This is not to be confused with Science Fiction, which I also love but not as much. It's the unfortunate curse of the 'Science-Fiction and Fantasy' (I like to put fantasy first) genres to always be bundled together like spaghetti and bolognese. Meh, can't be helped. My Mum was the one spending her weekdays watching Stargate SG-1 and Star Trek Voyager, but we'd both enjoy Charmed on a Saturday afternoon. We'd also catch every episode of CSI (all versions), Law and Order, Criminal Minds, but that actually has nothing to do with fantasy. c:
This is also not to be confused with young adult books (now and then more accurately called YA fantasy), children's books or paranormal romance. Sometimes this irks me for reasons too lengthy or irrelevant to detail here, but generally I respect them in their own spheres. and if I find a good book I wouldn't mind reading those genres at all. After all, they probably helped push me towards fantasy as I grew up.
Here's the timeline of my Fantasy-driven life.
I suppose it all started with The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. If you've ever owned a N64, and if you've played it within the last 3 years, you'd probably agree that the graphics are laughable, the plots are nonsensical, and the gameplay generally makes you pity the 80's and 90's kids stuck with this console. But let's not kid ourselves - N64 is 'retro' now. As a 90's kid, it's very nostalgic to reenter that world now, and when I was a kid it was the best thing ever. Still is, actually. Over a decade later, TLoZelda is still one of my basic influences and inspirations for fantasy writing, in the form of Skyward Sword, and of course other Link Timeline titles. I'm not even always aware how much my 'original' ideas tie in to those Hyrulian adventures, temples of the elements, special sword, all that crap.
I realise now that, for a black family, my parents and siblings had and still have a great love for fantasy, though they never use that specific word. As a result I had a high exposure to fantasy growing up.
I'm the second youngest of six children and received a lot of hand-me-downs, including a grey Nintendo Game Boy. My favourite games on that were Streetfighters, and this Mercenary game that I still have but don't quite understand. My younger brother, then a toddler, dropped it on the floor and it broke, and I'm just about shaking off that lifelong grudge. It's the hand me downs tradition which is why my family ends up having a Game Boy, a Game Boy Advance, two Nintendo DS's, an N64, PS2, Xbox, Nintendo Game Cube, Xbox 360, and Nintendo Wii between us, over a thirty-year time span, and yes several of them are lost, broken or sold.
At primary school, I don't remember much about fantasy being part of my life then, though I did make up a lot of stories about magic crystals (Trollz cop-off), teenage witches (Sabrina cop-offs) and fairies (the only fantasy creature I knew then).
I spent my childhood watching Pokemon, Digimon and Cardcaptor Sakura, without a clue that they were called 'Anime' until I heavily got into it when I was about seventeen, ten years later. As I also grew up in London, where I've lived all my life, I also watched the British fantasy shows for kids like The Worst Witch, Bernard's Watch, and The Queen's Nose. Man, I loved those Citv shows.
I remember some old, oooold fantasy favourites - the original Race To Witch Mountain, Disney films, The Sword In The Stone, the film Bedknobs and Broomsticks, He-Man and She-Ra cartoons (what I found on a video or VHS tape, and somebody had taped over the end with Bugsy Malone. I like Bugsy Malone, but still. e_e ), Merlin, and so, so much more.
I read Roald Dahl's short, magical adventures, I read Enid Blyton's Famous Five until I got bored of it (Book 6), and of course, I read Harry Potter. I remember, in Year Five, my teacher sitting at the front of the class and reading the first book aloud; the tale of the boy who lived in the cupboard under the stairs. Or words to that effect, I forget. I didn't care much for it then, but I did later, when I came to appreciate the fantasy genre. Ha, years later I queued outside Waterstones at midnight for the release of The Deathly Hallows.
Oh yeah, I did read Jacqueline Wilson too... well we all knew I was going to forget stuff.
At secondary school, as they say, Shit Got Real. This was when I realised how much I prefered fantasy books to all other types and began to actively seek it. That sounds like a parasite! But that's what it was like. Mainly book-seeking as I didn't consider other media at that time.
