I have a strange relationship with the fantasy genre. From roughly age 10-13, my literary tastes tended toward books with barbarians on the cover. I’d always been a voracious reader, but something just clicked when I worked my way through the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander and almost without meaning too, I found myself mired in various epic battles. Seventh and eighth grade were when I discovered Dungeons and Dragons, and though I only played the game on a few sporadic occasions it opened the door to the morass of tie-in novels. R.A. Salvatore and company lead me through the hormonal soup of my early teen years. I spent more time reading about dwarven gold and elven longbows than I probably should have.
Eventually I drifted away. I started reading selections from the canon in my A.P. English classes and Kerouac or any other book I thought might make me seem cool to disaffected young women. From there, I became an English major and my focus tended to the more literary, proper fiction. Part of me never lost sight of the genre. I would occasionally pick up the latest in a series I had followed in my younger days, but I never returned to the level of fervent fandom my 12 year old self felt when he would stay up all night turning the pages of slightly yellowed David Eddings paperbacks.
As much as I like to think of myself as a rebel nonconformist who does what he pleases without a care for what people think, I know deep down that the stigma of being a geek had something to do with my shift. I did consciously decide that at some point I wanted to have sex, and maybe walking around with a dog eared copy of The Might of the Dragon Emperor’s WarKillers: Tales From the Kingdom of Le’ve’n’ti’ri’a wasn’t the best way to accomplish that particular goal. The girls I wanted to woo needed to hear me drop knowledge about the sensitive and the weird, not relay the latest doings of lavender-eyed dark elves. This applied doubly to the cute girls behind the counter at Barnes & Noble and the art student with horned rim glasses who I took German I with.
I know it’s shallow, but I felt vaguely embarrassed to be seen reading fantasy literature. But I never entirely lost the urge. How do I know? Because as soon as I got my Kindle last year I immediately began downloading cheesy fantasy novels. I have made peace with my geekdom since my late teenage rebellion from it, but there’s still a social cost to reading trashy fantasy novels on the bus or train that I don’t know I am willing to pay. The Kindle removes that social cost. I can download the books without anyone seeing the covers. Since I’ve gotten it, I’ve still read literary fiction. I’ve read a few nonfiction books. But I keep returning to the apostrophe-filled prose of the fantasy genre. When I read them, no none around me knows that I’m not reading Cloud Atlas. The Kindle strips my nerdy tendencies bare. It turns my homescreen into an inescapable reminder that I am a huge nerd.