Growing up in the ’90s was tough for me. I know I’ve mentioned before that I am an odd duck, if not in such words. I don’t remember my childhood very clearly, at least those years before the sixth grade. I can remember impressions or moments that were particularly powerful, such as when I received my first Nintendo. However, even then my particular remembrance is more one of of joy and elation than it is a clear memory of events. The most keen memory of years I have are my pre-teen and teen years. This was the time when make-believe died for me.
The most keen memory of years I have are my pre-teen and teen years.
I was eleven years old and getting into my Mom’s car. It was my sixth grade year, but I don’t remember at what point in the year. I have always loved the realm of imagination, the world just seemed more magical when you have the naivety of youth. As I got into the car and closed the door. I asked my mommy a question. I asked her if Santa Claus was real. I saw that look on her face. That look my mommy has when she doesn’t want to tell you something, but knows she needs to tell you. I am sure I’ve had this look on my face a couple of times with my daughter. My mommy answered me truthfully. Then proceeded to tell me about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as well. To that last I reacted with child-like innocence, “THE TOOTH FAIRY TOO!?”
“THE TOOTH FAIRY TOO!?”
It was a moment of incredulity. For some reason my mind could not fathom that all the magic in the world could suddenly vanish with such a simple explanation. It was not my mommy’s fault. She answered the question I asked, because when you are old enough to ask, you are old enough to know. My Mommy has never denied me an answer to a question I’ve asked. It is her openness and honesty that I admire about her.
It is her openness and honesty that I admire about her.
Through no fault of my mommy’s, her answers broke something in me. The belief that magic was real and alive had been crushed. In my family we often refer to the years between child and teenager, specifically 11-16 or so, as the Dark Years. I think the reason for these years is simply that wonder and magic are placed on a sacrificial altar to make way for wisdom and responsibility.
The belief that magic was real and alive had been crushed.
That moment is a harsh transition. It was especially so for me. I am a dreamer, I love the world of make-believe, fantasy, what if?, and all that comes with them. In the dark years I found a love of the horror genre. I think this is because I needed to fill the void that the loss of wonder left. I searched for the darkness that I felt inside.
In the dark years I found a love of the horror genre.
I read Stephen King, Peter Straub, and Dean Koontz. I tore through RL Stine in my Elementary years so I was not a stranger to scary stories, but the novels from the adult authors were darker and more mature. I gave up a love of Oldies and Classic Rock for Death Metal and Hard Rock. I seeped myself in darkness so much so that I couldn’t find myself. I grew bitter and angry.
All of this I am sure had more to do with puberty than it did with the loss of belief in magic. I wasn’t sad or depressed all of the time, I had long periods of wonder and child-likeness. However, the darkness was there and it was consuming me.
I am a dreamer, I love the world of make-believe, fantasy, what if?, and all that comes with them.
I grew to love Science Fiction in these years, I had always watched Star Trek TNG with my dad, but new shows were emerging. Shows like Earth 2, Space Above and Beyond, Starship Troopers, and Stargate SG-1 became weekly doses of the make-believe that rejuvenated me. Movies like Total Recall and Robocop renewed my thoughts of What If? I can safely say that the support of my family helped me out of the Dark Years, but I would be remiss if I did not mention the love of Science Fiction that came out of that time.
Shows like Earth 2, Space Above and Beyond, Starship Troopers, and Stargate SG-1 became weekly doses of the make-believe that rejuvenated me.
It was around my Sophomore year in High School that I met a good friend. Jeff and I attended church together and he introduced me to several other odd ducks, as they were. One Saturday in November, I don’t recall the exact year, Jeff invited me over to play some table-top role-playing games. It was Jeff’s altered system from Advanced Dungeons and Dragons that he’d rewritten, but it was essentially D&D. I formed some seriously strong friendships with these guys over several years of weekend gaming.
Jeff introduced me to authors like David Eddings, RA Salvatore, and Terry Brooks. I came to love Fantasy through these stories, ironically I did not read the Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings until I was in my 20’s, shortly after the first LOTR movie debuted.
Science Fiction and Fantasy became a gateway for me, setting me on a path to writing which I’ll talk more about next week. Until next time folks.
Your Friendly Neighborhood Author,