At my school library, I discovered Darren Shan's The Demonata series - to this day I have the entire set of 10 books on my shelf. Even now, I enjoy it hugely and it inspires me - I don't like his vampire ones too much though. Whenever I have the need for blood, gore and magic in my life, I pick up Book Two (I find it hard to read series again from the VERY beginning) and begin again. They're quite easy reads so when I get sucked in; I'm amazed that I can glide through all ten in under three days.
I found many other books from my local library, though I'm struggling to remember the fantasy ones now; Mirror Dreams and Mirror Wakes by Catherine Webb is the first that springs to mind that's fantasy. I was reading comics from my local library as well, Superman, Supergirl, Batman - and X-Men, my favourite superheroes of all, which is why I begrudgingly stand by Marvel when the 'DC or Marvel' question arises.
Whenever there was a fantasy movie out in the cinema, my family and I would go rushing off to see it, whatever it was - Lord Of The Rings, X-Men, Harry Potter, the Matrix - whatever. But during this time, my interests slightly altered. I stopped watching TV permanently and didn't miss it. Also, I grew tired or repetitive and unimaginative fantasy and Sci-Fi films, so cinema-going became a very rare occurrence unless it was a special occasion - I went to see X-Men First Class on it's FIRST DAY. It's still a point of fascination for me that my whole family love the Fantastic. It's great to be surrounded by people who share your interests, but I didn't know how blissful that was, as a kid who'd never experienced anything else.
Round about that time my sister urged me to read Game Of Thrones, which was then nothing more than an obscure huge tome, because she wanted somebody to talk about it with. My eyes were wide at the obscene bits (I can't believe I was about 13 at the time. Crazy.) but I read it anyway because the fantasy and intrigue were too awesome for me not too. The scene that hooked me was right at the beginning of book one; Bran falling from that window, surely doomed. And from then on, George R.R. Martin has been playing with my emotions.
Then I realised, not only did I love fantasy books, I loved HUGE books. Trudi Canavan, Alison Croggon, Raymond E. Feist - I began to associate LOTS of pages in a book with a hidden world, tucked away and waiting to be unfolded. Whenever my sister's pre-ordered A Song Of Ice And Fire book arrived, I'd wait patiently but with anticipation until she'd finished. Then I'd snatch it off her to find out what had happened to my favourite character, Arya.
Last but CERTAINLY not least, Jade Empire. I used to get into trouble for sneaking up to my brother's room and playing it in the week, because in our house video games are not allowed on weekdays. I love this game so much that I can't possibly go into specifics here, but check the main blog for a post with more detail. Every aspect of this game fills me with exhilaration and powers every fantasy core in me, from characters to plot to setting to music. Aside from TLoZelda, it is my favourite game ever. And I started playing it at the start of secondary school.
Middle years of secondary school, let's say... Years 8 onwards 'til about the end of collage, something important happened which is why I now have this blog and several others dedicated to the art of of the written word.
Well... I started writing!!
At this time, I was actually a dancer. I figured that dancing would become my career so I stuck at it, despite my insecurities. But after some curious short fanfictions I wrote on fanfiction dot net (heh), I realised I quite enjoyed telling my own tale. I ended up on a forum for a boyband because of my friend Jellybean and her sister Skittles. I'd never liked the idea of taking somebody else's story or character or world and messing about with it - at best it was interesting, at worst, lazy - but I didn't mind writing celebrity fanfiction because all that did was take out the Character Crafting part of the creation process, then you could do what you wanted. But I soon gave up the fanfiction because it was much more fun just to write fantasy style stuff with original characters.
My close writing friend Pixie wrote this great Harry Potter fanfiction, and I liked it because naturally - SPOILER! - Harry Potter Book Seven ended with his children off to Hogwarts, so it was fun to see my friend's interpretation of what his childrens' school years would have been like. - SPOILER OVER. - I liked the boyband fanfiction forum because I could mess about with the ideas and see what new things I could come up with. But again, I eventually realised that my new creations were so far from the original, (often only using the names of characters and ditching their supposed personality,) that in essence I might as well practise writing 'properly'.
