinctly remember reading The Return of the King under my covers with a flashlight at night, because it was an adult book that I thought I probably wouldn't be allowed to read. Maybe at 7 or 8?
Not the Hobbit, not the LoTR, just Return. I don't think I read the others until a few years later.
Had no idea what was going on. Had nightmares for weeks. Fell in love.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Rulebook Subscriber

The first I remember reading is The Hobbit, around age 10. I'm sure there were more before that, but that's the first I really remember. The sense of adventure, exploration and discovery really got me excited for the genre, which has never really gone away.


I saw ROTJ when I was four, and you can imagine the impression it made. Soon after my grandfather introduced me to Doctor Who and these two things were the major components of my childhood (along with dinosaurs) until the age of 10 or so. I read every DW book I came across, loved the Ewoks cartoon, had a blast. Then my family started ordering books from the Puffin Book Club - the children's imprint of Penguin books.

The first book I got from the PBC, the first real SF book that made an impression on me, was a collection of Arthur C. Clarke's stuff called "Of time and stars". The title grabbed me and the stories blew me away. They woke me up to the idea that SF could be about ideas and weird things, not just people and simple plots. From then on I got hold of everything by Clarke and Asimov (who I was introduced to almost immediately after Clarke) I could and soon after I expanded into pretty much every SF author of their period I could lay my hands on. Tolkien, who came to me about the same time and who I really enjoyed, didn't have the same impact or instill the same sense of wonder.


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Dad read The Hobbit for me when I was... 6, I think. Maybe 7. It changed my thinking fundamentally. And when it was over... such grief.


thejeff wrote:
I can't even remember. It was probably a fairly smooth transition from little kids fantasy stories, fairy tales or the like into more adult fantasy and SF as I grew up.

For me, also, it was before I can remember, and was probably a smooth transition from fairy tales and the like. Nevertheless, I'm pretty sure the first modern fantasy novel I read was The Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum. The author thought of it as a fairy tale when he was writing it in 1899, but I feel it has all the hallmarks of a modern adult fantasy: long treks across a fictitious, magical land; a motley crew; and strange encounters - both planned and "random", both combat and non-combat encounters.

It absolutely changed me. It made me the fantasy freak I am today, eventually leading me to this website, among many other things.


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I think it was probably 'The Once And Future Thing' by T.H. White, unless folk-tales (or the Arabian Nights)

Sovereign Court

I read so much Robin Hood, King Arthur and Greek myths when I was young that it’s hard to identify when it came in.
Also, where do you put Roald Dahl? Or Redwall? I know I was read Meg & Mog when I was a baby... Drafonsmoke was a ‘young puffin reader’... I read some books in the puddle lane series which had a dragon and some magic, that must have been about 6 years old.

Sovereign Court

And Greensmoke and Dragon in Danger by Rosemary Manning.
And gobolino the witch’s cat

Puddle Lane: The Gruffle and The Dragon’s Egg. They’re for 4/5/6 years old.


GeraintElberion wrote:

I read so much Robin Hood, King Arthur and Greek myths when I was young that it’s hard to identify when it came in.

Also, where do you put Roald Dahl? Or Redwall? I know I was read Meg & Mog when I was a baby... Drafonsmoke was a ‘young puffin reader’... I read some books in the puddle lane series which had a dragon and some magic, that must have been about 6 years old.

Yeah, there's a lot of fantasy in kid's books and young adult stuff, some of which blurs into adult fantasy, but others that blur into fairy tales and the generally magical non-realistic world of talking animals and things in young kid's picture books.

As I said above, there never really was a first fantasy/SF book for me.


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The death gate cycle. It’s what got me reading fantasy at all


Tiny Coffee Golem wrote:
The death gate cycle. It’s what got me reading fantasy at all

*hugs*

Read that as a youngster although it wasnt my first. It was one of the first fantasy novels that had black people in it that I encountered, though, and it was also the first that implied it was(or one of the worlds was, or perhaps the patryn or sartan were originally from) earth post mysterious, unexplained cataclysm. Loved that series despite its flaws.


