Saturday, June 25, 2022

Gateways to SFF


This dreamy-eyed bookworm grew up in a small, rural town in Canada at the end of the twentieth century.

I devoured the Masters of SF on my mother's bookshelf. I read the treasured volumes in our family bookcase by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, the Grimm brothers, and Hans Christian Andersen. It was a challenge to fit in socially, so I made friends with Anne McCaffery’s dragons, Ursula K. LeGuin’s wizards, and Madeleine L’Engle’s Murry family tessering through the universe. They accepted me for who I was, while providing an escape from an often unloving, unfeeling world. 

When I grew into adult SFF, it was the late 1980s and early 90s. There were no ebooks. There was no BookTok and no Bookstagrammers to find book recommendations. So it was my big sister who introduced me to Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar Tapestry.

Cover of the first Canadian and world-wide edition! (1984)

I fell hard and fast for the series. Kay wrote lush Mediterranean-inspired scenes, political intrigue that kept me turning pages, and complex characters that made me swoon. And he was Canadian, like me!

Many of us love SFF because its complexity keeps us engaged and feeds our imaginations. To find a series that appeals to our senses, emotions, and intellect—to all the sides of us—is a gift. It gives us hope. It keeps us going in a world that can seem small and dark.

Today, it’s my great privilege to teach SFF to college students. For some, it’s their first introduction to the genres and I love seeing them explore the thought experiments and new worlds in SFF. The stories that resonate best with my students now are Octavia Butler’s literary granddaughters, such as Nnedi Okorafor, Larissa Lai, Cherie Dimaline, and Nalo Hopkinson. These writers combine globally-influenced myths and legends with beautifully crafted characters to tell stories that reflect on our pasts and present.

They show hope for the future while challenging us to be better. They dare us to dream of a world that respects all of us. A world that cherishes our unique contributions to our families and communities—and all the worlds of our imaginations.

This is what I learned as I read beside my family bookshelf and as I grew into SFF as a young adult. I hope I will always remember this lesson as I try to inspire the next generation of readers.

Until next time,

Mimi B. Rose.

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