So, how do I put this.... I became positively ADDICTED to that forum. Kind of like this blog now, but even more intense. Me and jellybean just called it - The Forum. Even our family knew what we meant, my sisters used to tease me about it; there was only ONE 'forum', as far as we were concerned. I had to be on it EVERY DAY to find out what what happening, to see if my favourite stories had been updated, and to see what had been said about my story. I was often the only one or one of the few users on there who wrote fantasy, which made my stories different and - if I could possibly make it so - fun. In the Annual Forum Awards, I won 'Most Imaginative', ie. my fics were the craziest. My stories didn't always make sense! I loved it when somebody else posted a new story that looked like fantasy venture, but it was often a false alarm as they often cancelled it after a few chapters, especially if it wasn't that popular.
Over the next few years, the forum became a very important part of my life because I could explore my writing... thing. I didn't yet know if it was a talent or skill, I just wanted to see what I could do with the english language, could I string it together to create something beautiful? A recipe for laughter? Could I move people to tears? Some particular stories, apparently, did. And I felt proud.
When I was revising for my GCSE's I remember Mama telling me sternly, "I don't want to see you on that forum, you know! Or I'll ban you from the computer! Do your revision and get off!" I nodded, but I had the forum open on another tab even as she spoke. I roll my eyes at the insolence now. Thank God for tabs, I thought at the time - I think tabs were new to Internet Explorer and it was still some time yet before I switched to Google Chrome for good. I didn't see my er, addiction, as "bad" then, I passed all of my GCSE's which makes me laugh so hard, because all I remember about the revision period was that I was on the forum writing stories.
At the end of secondary school, around Year 11, two significant things happened. First, Manga. Second, Twilight. First, loved. Second, tired of. I will explain.
A friend of mine was obsessed with Japanese culture. Let's call her... Neeny. She knew how to say a variety of phrases in Japanese and she got many of the girls in my class into reading manga online at mangafox or onemanga. This was a girls school, by the way. It was surprising as she normally kept within her little group of friends. This was important because many of the first mangas I discovered were fantasy mangas. There was Masca by Kim Young Hee, Special A by Minami Maki, Beast Master by Kyousuke Motomi - but before them all was Vampire Knight.
I read devotedly for a good way into the story, until an awful plot twist ruined it all for me and I haven't read any more since. Speaking to Neeny again, I discovered we had a mutual dislike for said plot twist, but it meant we were FREEED from the captivity of the story to read other things. I discovered King Of Hell, Demon Diary, PhD (Phantasy Degree), and - what became my favourite manga of all time - Immortal Rain by Kaori Ozaki.
I think it's fitting to mention that I also became OBSESSED with Avatar: The Legend Of Aang, of which I am a devoted fan to this day. Every couple of months, I watch again from sta - well, from episode two, to finish. Like Jade Empire, I love it too much to go into specifics, but there's a reason why it is loved by adults and children alike. It's so clever that it sends me into phases of extreme awe and intense jealousy. Earlier this week, my sister burst into my room to tell me how she'd finally gotten round to watching it and she hadn't slept properly because she'd become addicted to watching it. I think she watched all three seasons in about a week, which is HARDCORE, even for me. I'm glad she loved it so much. My sister likes fantasy, although not as much as me, so this reaction both stunned and thrilled me. You don't wanna see my thrilled face stunned, it's a joke.
Okay, the dreaded topic - Twilight. The memory is as clear as day. I walked into my GCSE music class and saw that black book, pale white hands cupping a red apple, on the desk. I asked the girl who owned it, let's call her Rhi. what it was. She said it was Twilight and she thought it was really good, and surprising popular. The library never had it available because it was always loaned out, and there was a reservation list for it. She'd even said up a loan system for her own book, which she'd bought, and that had three people waiting. I read the blurb and thought, 'I can't see how it's THAT special' but I did tell her that if the list ever had NO-ONE on it, I'd borrow it, if she didn't mind.