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Freehold DM wrote:
Tiny Coffee Golem wrote:
The death gate cycle. It’s what got me reading fantasy at all

*hugs*

Read that as a youngster although it wasnt my first. It was one of the first fantasy novels that had black people in it that I encountered, though, and it was also the first that implied it was(or one of the worlds was, or perhaps the patryn or sartan were originally from) earth post mysterious, unexplained cataclysm. Loved that series despite its flaws.

It holds a special place for me


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Terquem wrote:
Dune - I spent the next thirty years believing I was smarter than everyone else

I still occasionally, when I do something really really clever, throw my hands in the air and yell: "I AM THE KWISATZ HADERACH!"


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quibblemuch wrote:
Terquem wrote:
Dune - I spent the next thirty years believing I was smarter than everyone else
I still occasionally, when I do something really really clever, throw my hands in the air and yell: "I AM THE KWISATZ HADERACH!"

I can't remember the exact context of the story being told at a game night once but suddenly the Bard's player shouts "Shai Hulud!" and runs out of the room.


Star Wars, by George Lucas, when the movie first came out. I was almost ten. It gave me a love of Science Fiction / Science Fantasy that still lasts to this day.


I still have that paperback with the stills from the movie in the middle it. It's been read and reread a dozen times at least.


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Foundation


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DungeonmasterCal wrote:
I can't remember the exact context of the story being told at a game night once but suddenly the Bard's player shouts "Shai Hulud!" and runs out of the room.

Once in church when I was a kid, they were showing an Easter movie. At one point, the scary bearded Pharisees are all standing around looking Very Serious and Condemnatory at Jesus. My younger brother leans over to me and whispers "Shai Hulud..."

And that's one of several times I got thrown out of church because of laughing explosively loud. At least it wasn't a communion service. People get REAL mad when you debeverage during communion...

Scarab Sages

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DungeonmasterCal wrote:
I still have that paperback with the stills from the movie in the middle it. It's been read and reread a dozen times at least.

I remember that book.

Read it until it fell apart.
Bought the edition that was available at the time, 11th edition I think.
Turns out my original book was second edition.
Took me a few years, but I finally a copy of 1st edition at a used book store.
It was in pretty good shape.
No movie pictures inside.
It came out about 6 months before the movie.
George and 20th Century Fox were using its sales to gauge how they thought the movie would go; sales were not that good, so they thought the movie wouldn't be that big a money maker.
BOY WERE THEY WRONG
Still have all my copies.

I don't remember if it was my first SciFi book, but it was very close.
I was 13 at the time.

Liberty's Edge

Although I read a ton of stuff, from Lord of the Rings to Greek myth, the boos that really captured my mind and heard when I read them - the DragonLance trilogy!


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After old crusty country British sh*t, it was Michael Moorcock, which is old crusty urban British sh*t, in the best possible sense of the word.


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I read most of the juvenile science fiction section of my local library when I was 8-9 years old. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle is the only one of those books that I can still remember.

Shadow Lodge

I can't guarantee they were my first, but my junior high years included Dealing with Dragons and its sequels, a great many Xanth novels, and Dragon's Egg by Robert L. Forward which is probably the first sci-fi rather than sci-fantasy I ever read.


By my own fully conscious choice, that would be The Hobbit, then the LotR, then Dune. The latter two were recommendations by the librarian at my school after hearing me mention how much more interesting Tolkien was to read than the far more popular books kids my age were reading.

{not naming names as I don't want to derail this thread}

I started with The Hobbit in no small part under the influence of Peter Jackson's film adaptation of the LotR.

The major effect this has had on me to date was seeking out TTPRGs to play my own part in new(ish) stories. It has also kept me away from TV for countless hours, which on the whole I unreservedly endorse.


David knott 242 wrote:

I read most of the juvenile science fiction section of my local library when I was 8-9 years old. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle is the only one of those books that I can still remember.

Same here. I'd read and reread A Wrinkle in Time -- with that book cover -- around a dozen times by the time I was 10. It wasn't until I was 14 that I discovered its sequels.

Lots of other stuff as well, most of it only once each.

As for how it changed me? Well, I'd probably never have learned to tesser without it. It and Flatland helped me to think outside the box.


The Hobbit. Way back my mother read it to me, as soon as I was able I read it myself. I'm told my voice holds a trace of an English accent (I'm a Kiwi) which is probably related. It lead to reading more fantasy & SF, which in turn led to my father buying the D&D Basic Set for me on an overseas trip back in 1983 or 1984.


