Happy Easter! And Ash Thursday, as I believe today is. I could google it but if I'm wrong I don't really want to start this piece all over again. So even if it's not, happy Ash Thursday! I wonder what it is an Ash Thursday. I'll be honest with you, I'm not going to be opening the Good Book this Easter season and reflecting on death and resurrection. Not really in the mood. Too much snow! Here, let me start over after all: X-This day when it had light it snowed a blizzard. Sonofabitch I said. I wonder what it is a fabitch. XX- Many years ago, I think the xmas of 1987, my parents gave me a book that for all intents and purposes has become my Good Book. Well, I don't want to blaspheme on this Easter weekend so we'll uncapitalize. My good book, aka The Best Fantasy Stories from the Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, edited by Edward L. Ferman. It was probably picked off the remaindered table of a Coles The Book People bookstore with very little forethought. It completely blew my mind.
XXX- I loved fantasy and science fiction. Star Wars came out when I was 3, Empire Strikes Back when I was not quite 6. My librarian grandmother gave me a beautiful copy of The Hobbit for xmas in 1984, the full color illustrated edition from the Rankin/Bass animated adaptation. From there I went on to Lord of The Rings and I constantly raided my dad's collection of sci-fi books. XXXX- I could tell right away that I was gonna love my good book. The cover was gorgeous and I was sure the stories would all be LOTRish epics with elves and orcs and swords and dragons. The first story was about a janitor and whale and a swimming pool. It was a quick read and it was different, but it was very cool. Keep reading. Soon there was a promising story called "The Man Who Painted The Dragon Griaule", by Lucius Shepard. Sweet! A dragon! Whose name I still can't pronounce. It took me a while to get through that one. I enjoyed it, but had no idea what it was about. It certainly wasn't the type of dragon story I was expecting. XXXXX- I don't know if there is a single orc in this good book. But it didn't matter. My world was expanded, my mind was blown. Fantasy wasn't necessarily about swords and sorcery (though it could be about precisely that- as seen in Larry Niven's "Not Long Before The End"), it just had to be, well, fantastic. And these stories were. Harlan Ellison broke my heart with "Jeffty is Five". This little boy, Jeffty, he was five. Like, forever. It was exactly my fantasy at the time- to stay a kid, to stay young, to never have to grow old. But Harlan showed how this is not a good thing at all. Argh! I rebelled against him, I disagreed, I wanted him to be wrong, but he was (is) too good of a writer and I was forced to agree with him in the end. Dammit! XXXXXX- And then there was Richard Matheson's "Born of Man and Woman". This day when it had light mother called me a retch. You retch she said. I wonder what it is a retch. Those three sentences may be why I call myself a writer today. Someday I hope to be able to write even just one sentence that is as perfect, but I also shrink in despair from such hubris. X- Everything I've read since has been an attempt to recapture that feeling of wonder and awe thatI got from this book. Luckily this quest is an easy one to succeed at. Everything I've ever written has been an attempt to give you, the reader, that same sense of wonder. Not such an easy quest. But don't worry, I'll keep trying. I will.
- Nathan Waddell