My delight in fantasy stories began with an encounter with The Hobbit when I was six years old. Later, I studied anthropology and the psychology of religion, and eventually became a psychologist who helps children, teenagers, and adults. As a high level World of Warcraft player, one of my interests is looking for ways that people can balance the fantastic pleasures of technology with a life that is full in other ways. To keep the gates open for myself between cities and nature, I have lived in places such as Michigan, New York City, Tucson, and New Orleans, my current home with my wife and son.
My Literary Ancestors
JRR Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Of course. The ancestor of not only my novels, but most of today’s fantasy, High and Low, in books, movies, and even video games. (A path runs from The Lord of the Rings through Dungeons & Dragons to World of Warcraft, which my character Dan plays.) These classics are usually thought of as High Fantasy, set completely in a fantasy realm, so how can they also be ancestors to Low Fantasy, in which the real world encounters a fantasy world (a central theme of my books)? Because of the brilliant creation of hobbits, who despite the hairy feet are essentially normal English people who start out unaware of the fantastic wider world they are about to encounter.
Tolkien gave us a world that is both hugely inventive and deeply rooted in traditional folklore. Not to mention that it is just plain exciting.
Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen
Not nearly as well known as Tolkien, this gem is in some ways closer to my novels because it is about a magical world needing the help of a boy and girl from the normal world—and also about other things from the magical world trying to kill them. Like Tolkien, hugely inventive, deeply rooted in traditional folklore, and just plain exciting.
JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series
All of you reading this are probably already aware of the brilliant intricacies of Harry’s world. Rowling took to new levels the interweaving of the normal challenges and opportunities of children and teenagers with the wondrous challenges and opportunities of a magical world. I find especially inspiring the way Rowling used modern problems—Harry’s abuse by the Dursleys, the racism of Death Eaters toward Mudbloods, Rita Skeeter’s phony journalism—to deepen her fantasy world. Or was she using her magical world to deepen her exploration of these modern problems?
Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer
As my character Dan might say, “OK, this is weird.” What is a tv show about vampires and demons doing on the same page with those fantasy novels? Well, the “Buffyverse” is an enormously entertaining fantasy world where the joys and problems of everywoman/man are interwoven with defeating supernatural evil. As in my novels, the main characters are older teens. And I am inspired by Whedon’s genius with teen humor.