Secret Wars by Jim Shooter comes to mind. My farther read comics to me from the early sixties. Black and White Conan mags with maps in the back sold me on fantasy geography.


Limeylongears wrote:
After old crusty country British sh*t, it was Michael Moorcock, which is old crusty urban British sh*t, in the best possible sense of the word.

I loved the first six Elric novels. After "Elric at the End of Time" came out, it should have been the last one. Moorcock, in my opinion quit trying with "The Dream Thief" and the "Skraling Tree".


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DungeonmasterCal wrote:
Limeylongears wrote:
After old crusty country British sh*t, it was Michael Moorcock, which is old crusty urban British sh*t, in the best possible sense of the word.
I loved the first six Elric novels. After "Elric at the End of Time" came out, it should have been the last one. Moorcock, in my opinion quit trying with "The Dream Thief" and the "Skraling Tree".

Not to derail, but as I understand it, it's kind of the other way around.

The first Elric books, most of which were actually short stories/novellas packaged together, were more dashed off to pay the bills. The later ones were more like the more serious kind of surreal stuff he wanted to write.
I do prefer the first ones myself. As much as I love the Cornelius stories and some of his other more out there stuff, it didn't work for me with Elric.

Hmmm, I know I'd read the first Elric books by the time I was 12 or so. Maybe the other main Eternal Champion books - Corum/Hawkmoon/Erekose, though those might have come a little later.


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I have to admit I've never read any more of the Eternal Champion books. Elric was big in college when I was there in the 80s (lots of gamers were turned onto the novels by the Melnibone' pantheon in the original "Deities and Demigods" 1e book (of which I have a copy in mint condition.. yay me!). Another testament to the popularity of the Elric series are there have been at least 3 hard rock/metal songs that are about him (or at least Stormbringer). Anyway, I guess my point is I never read any of the others because Waldenbooks in the mall didn't carry them.

Ok, back on the rails.


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My first was "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" by Jules Verne, and I love it to this day. there is something about this journey into the unknown led by character that is intimately familiar that I will always like. I guess that it allows the in-depth explanations if how so much more digestible and natural.


DungeonmasterCal wrote:

I have to admit I've never read any more of the Eternal Champion books. Elric was big in college when I was there in the 80s (lots of gamers were turned onto the novels by the Melnibone' pantheon in the original "Deities and Demigods" 1e book (of which I have a copy in mint condition.. yay me!). Another testament to the popularity of the Elric series are there have been at least 3 hard rock/metal songs that are about him (or at least Stormbringer). Anyway, I guess my point is I never read any of the others because Waldenbooks in the mall didn't carry them.

Ok, back on the rails.

Last bit of derail, since you mention the music: Moorcock wrote some lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult, collaborated and played with Hawkwind and had his own band - the Deep Fix.


Exactly, as well there was a song by Deep Purple called "Stormbringer" and "Black Blade", an instrumental by 2 Steps from Hell.

Sorry for continuing the derail. I promise this the last one.


I think I might have been around 16 before I read The Hobbit/LotR, and 17-18 before I read any Moorcock, so those were a long way from my first sci-fi or fantasy.

Once I started on the Eternal Champion books (with Elric), I went straight through John Daker, Corum, Hawkmoon, Ulrich von Bek, Jerry Cornelius and Oswald Bastable; as well as the Roads Between the Worlds and Kane of Old Mars books. With the Kane books as an exception, I had a strong preference for the sword & sorcery and more fantastic incarnations than for the "modern" ones.

I haven't read any EC books added in the past 25-30 years, though I have bought some.


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While many of the ones listed above by others were ones i read during my childhood,i think the earliest i can recall may have been one of the original Choose Your Own Adventure books. This catapulted me into a serious book binge, collecting them, TSR's Endless Quests, Lone Wolf, and many others along that line. I also voraciously devoured close to every single novel in my local library's science fiction section. Even singling out favorites would be a huge list.

Wonderful memories however, and just sitting here recalling even a fraction of the titles makes me smile. Thanks for this thread.


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Damon Griffin wrote:
David knott 242 wrote:

I read most of the juvenile science fiction section of my local library when I was 8-9 years old. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle is the only one of those books that I can still remember.

