At the beginning of the month, Malinda Lo put up a very interesting post in the wake of Maurice Sendak’s death. While she herself never read Where the Wild Things Are as a kid, it made her think about the books that she connected with as a child. The title of the post, “The Books I Come From”, is absolutely brilliant, so, obviously, I decided to copy it. But the thing is… I actually didn’t read a lot as a kid. (Your disappointment in wee Clare cannot compete with my own.) So none of them are actually books—but if you boiled me down, these texts are, honestly, probably the main components.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The first is the biggest. I used to watch my brother play video games, and while Warcraft II introduced me to fantasy in general (as well as my love for lady monsters), nothing struck me quite like The Legend of Zelda did. An expansive world, plenty of amazing female characters, and, most importantly, a powerful and frankly tragic story. In short—a young girl sets out to stop the main villain from taking over her kingdom with the protagonist’s help, but their efforts only succeed in the villain gaining immortal power. And that’s the premise. Ouch. The rest of it involves ninjas, occupation, horse theft, ghosts, and snapping time itself in twain, among other things. (It’s a pretty big game.) You might see how it appealed to me. It set my imagination on fire in a way that nothing else had, even if Ganon terrified me so much I fled the room when my brother went to the final boss battle, and I began the first fannish practice anyone starts with—wondering what happened after. And it introduced me to morally complex characters in Princess Zelda herself; I was—and still kinda am—endlessly fascinated by the terrible choices she has to make throughout this game.
Incidentally, I’ve never beaten it myself.
Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings
Confession: I don’t actually remember reading The Lord of the Rings in middle school, but I think I did, because some bits were a little too familiar for pop cultural osmosis when I returned to the books a few years ago. Again, terrible memory. But after spending The Fellowship of the Ring absolutely nailed to my seat (and pondering the success of a Legend of Zelda movie based on Legolas’ resemblance to Link), these movies soaked into my bones. I recently rewatched the original Star Wars trilogy and listened to Down in Front’s commentary on the whole series, and I’ve realized that the way they feel about Star Wars, I feel about these movies. The sheer attention to detail and human emotion that saturated the production impressed me so much—to this day, I begin crying as soon as the second disc to the Extended Edition of Return of the King gets popped into the DVD player. It was the first time I’d seen something so magnificent produced from a place of fannish love, and that was it. I was lost.
Mystery Science Theater 3000
I caught this in reruns (since the show ended when I was eight) on Sci-Fi Channel in middle school, and it was one of the few things I remember my parents telling me not to watch, when they found me watching the “Zombie Nightmare” episode. Naturally, I persisted. While I only watched a handful of episodes—in fact, I’m trying to work my way through the show at the moment!—it still stuck with me. Unlike Zelda or The Lord of the Rings, it didn’t strike me like lightning. Instead, based on what little participatory culture I had already been introduced to, it made sense. In a way, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a perfect introduction to the ideas of critical thinking, counter-reading, and willful subversion, and the ability to riff, mock, and laugh at something is actually quite powerful. As Kate Clinton says in one of her comedy specials, laughter is the best weapon against stupidity.
It’s been a week! I blasted through The Ecstasy of Influence, Dramarama, and The Purity Myth this week, although I’ve stalled on Altered Carbon. I finally found housing in the city for the rest of the summer (so I can actually do my internship!), I locked my keys in my car (cats are useless during the weeping and gnashing of teeth part of that process), and I’ve decided that I will fix my woeful cinematic education this summer. I also made calzones with leftover Turkish food yesterday, which I’m quite pleased with.
The Baen Free Library is full of free downloads, including The Shadow of the Lion and On Basilisk Station. Night Shade Books is offering Butcher Bird and Grey as free downloads at the moment. Vertigo Comics is offering free downloads of the first issue of several series, including Fables, The Unwritten, and Y: The Last Man. (And you will go download The Unwritten.) Small Beer Press offers several of their books as free downloads, including Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners. If I’ve missed your giveaway or freebie, drop me a line!
What texts do you come from?