I am a child of the Disney Renaissance, and an honorary member of the Justice League. I have wandered the halls of Hogwarts and sat in Professor Howlett’s history lectures at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. I have been dropped into the Hunger Games arena and raced through forests with werewolves. I watched Frankenstein’s monster blink awake for the very first time; I’ve hunted vampires, sailed on pirate ships, run from zombies; I’ve cast magic spells and time traveled and saved the world from alien invasions.
Along the way, I’ve made friends as real as any human being – though made of paper and pixels and ink instead of muscle fibers and blood. I’ve cried on their shoulders, and let them cry on mine. I’ve seen myself in them. Felt my heart swell and break for them. Ached to crawl into their worlds and cradle them.
I don't have many strong memories from my childhood. My younger brother was born when I was seven, was hospitalized when I was eight. He didn't come for six months, and in those six months I was shuttled between friends' houses, and my grandparents', and the Ronald McDonald House next to the hospital. I can recall only snapshots, and they are all out of order. I can't make sense of them. The years that followed passed in much the same fashion, and when I was eleven my brother passed away.
My life became split into befores and afters with a muddled middle I still can't make sense of. What I do remember are the stories that I clung to. I remember my mother reading me the first Harry Potter book, and not needing her for the next six as I devoured each one shortly after their releases. I remember sitting in the movie theater to watch the films one by one. I remember wanting to be one of Charles Xavier's X-Men, and memorizing every line of Spider-Man 2. I remember reaching for Violet Baudelaire's hand, because none of the kids around me knew what such a deep loss felt like, but Lemony Snicket and his unfortunate orphans surely did. I recall finding magic in Howl's castle and strength in Julie Cabernet's resilience.
When my depression was at its worst, I kept my darkest thoughts at bay by buying comic con tickets and swearing to myself I'd hold on until I got to meet Jon Bernthal, who had, at that point, played characters like Shane Walsh and Joe Teague, characters I'd seen myself in, characters I held close to my heart. In the time between buying tickets and finally meeting him, I started therapy. I got prescriptions. I got help. I saw my anxiety reflected in Tony Stark in Iron Man 3 and was relieved to know that people out there got it enough to write about it, act it out, and put it in a movie for the whole world to see. It made me feel like maybe people in my life might get it, too, if I talked about it as blatantly as a filmmaker could.
I even wrote similar experiences into a character, and published a book in which she clings to Shakespeare after her father's death to find some comfort in a make-believe prince who might understand.
I know that I'm not alone in these feelings. I know that I am not the only one who has been raised and molded and saved by fiction. That is why I set out to write to Fictitious, and why I wanted to run this series alongside it. I wanted to share stories of fiction's impact in people's lives. For a long time, I thought that this obsession I had with places and people that weren't real was strange. I thought that it made me weird. But it doesn't. It just makes me, me. And I'm not alone in this passion. I'm not alone in this comfort-seeking in book pages and television screens. The stories you'll read in this series come from people like me, who have found comfort and strength through fiction from Peter Pan to Harry Potter to Six of Crows.
Each guest post reflects the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the writers themselves, just as I've shared my own experiences here and in Fictitious. I'm so thankful to each and every writer who has agreed to share their story. Being able to connect with so many people regarding something that is so incredibly important to me is a gift. It's why I do what I do.
Next week: SINEAD ATKINSON ON PETER PAN.
Each post will be accompanied by some new information about Fictitious, which will be available on Amazon on April 24, 2018, at the conclusion of THE POWER OF FICTION series.
Today, I would like to share the cover.