Same here. I'd read and reread A Wrinkle in Time -- with that book cover -- around a dozen times by the time I was 10. It wasn't until I was 14 that I discovered its sequels.

It had more than one sequel? I recall reading the first sequel, probably soon after it was published.

After a quick bit of research, I see how I missed the rest of the series, as most of it came out after I finished high school. I will have to see about catching up with it.


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Ok, so I’m going to do something I almost never do and be serious and personal. Who knows why that’s so uncomfortable for me? Doesn’t really matter. But I keep finding myself thinking about this question, so maybe it’s something I need to answer. It’s a long answer, so I’ll spoiler tag it so as not to take up the whole page.

Spoiler:
My introduction to fantasy/science fiction were The Hobbit and the Chronicles of Narnia. I was seven. My family had just moved overseas, to a country about as different from America as it can get. I started school and I didn’t speak the language. Kids being kids, I got beat up regularly—coming home bloody at least once a week. No one seemed to notice. The teachers were mostly concerned with strict in-class discipline, so what happened in the playground, well, that didn’t matter. I didn’t know what they wanted from me (not speaking the language), so I got in trouble a lot, inexplicably. I learned pretty quickly how to keep my head down and guess what to do from what everyone else was doing.

At the same time, I found my dad’s tattered paperback of The Hobbit and the Chronicles of Narnia. I must have read them ten times that year. I’d get to the end and start again. I remember how all the dwarves had their different colored hoods, hanging in Bilbo’s hall. I had a red hoodie, and I would climb up a tree wearing it and pull the hood up and read and sometimes say out loud “I wish dwarves would come and take me on adventures.” It didn’t happen, but I hoped hard. And every time Bilbo wished he was safe back in his comfortable hobbit hole, I knew exactly what he meant.

And Narnia! The thought that behind a door might be a world where I could find magic and talking animals and learn how to fight and be brave—a world that would stay with me even when I came back through the door to our own. When I finally snapped in the school yard and turned on the pack who’d been chasing me and hit the biggest one as hard as I could and then the next biggest one, maybe the homecoming scene from The Silver Chair where Eustace and Jill fight their bullies helped me get there. And they backed off and I wasn’t beat up again. And I learned the language.

Fantasy gave me escape, but it was also teaching me to be brave. The heroes in those books stumbled into scary, strange, almost incomprehensible worlds where there were rules and dangers and terrors that no one explained and they could never have expected. And somehow they figured it out. Sometimes it was sad and sometimes it seemed impossible, but they kept going. So I would pretend to be them. And, pretending was enough.

The other countries weren’t much better. By the time I was thirteen, I’d seen cars burned out by molotov cocktails. I’d been rescued from school by Marines, riding in a bullet-proof van (their rifles, poking out of gym bags, struck a kid as pretty cool). I’d been tear gassed. One place was at the beginning of a civil war. My mom took off with my younger brothers and my dad was working non-stop and there was no school because of the gunfire in the streets, so several times, a week or more went by and I didn’t see or talk to another person.

But I had fantasy and science fiction. I’d hunker in the house, behind iron bars and thick wooden shutters, reading and reading. Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, Leiber, on and on and on. Outside, helicopters would thunder by, often followed by gunfire a few minutes later as they dispersed a rioting crowd. And I kept reading. Because I still needed to be brave and I still didn't know how—but pretending to be brave like the heroes in the books (even the flawed ones who failed), was good enough.

Decades later, I’m now writing fantasy novels (mostly for kids). I haven’t sold one yet, but I’m very close. It can be a demoralizing job, racking up rejections and learning to get better without really knowing how. Sometimes I forget why I’m doing it. What use is there writing light, silly fantasies, in the face of a world that is still sometimes scary and incomprehensible, where I don’t really ever feel much at home and where there are rules and dangers and terrors that no one explains and I could never expect? What use in the rejection and the disappointment? Why keep trying to make myself understood, when I still don’t seem to speak the language or know the local customs?

Then I remember that kid with the swollen face and bloody nose, in his red hoodie, reading up in a tree. And I think maybe, if I can get it right and sell a story to a publisher, some kid will find it. And if they like my characters, maybe that kid will pretend to be brave. And that will be enough.

Anyway, that’s a really long answer. But thanks for the question—answering it helped me remember why I do what I do.


