Solaris

Lauren Roy on The Princess Bride, Mysterious Cities Of Gold and more!

4 years ago

I have always lived in the Land of Make-Believe.

Not literally. I grew up in 1980s New England suburbia, where knights and dragons were few and far between. But I was a lucky kid - my parents kept me supplied with books, let me run amok in the library, and rarely vetoed the movies and TV shows I picked out. Even when, in middle school, I started picking titles from the adult fiction section in the bookstore. My mom was always worried that she’d get a call from my teachers, wondering why I had my nose in King and Koontz and McCammon, but if any of them noticed what I was reading, they never commented.

Other worlds drew me in, places where magic existed and kids had grand adventures. I wanted the loyal steed and the castle and the sword and the fairy wings, but mostly I wanted to be a hero. In school, I was the opposite - the shy, nerdy kid who stayed out of the spotlight and hoped gym class would end before I got up to bat (except when it was badminton time. I wasn’t utterly hopeless at that.)
I’m going to take a stroll through the stories that set my imagination soaring when I grew up...

My budding library had quite the collection of Little Golden Books. These are the ones I remember my parents reading to me so many times I had ‘em memorized. The one based off of Disney’s Cinderella especially. I might be able to blame this book on my susceptibility to earworms - every time my parents read the Fairy Godmother’s song aloud, I insisted the lyric wasn’t mechicka boola but magic-a-boola. Because the latter made more sense. I’m sorry for being pedantic, mom and dad.

The first fantasy stories I read on my own were the Morgan stories from Serendipity Press. It’s probably where I first got the idea that I wanted a unicorn of my own. Morgan and Yew may also be the first book that traumatized me as a kid - I don’t remember if the details of Morgan’s disappearance get spelled out, or if my imagination filled them in, but let’s just say that the Morning Star is a character. I highly doubt that I knew back then that Lucifer is also referred to as the morning star, and that almost certainly wasn’t author Stephen Cosgrove’s intention, buuuut.

When I was eight or nine, one of my cousins left a box of books at our house. It was a series of ten or twelve books, clothbound hardcovers with different colors for each volume. The pages were onionskin thin, and held the musty smell of old books. The name of the collection escapes me, but each volume was packed with poems and stories and fairytales from around the world.

I was part of the Nickelodeon generation that got to watch The Mysterious Cities of Gold and Spartakus and the Sun Beneath the Sea. Both of these shows walk the line between science fiction and fantasy, but hey - kids chasing down the lost cities of gold, or discovering a civilization deep beneath the ground? I was riveted. Zia, the Incan girl from Mysterious Cities of Gold, was my favorite. She was smart and clever and brave, keeping a clear head when Esteban and Tao lost theirs, which was kind of often. And yes, I could probably still sing the theme song to MCOG. (Please don’t make me. It’ll be better for everyone if I don’t.)

Remember that part where I wanted a unicorn? The Last Unicorn was one of the movies I watched over and over. A wizard who’s not very good at what he does, Amalthea the unicorn-turned-woman, the Red Bull chasing them… pardon me while I go rewatch. This is another one where I had the soundtrack memorized, but that pales in comparison to the entire movie that many children of the ‘80s have hard-wired into our brains: The Princess Bride. Go up to any even slightly geeky adult you know and say, “Inconceivable!” or “Stop rhyming and I mean it!” We have an almost built-in reflex to deliver the next lines. The story has a hero in disguise, adventure, witty banter, a love story, and a story of true friendship. I didn’t know it at the time, but it taught me a lot about writing. Frame stories! Subverting expectations! Trusting your audience!

One more: Madeleine L’Engle’s A Swiftly Tilting Planet. I know this is usually considered science fiction, but it’s another that walks the line between the two for me. There’s a talking, flying unicorn who helps the main character travel through time to prevent a nuclear war. Best of both worlds! If you haven’t read L’Engle before, you’re in for a treat. Hie thee to your bookstore or library and pick up A Wrinkle in Time.

I feel a massive rewatch/reread coming on…

You can find out more about Lauren Roy and The Fire Children right here at Ravenstone – and don’t forget to follow Lauren on Twitter.

The Fire Children is out on June 18 (UK)/June 30 (US/Canada).
Pre-order now: US|UK