When i was a weedling, i loved to read stories about witches. The pretty ones who hid their talents from the outside world, and the ugly ones who threw it back in society’s face. The good ones and the bad ones. They fascinated me, and i couldn’t get enough. My Ma, for all her weaknesses, loved the library and would take us pretty regularly. I devoured every book in that building that had anything to do with witches, sorcerers – Hell, any kind of misfit with magical powers. I would bury myself in them until my dreams became epics of me, spectacular and powerful, righting the wrongs of the world by raising my hands in a glorious swooping gesture while wearing a bold-faced look of “Take that, you bastard!” Like every other child in the world, i felt powerless in real life, so i lived for the times when i could close my eyes and actually be someone important.
And of course i tried that swooping gesture in real life more than once to see if i actually could make magic.
As i got older, tho i still loved to read about witches, i branched out a bit. Sorcerers, fairies, aliens, the occasional superhero…. It was still a lot about the power, but also starting to become a treatise on not being bound by societal norms. Instead of being sad because i always felt like an outsider, i started to be a proud of it.
Ok, that’s a bit of a lie. I tried hard to relish being an outsider. I really did. But in reality, i was no different from any other young teenager, desperate to feel i fit in. What can i say? Some things are universal for kids.
And in my dreams, i still made the grand, swooping gesture as i worked my magic… Only now, instead of always being the righter of wrongs, i occasionally took a bit of revenge. I laughed as the ones i envied watched me win at whatever the current favorite thing was. And the ones who made me cry, well, i made them cry just as hard.
I’m so glad that i only had venue to deal with that in my brain. As painful as teenage angst is at the time, in retrospect you end up seeing yourself as so self-involved that it’s embarrassing.
As my teenage years progressed, i discovered science fiction. I’d loved sci-fi TV and movies since birth, but reading science fiction is a whole other ballgame. Science fiction books had it all! Action, adventure, power, altruism, and even (almost) sex. It was misfit heaven, and i felt at home there. Heinlein’s world was mine. Chalker’s world was mine. Adams’ and Herbert’s worlds were mine. Sure, i read other books as well, but it was the sci-fi writers who made me question what i thought was right and wrong. They were the ones who made me think about politics and sociology and human relationships. These writers made me question the universe and the meaning of it all. They filled my dreams with thoughts of power to change the world. It wasn’t me alone anymore. In my dreams i had a band of friends and we all worked like superheroes (And bed-behaved like tomcats. I mean, i was still a teenager, after all), and we made the universe a better, if more bawdy, place. I didn’t often throw my hands up and do the grand swooping gesture anymore, but hey, at least i stopped wanting revenge. Instead, i wanted to make the world, the universe, better and freer.
Not that i didn’t do the gesture once in a blue moon, just in case my magical powers were as delayed as my puberty.
In my earlier adult years, i didn’t read much sci-fi, fantasy, or magic anymore (Well, except for the occasional re-read of favorites.) I found other genres that piqued my interest. And as much as i love a good historical fiction tome à la Clan of the Cave Bear, that kind of book never gave me the dreams i had with my earlier genres. Ayla had chutzpah, to be sure, but she didn’t weave spells or jump timelines. She didn’t evoke that kind of powerful feeling in me.
So my dreams got rather boring until the rebirth of fantasy for the younger generation. I delighted in going to the midnight release of the newest Harry Potter book with my own weedlings. I read all of the Hunger Games and Divergent books along with them. (I’m so glad i had children at that age. I would have had to come up with a good story otherwise, since there was never any doubt in my mind that i had to read the books!) And i started having those dreams again…. Those dreams where i am powerful and fixing the world.
Yes, i also try to do a bit to fix the world for real. I have raised good and socially conscious weedlings. I reduce, re-use, and recycle. I save energy where i can and eat less and less meat and dairy as i get older. I volunteer and help at causes that are important to me. But it’s not the same, is it? I have no lightning in my being to throw at bad guys. I can’t steep herbs from my yard and make cancer go away. And even tho i occasionally throw my hands up in the grand swoop, it doesn’t do anything except make me giggle.
It’s terribly anti-climactic.
Thankfully, we have books. And dreams. And in them, we can have the power really change things. Not that we should give up the efforts in real life, but it can be really therapeutic to wield a wand, or a sword, or a phaser to fight the righteous fight. There is something to be said for keeping those childhood fantasies alive and well in that place in your mind where anything is possible. And if you occasionally throw your hands up in the grand swoop to see if you are dreaming, i, for one, will not laugh. In fact, i may invite you to the Leaky Cauldron for some butterbeer. Or the local pub for an actual beer. We can talk about books, We can talk about fantasy. And we can talk about our powers and how we make things better.