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I hate that you had to endure those things, Quibblemuch, but by the same token (Tolkien?) I'm glad you had a way to take your mind on the flights of fancy you needed to cope with such things. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I didn't debeverage once. :)


DungeonmasterCal wrote:
I hate that you had to endure those things, Quibblemuch, but by the same token (Tolkien?) I'm glad you had a way to take your mind on the flights of fancy you needed to cope with such things. Thanks for sharing such a personal story. I didn't debeverage once. :)

Well, it wasn't all bad. I also got to see a lot of really amazing stuff and meet lots of different kinds of people--in my graduating high school class we had 20 some different nationalities in a class of 50. It's humbling to know how much variety there is in humanity, and also how much we are the same. I remember once I met an old man in the Himalayas who laughed just like my grandfather from Arkansas--like the *exact* same laugh. I almost hugged him.

And maybe that's one of the other great gifts of fantasy and science fiction... it's a "safe" place to make up wildly different people, and watch them find that common ground--or struggle irreconcilably with the fact that they *are* so much the same (because sometimes that happens too). And by doing it in a fantasy or futuristic setting, writers can help me see other people without getting so hung up on the "real world" qualities that have all those heavy implications.

It's like, we go on this journey with these books and then we get older and we realize that we've learned better how to be here.

I dunno. Now I'm just philosophizing. This is what happens when the weather gets too cold and I spend too much time indoors...


David knott 242 wrote:
Damon Griffin wrote:
David knott 242 wrote:

I read most of the juvenile science fiction section of my local library when I was 8-9 years old. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle is the only one of those books that I can still remember.

Same here. I'd read and reread A Wrinkle in Time -- with that book cover -- around a dozen times by the time I was 10. It wasn't until I was 14 that I discovered its sequels.

It had more than one sequel? I recall reading the first sequel, probably soon after it was published.

There were a bunch of books focusing on various members of the family. I remember precious little of them except a sense of betrayal when I realized they were trying to be sneakily Christian.


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quibblemuch wrote:
I remember once I met an old man in the Himalayas who laughed just like my grandfather from Arkansas--like the *exact* same laugh. I almost hugged him.

Wow! You have Arkansas roots! That's where I live! Wooo Pig..whatever. I can't stand the Razorbacks.. lol

Anyway, where was your Grandfather from here in the Natural State?


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DungeonmasterCal wrote:
Anyway, where was your Grandfather from here in the Natural State?

I'm not sure where exactly. He joined the (then brand-new) Air Force when he was 18 and left. By the time I came along, they were living in the Northwest. But he never forgot his roots--or lost his accent :)


Chronicles of Narnia is the first I can remember reading of my own volition...in I think 3rd or 4th grade? That was sort of where I got my love for fantasy setting with diverse nonhuman races

Scarab Sages

Apart from Greek and German mythology and a lot of SF for kids (from German writers mostly) that did get me interested in Science Fiction, Biology, Ecology and Lif Sciences in general, the first fantasy books were actually the Dragonlance Chronicles. How did they change me? Well... I am posting on the messageboards of a a producer of a fantasy rpg...


Bjørn Røyrvik wrote:
There were a bunch of books focusing on various members of the family. I remember precious little of them except a sense of betrayal when I realized they were trying to be sneakily Christian.

I was only referring to A Wind in the Door (which was the one sequel I discovered at 14, having come out a year before) and A Swiftly Tilting Planet (which came out the year I graduated high school.)

I never read the last two* that came out in the '80s, or any of the "second generation" O'Keefe books.

*Although sometimes marketed as a quintet, the fifth one is actually a second generation book that connects Polly O'Keefe's adventures to those of Meg and Calvin, her parents.


I read both the Chronicles of Narnia and Hobbit/Lord of the Rings all the way through at least once by 3rd-4th grade, and reread them a LOT until middle school, when I discovered the F&SF section. But I still reread Narnia and LOTR at least once a decade or so. (I'm 47 now.)

That school library included Dune and a lot of Asimov and Bradbury. I tried to read the Foundation Trilogy then, but couldn't get through it until I tried again in college (when it was a breeze compared to some of my textbooks). I also read A Wrinkle in Time in middle school, as part of my school's first efforts towards a gifted program.

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