This is a follow-up to 'the 2009 book list' post. It started as a comment, but then I realized there was just too much I wanted to say.
I never really got into sci-fi when I was a kid, or even fantasy. I've never ever read The Chronicles of Narnia or those Madelaine Engel books. I didn't read the Lord of the Rings trilogy until before the movies came out. I never read The Chrysalids even though every single other person I've ever met seems to have read it. My sister read all of them them, I read the Little House on the Prairie books and Aldous Huxley and Carl Sagan and preferred medical thrillers and the original (twisted) versions of fairytales and historical fiction (and straight history) - I had an almost unhealthy obsession with the second world war and the Holocaust when I was in grade school.
Warning, OFFSIDE: Incidentally, I threw a FIT when my mother wouldn't let me see Schindler's List when it first came out. Granted, I was 10. When I finally saw it, I was 16 or so, and I knew that, had I seen it at ten, I would have been fine. It may have even been easier because when the film was originally released, there hadn't been another genocide. Instead of seeing it in 1993 when "Never Again" still meant something, I watched the film in 1999, well aware of how soon after its release history would repeat itself; the irony was almost too much to bear. That was almost more painful than anything in the film itself.
This was only one example of something that bugs me: adults don't give kids enough credit. If a kid wants to learn about something heavy, let them. In an age appropriate way, of course, but don't pretend like death or war or terminal illness is beyond their understanding. At least TRY to explain it to them. And don't lie: they're young, not stupid. Same deal with books, if a kid is capable of reading a certain book, he or she is probably ready to handle the consequences of what it contains. (There are of course, exceptions to every rule. For example, NO ONE under the age of thirteen should be allowed to read 'Shake Hands with the Devil' - in fact, most people under seventeen shouldn't read it either.)
Back to my point though, most of what I read was historical or political or folklore or medical. I wanted to be an ER surgeon for about a decade, and I ended up in international relations, and now I want to be a writer and a paramedic (maybe) so oddly enough, it sort of fits.
I think part of it the reason I never got into sci-fi as a kid has to do with the fact that I REPEL technology. I don't know how I'd survive without Google (I suppose I'd live in the library like my mother did...) but I have a very difficult relationship with all things non-organic.
I cried when my old laptop died, not for sentimental reasons (although I did call it my baby), but because it meant I had to learn how to use a new one. I hate cell phones. I don't drive. I still have an old film SLR camera. I don't own a TV. I've never played a video game in my life (seriously, never). And the only arcade games I ever liked were the shooting ones. I didn't see the whole Star Wars trilogy (the GOOD ones, NOT the new ones... I'm not even going to start...) until I was ten or so. I didn't see the Terminator movies until I was seventeen (at which point the evil ex* flipped and forced me to watch them) and when I did see them I appreciated the paradox more than anything else. And I actually kind of loved when my friend's father used to call me his little luddite.
*not ACTUALLY evil, just a nickname... although he was enough of a jerk to have earned the distinction
I never read much fantasy either, but for a very different reason. As I child I wrote an infinite number of silly, pointless, plotless stories. Mostly they weren't even stories, I just created these little universes in my head. Scary-elaborate universes. I was never a very good story teller because I hadn't learned how to drive plot (conflict, conflict and a more conflict) because I'm a shockingly peace-loving person who (unlike about 90% of the world, apparently) was taught the difference between discussion, debate and personal disagreement in high school.
I love the first two, and avoid the third whenever possible, but I really get into debates and I play a fairly convincing devil's advocate so people tend to think I'm incredibly argumentative - which is true, but only in the sense that I enjoy academic arguments (ie. the kind with a thesis and evidence and a logical point worth defending). I'm not a fan of the kind of arguments where people yell senselessly at one another in some sick attempt to gain the emotional upper hand. But as a little kid, I didn't really get that conflict and fighting and things going wrong were kind of what drove stories, because I just wanted everything to be lovely and happy and peaceful.
Then life bitch-slapped me with 2001 (I see 2001 almost as an entity unto itself, and no, the reasons why 2001 was, hands down, the worst year of my life have NOTHING to do with the notorious events in September, by then my life was so irreparably altered that it seemed only fitting that the international political climate should change as well. Now, I separate life into pre-2001 and post-2001).
After that I kind of started getting better at the whole 'things going wrong' part of storytelling. That's why there are very few literary prodigies: because to write well, really well, you have to know what you are talking about and most kids are so sheltered that they can't write conflict accurately. I was the same. I know it. I still think there are only a narrow spectrum of things I can write about half-decently, and that's after a good seven years of processing things.
But when I was a kid, even though I may not have been any good as a writer, I was still far too creative for my own good and that meant that when I started reading fantasy books, I lost interest pretty quickly because my own imagination took over and I got lost in it instead of in the story. So I never read a ton of fantasy either.
Ever since I decided to take writing more seriously, I've been on this children's and YA fiction kick: I know I really want to read the Narnia books, but beyond that, I have no clue where to start (other than maybe reading The Chrysalids). So, I'm taking suggestions as to what sci-fi and fantasy books (for children or adults) I ought to read. I'm going to hit up the public library later this week, so if you have suggestions, let me know before Friday.