Some things we can’t choose–our skin color, our parents, our aptitude for eyesight and how soon we need glasses, or perhaps how soon we lose our hair, or perhaps how long it takes us to remember what we were doing before we completely forget it. But some things we can choose–what we consume, how we spend our time, what we study.
This isn’t a list about choices. This is a list about all those things chosen for me–things that maybe I would’ve done differently had I the foresight to know better, the insight into my own destiny as the world shaped it for me.
1. I was born in 1989. This was 45 years after The Fellowship of the Ring was published and only six years since the release of Return of the Jedi.
2. My mother liked Star Trek, but I never watched it. She did not like Star Wars.
3. I was a late reader. I casually read the Hardy Boys, Encyclopedia Brown, and other similarly mysterious or adventurous children’s books the librarian recommended.
4. Early 2000, my mother’s coworker purchased the first three Harry Potter novels for her nephew, but knowing I liked to read, she lent them to me. It was the first time I’d ever seen a box from Amazon.
5. I read Harry Potter. My friends also read Harry Potter. I fell in love.
6. Late 2000, The Goblet of Fire was released. I watched the news of release parties like a wild dog hunting prey, and I eagerly awaited the arrival of my copy in the mail.
7. In 2001, The Phantom Menace was released. My friends adored it. I feverishly wanted to see it. But I never did. In fact, although I’d seen snippets of each of them on TV, I’d never seen a single Star Wars movie from beginning to end.
8. Star Wars was not based on a book. Books were easier to access than movies.
9. In 2001, The Fellowship of the Ring was released. Walking to Hebrew School one day, my best friend told me about the Balrog scene and whetted my appetite.
10. I didn’t see the movie. But I got the books.
11. I tore through the The Hobbit. I devoured The Lord of the Rings.
12. Fueled by the greatest saga of all time, I explored mythology in all its forms–Greek, Nordic, Egyptian, Celtic, each one tempering my awareness of storytellers until my own myth was born inside me.
13. From time to time I casually read Star Wars children’s books, but I had tasted fantasy. Like the draw of the Dark Side, once touched, I was entirely consumed.
14. In 2002–after many failed handwritten attempts–I sat before the family computer for the first time and began typing my mythology from the very beginning.
15. It wasn’t the beginning, but I didn’t know it at the time.
16. I threw myself into fantasy, mythology, worlds of my own creation.
17. I never returned.
18. Science fiction, I decided, was too vast a body of work to reenter so late in life.
19. In 2012, Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced plans for Star Wars: Episode VII.
20. April 29, 2014. Official casting announcement. A phantom menace, so long silenced by the talons and spellcraft of the strongest fantasy, aroused a new hope that this saga could be breached at last.
21. May 26, 2014. Barely eight days since watching the original Star Wars, I witness the greatest science fiction story of all time come to its momentary end.
As I turned off the TV and returned the DVD to its case, it occurred to me how these facts and forces so far from my reach had turned me from sci-fi to fantasy faster than the wild sun can fry an egg upon a scorched sidewalk in the middle of a desert in high summer.
Make no mistakes, I’ve dabbled in sci-fi for what seems like centuries–The Fifth Element is one of my favorite films (though it was after my taste of fantasy when I saw it first), I read an X-Men comic before I could honestly call myself a reader, and I’ve written multiple science-fiction stories like The Silver Ships, The Farthest Hite, and Super–my own saga with a sequel destined for release later this summer.
Indeed, in the first issue of Realms of Fantasy–a now-defunct repository of book reviews, short fiction, and provocative essays that I’d dreamed of being published in–stated proudly that fantasy and sci-fi are literary brothers, magic and science the same in function and distinct only in form. Just as The Lord of the Rings transports us to an ancient world under the merciless torment of Sauron, Star Wars flies us to a distant galaxy ruthlessly ruled by the Galactic Empire. In one shape or another, both are rife with young heroes setting out on impossible quests, romance that tickles even the most stalwart hearts, sword fights and war scenes and so many spells to set the mind ablaze with wonder.
They aren’t so different after all.
It’s only taken my 25 years to see it.