Everyone discovers the realms of science fiction and fantasy through different means. Some of us by way of a blockbuster film or bestselling novel, and others by way of a friend or a teacher. For me, it was a mix of all of the above, though I didn’t really fall head-over-heals in love with the genres until 6th grade when a friend recommended Anne McCaffrey’s Pern novels to me.
At first glance, the books appear fantasy as their covers bear dragons and dragon riders. In fact, it was the dragons that drew me into their stories as I imagined the world full of dragonriders fighting evil thread that dropped down on their planet from the nearby Red Star. Honestly, it wasn’t until I was four books in that I realized I was reading science fiction, and that the dragons had been created from their cousins, the fire lizards. Not that this knowledge changed anything for me. If anything, it opened another door into more stories.
I devoured the Pern novels first before branching out into other SF/F works. They were the stories that spoke deep into the recesses of my brain telling me that one day I would be a writer. One day, I would write stories that held others enraptured, and these readers might find themselves in the same position I was in at age twelve, that of aspiring writer.
If you’ve followed my blog, you’re probably familiar with the fact that twelve-year-old me didn’t wait very long to turn that “aspiring writer” into “writer.” One day into summer vacation had me drawing maps and world-building what I thought was a brand new world. In reality, it was a modified version of Pern, complete with dragonriders and odd names. By the end of summer, I’d written over 350 pages of my first novel, and while it will never see the light of day, it taught me a great deal about character and plot arcs, among other things. Fan-fiction though it was, it displayed my love of dragons and fantastical worlds. It will always hold a special place in my heart.
My love of dragons lives in the very pores of my skin (literally now!) and is a reminder that on days where I struggle to string together a sentence, let alone a page, I have a world of magic and mystery waiting for me between the pages of a book. A world worth the struggle. Because of this, I recently chose to have a tattoo of a dragon done on my upper arm. Like that first novel, this dragon is slightly modified with a bit of fandom. It’s styled after the Pernese dragons through the face and body, but rather than rough, leathery wings, we gave it feathers, both to mark my name (Raven) and as a nod to the writing tools of old—a quill pen.
Part of the rationale for my tattoo comes from my auto-immune diseases which some days cause my body to be much older than it is. On these days, it’s difficult to remember that I am more than my body, that my mind is powerful and the inventor of great things. With my dragon looking over my shoulder, I have a constant reminder that Chenata (my dragon’s name, taken from an awesome short story) is crouched on my shoulder as a reminder that I am tough. As the story says, I am all…the wind, the clouds, and the water. As such, I can weather this.
Imagine my surprise this morning when I received an email from a librarian on behalf of a twelve-year-old aspiring writer who loves dragons. (This sounds so familiar!) While working together to learn how to write, they had stumbled across my website, particularly my WRITING RESOURCES section. Like this young man, I, too, escaped to the library to discover worlds my father would’ve have preferred I not read (had he known!), and like this young man, it was these worlds that gave me the writing bug.
In their email, the librarian included a great resource the young man found on dragons that I wanted to share with you all. The article by Molly Schwichtenberg has a nice wealth of both myth and etymology in its links, and I anticipate getting lost in the readings. If you’re a dragon-lover like us, perhaps you’ll enjoy exploring this resource too: https://www.halloweencostumes.com/all-about-dragons.html
The librarian wished to reach out to me to let me know how helpful and influential I’d been to this aspiring writer, which made my morning. There’s fan mail and then there’s fan mail like this. It’s a glorious reminder that what writers do matters.
The stories that we tell matter.
We are the creators of worlds and changers of the world. We give people an escape. We give them hope and delight; we cause terror and sadness; and we take them on adventures they will never forget with characters who become their best friends.
There’s a power to words, a power I hope this young man finds as he creates his own world of dragons! Welcome to the ranks of writers, Nick! May your adventures be everything you hope them to be!