As me and pretty much all of my classmates read the series, we transitioned through lots of emotions and finally into indifference. It's it a good story and worth reading if you like LIGHTHEARTED FANTASY but there are flaws in that aspect of it. This spawned, and in some cases just popularised, this legion of Teenage-turned-YA books that were a non-serious fantasy and romance crossbreed, putting the good YA books out there to shame. Twilight isn't as bad as some people say, but there are some general flaws. Mama and Zoos finally gave up and didn't go to see the very last film, although it was a bit like, what's the point if you've watched this far? But Twilight will never relinquish its position of importance because it spawned the love of fantasy teenage books that have now evolved into it's own genre, Young Adult. I am not a huge fan of this genre, but if I may share my favourite at sixteen-years young - Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, and it remains so, despite the film.
Then, college. It was at this point that I decided I was going to get serious about writing, which is why I chose English Language and Literature as one of my A Levels. As far as being a Fantasy fan was concerned, I remember getting a lot of books, manga, and comics out of the library. I breezed in and out of college, not thinking much of it. Three girls were my particular friends; one of them, Lizard, introduced me to K-Pop but it didn't catch on with me until the end half of 2013, about 3/4 years later!
But one of them introduced me to things which determinedly reshaped the structure of my love for fantasy; DanDan.
DanDan is extremely important because she introduced me to TOUHOU. She also brought to my attention Battle Royale (the film), 4chan, the "Game" (which you just lost, by the way HAHAHEHEHEE), Trololololol, the concept of the 'Mary Sue', The Hunchback of Notre Dame (shrug)... and creepy online fetishes that spawn from Rule 34, which appalls me more than anything I can currently consciously think of. She did have a sadistic sense of humour.
So during my whirlwind two years with her, and also Emz, Kiki and Gen who were part of DanDan brood, I was still on The Forum. Battle Royale had inspired my story BGF and I was getting very excited about it, despite that I couldn't then see it was a total fanfiction just like all of my other stories. I mean I KNEW, but I still thought I could make it original. By the way, that story is now being posted online on its own special blog, and I won't say I gave up, but... yeah. At the time, I was asking my secondary school friend Pixie on ways to improve it and she suggested I read H.I.V.E. and The Hunger Games. I was very 'okay' out loud and 'meh' in my mind to it, but of course The Hunger Games blew up, nuclear-style. When I finally got round to reading it, I knew my BGF days were done.
Sadly as time went by, and after all it was coming up to four or five years, The Forum traffic slowly began to die. Stories languished, users disappeared, and it wasn't that much fun any more. That let me to create my own forum for the users I was closest too, although that was a bit of a hit-n-miss situation! My scarlet forum was a dead as a doornail, but it was named after one of my most popular stories so I still think back on it fondly.
Sometime between then and the next two years, the forum was wiped. Wiped CLEAN. Nothing was left, not one post. But me and the users in our (rather large) clique are still ePals. It's all good. (K'la.)
Gap Year. It builds you up or knocks ya down, is my opinion. The stories I've heard about gap years is that either people make it productive, ie. they take on a course or go travelling or develop a skill in this time, or else they do nothing or end up working all year round, like I did. But that wasn't all that happened to me.
I'm never going to forget my gap year because for the first time in my life, the little clues that I thought were symptoms, and ignored, just happened to grow worse, hail down on me with a vengeance, and lead me to become heavily depressed and suicidal.
This is so excruciatingly important because, aside from the fact that it ruined many healthy parts of my life and still plagues me today, it also took away my love of reading. For a long time, I read nothing, fantasy or otherwise. The girl who read the 10-book Demonata series in under three days. My love of it vanished. Additionally my writing stopped being light and bouncy and witty. It became dark and oppressive. Violence became more frequent and I couldn't really justify it.
I've always wondered, worryingly, about how much my 'egos' as I call them, were dictating my life, and during this never-ending 'episode' I saw just how much. I felt like character traits and preferences would actually separate off with my mood, so when I was one mood I'd be one personality, another mood would bring about a completely different set of wants, values, and interests. It was the only reason I had for explain why one week I could strongly believe something, the next week I would fiercely believe the opposite.
It was shit. It was the worst, fucking, year, of my whole life.
