I discovered the genre when, one rainy afternoon in my local library, feeling a little sad, I came across Anne McCaffrey's Dragonsinger and fell in love at first sight with the cover. From then on, I became not only an avid fantasy reader, but my own juvenile writing went from sardonic comedies to fantasy tales involving lost princesses, evil elves, and beautiful winged horses in lieu of dragons. I also read an almost equal amount of science fiction, because after all that was the 1980s and there was so much excellent classic science fiction to read, as well as some amazing sci fi posters (sold at record stores) to inspire writing.
Thirty years later, I still tend to write fantasy. This is probably because my imagination was almost entirely constructed from its tropes. But increasingly I find myself moving away from it, especially as a reader. I haven't picked up any new fantasy book for months, perhaps years, although I have bought some science fiction novels. I still read my old favourite fantasies. But generally my reading tastes have changed with age and circumstance. When I was younger, I wished the world was more enchanting than reality showed itself to be, and so I became absorbed in the magic of fantasy, the marvels of science fiction. Later, as a homeschooling mother, I had a great excuse to lavish my mind with information from a vast array of non-fiction books. Now that I'm middle-aged, I'm interested only in relationship stories - women's fiction I guess, regardless of genre, now that I feel secure in my own womanhood.
This week I read a brief description of a new fantasy novel that will soon be on sale. Part of my mind sang out at the beauty of it, the wonderful magical imagery of it. But I didn't actually find myself wanting to buy the book. And when I contemplated writing something with similarly enchanted imagery, I felt discontent. I still believe in magic, but the sort of magic that reality has in its bones - and that I can see, and feel, now I've gone through decades of experience.
Maybe it is because fantasy belonged so much to my youth that I find it unsuited to me now I'm middle aged. Or maybe my brain has changed. These days I want magic not as escapism, or even enchantment, but as an exploration of the wonder and peril and wild beauty that really does exist. True magic.