It was also a mistake. Due to complications with my A Levels grades, I ended up deferring to get a place on the course I wanted BUT, because my depression took all of my passions away from me, I did ZERO dance training. I was meant to devotedly train all year round. More disturbingly, I didn't care about seven years dance experience sliding down the drain, I couldn't work up the energy to care about much. Up until that point I was a hardworking student. Goodbye to that. So when my first year of university came around, suddenly I was faced with a nightmare. I quit joint Dance and English on my first day to take just English Lit instead, and now I'm in my second year, I can safely say I'm wholeheartedly glad I made that choice.
During the year, I made the decision to stop writing fiction as if I was posting it on a forum and start writing fiction as if I was going to publish it in a book, or magazine, or... online :) but professionally. Or even self-publish, even though I don't know what that means nowadays. Self-publishing has allowed hidden gems to be shown to the world - it's also allowed the awful, awful, barely-literature work to get published too, making the ebook world just as much of a slush pile as the traditional-publishing book world.
When I made that decision, I knew instantly that I would be going back to my fantasy roots, because as much as I enjoyed the chick lit and teen hoodlum-crews and paranormal contemporary, fantasy was my first love and I still hold it above all other genres (or should I say sub-genres) of literature.
Good things about the gap year? I began my first writing blog, which then became my event-and-depression personal blog; I smashed TLoZ Skyward Sword - I have NEVER finished a game that fast; and I discovered two animes that I loved - Nabari No Ou and Gunslinger Girl. I discovered Ergo Proxy later, although that's an older anime.
Credit: Dumon Chelle/doomsburg
And now we have reached the present: university. I am in my second year as I am typing this, and I don't suppose I will want to edit this post again once it's done. New fantasy ventures will be posted on the main blog.
Because I've now reached the stage where I'm reflecting on my two-decades life and looking forward into the (hopefully short) abyss, I want to craft a good life for myself. Thanks to older siblings who've been through hardships or else procrastinated their whole life, I have been able to sit down and think about what I want to do. What I REALLY want to do, as in, if I had a million pounds and ONE YEAR to live. I know writing fantasy is one of them, including writing the sort of fantasy that portrays my beliefs, my culture, and my particular preferences of the fantasy genre - because honestly, there's some parts of fantasy I could do without.
I'm determined, afaid even, to make sure I don't waste any time in striving for my dreams. This is not for when I am thirty. This is for right now, while I still have the drive and the time to steer myself in the right direction. Here's another example - I'm sure I mentioned my strong fascination of Japanese culture, thanks to Neeny - did I mention that she eventually went to live there? Anyway - so I want to master the language and travel there one day.
Last year, I went to loads of shows and conventions and I'm eager to attend a lot more, see what's out there and mingle with people with the same interests. I also discovered the manga Psyren by Toshiaki Iwashiro (now my second favourite ever); I discovered new comics; old and new animated superhero films like JLA War; and at work I saw a lot of new fantasy books come in too. I'll have a lot more time to read in the summer, so I think I'll be doing a fantasy reading challenge. Last summer was when I started writing my first fantasy book, and the fact that I wrote half of it in three months, and still free time and saved up Student Loan to go out with friends and family in the nice weather, filled me with the sort of extreme happiness that made me feel blessed to be alive. Talk about the whole One Year To Live, Follow Your Dreams yada-yada.
I finally plucked up the courage to start this blog, which I knew would help with motivating me to stay focussed on two authorly goals:
- write, write as well as I can, as much as I can
- get myself back into the fantasy community and bloody stay there!
It's my goal to re-immerse myself in comics, anime, movies, the works - but of course, more than anything else, books. Fantasy Literature.
So, that's it. That's how I became so in love with the worlds and characters that bloom from imaginative minds, the whole story. Well, give or take some details that I probably forgot, the whole story. What's yours?
Hey, dudes and dees, thanks for reading. It means a lot. I had to think so hard to remember all of the little details, it literally took me months to write this and no doubt took you ages to read. I hope you'll stick with me on this journey. It'll be fun. Really. :3
Ashana Lian .
Timestamp: 28 February 2014