Blog : Fantasy

Ask Me Anything: Science fiction and the worlds we live in

Ask Me Anything is a series of questions given by my friends and answered by me, Angel! If you have any questions that you would like me to answer, or if you’re just plain curious about me (because I am such a superstar), feel free to send me a message!

Did you read a lot of fantasy and science fiction as a kid? Why do you think authors such as J.R.R. Tolkien appealed to you so much?

I didn’t really start reading fantasy and science fiction as a kid, I actually read a lot of Sweet Valley Kids and Twins when I was young, hehe! I started reading science fiction and fantasy in high school, I think. The first (and most memorable) series that come to mind is The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice. I consider it fantasy, okay. My brother was the one who introduced me to Rice (and Stephen King, but I didn’t really like his stories), and the enigmatic Lestat. These books and Lestat meant the world to me, they were my escape. I spent a lot of time reading in my top floor attic room, shutting out the overwhelming chaos of the city, and dreaming of other worlds and immortality while watching the sun set from the roof. I dreamt a lot of leading a life like the courageous, hero-centric and ever-emotional Lestat’s. Come to think of it, I think it’s because of him that I have this romantic streak.

Tolkien made a huge impact on me when the Lord of the Rings movies came out. Indeed, I only read the books because I was inspired by the movie and the world it promised. 🙂 It’s full of heart and loyalty, unshakeable wisdom, a lush landscape, and grand magic. And of course, who wouldn’t be attracted to the elves and a journey to the west (= life after death). It also helped that my best friends also loved the books and Middle-Earth as much as I do. We spent a lot of time dreaming about it together, and assigning ourselves our own elven names. Basically, we shared this world together, it was real as it can be for us. After waiting for years, we watched the Return of the King when it came out in the cinema, crying our eyes out together.

One summer, we spent a weekend at a friend’s guest house in Tagaytay. I was reading Ursula Le Guin’s The Earthsea Quartet and was so mesmerized by it. We ended up sharing the book in that weekend and taking turns reading it (and bugging each other to hurry up already and finish that chapter). 🙂

I remember feeling so much for these other worlds, and thinking that the one I live in lacked so much (magic, emotions, depth, colour, meaning). I was a teenager after all, living in a grimy, humid city. I longed so much for another place, I felt it deep in my heart. I reached for it in fantasy and science fiction at first, and later on in Europe.

Do you think this sort of literature had an influence in the creation of your own image of Europe as you grew up?

I don’t think so. Although they both spring from longings and wishes in my heart, fantasy and science fiction is separate from the “Europe” in my head. I feel like Ian Wright’s adventures in Lonely Planet made more of an impact for me (re: my early image of Europe) during my teenage years. 🙂 Also: Amelie Poulain, Prince Andrea of Monaco, “The Invisible Circus” with Cameron Diaz, and countless of cheesy travel books.

The utopian image of Sweden, however, came from a deep love of Swedish indie music. In the end, I even wrote my Master thesis about it: how Swedish indie music affects perceptions of people about Sweden, and how it ultimately influences and contributes to the success of Sweden’s nation branding efforts. Read all about it here.

Last time I saw you we talked about our love for Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood. What other science fiction women writers have you read lately? Does their treatment of gender interest you as a reader?

Jeanette Winterson is not really science fiction, nor fantasy, but her stories embody a fantastical vibe to it and a deep sense of otherworldliness. Perhaps it is “magic realism”, but not really… Anyway, her stories are absolutely beautiful and so intense that they will leave you feeling like you wouldn’t want to leave that “world” anymore. I love how she writes about the emotions of women in her stories, and the poetic tone of her writing. Her words and stories reach a deep part of myself (the ones we usually we don’t have words for, the ones that are screaming to be heard), in a dizzying, magical landscape.

My favourites are The Passion and Sexing the Cherry. Please read them, your life will change forever!

 Photo: Tove Jansson

I would also love to read more of Tove Jansson‘s work. I recently read a very compelling article about Tove Jansson’s Moomins and what they mean to Jeanette Winterson and her writing, Jeanette Winterson: The Moomins and Me.

Some quotes that I can relate to in the article:

Poetic disorder is how language is made. Only later is it codified. Naming starts as joy. Think of the pleasure a child has in finding words and inventing words and forming sentences that are also shapes. Words are ear and mouth before they are pen and paper. Words run away; you have to catch them.

Machine-made language, the language that comes later, in school and then at work, is useful enough but has no life of its own. The job of the writer is to stay on the side of life. The moving words were what I wanted – then and now.

Moomin-world is wise. The Groke only cares about riches and freezes everything she touches like a refrigerated Midas. The Hemulen collects stamps but falls into despair when his collection is complete – then he is only an owner. Moomins don’t think much of owning things.

On their travels they adopt a small creature with big ears who explains: “I got lost and thought I’d never see the sun again”. This is Dante opening L’Inferno – “Midday through this life of ours I found myself alone in a dark wood.”

We know what that feels like, when the sun goes dark, whether we are a small scared child or a depressed adult.But here are light-up flowers and bowls of sea-pudding and Moominmamma reliably carries a dry pair of socks and stomach powders in her handbag.

Yet sadness is allowed. When Moominmamma falls into despair, everyone else gets gloomier and gloomier dwelling on the sadness in their lives. Perhaps this is Scandinavian, or perhaps it is just a psychic truth, and we try and protect children from what they know anyway – that life is dark as well as lit up.

Bonus question: Which fictional world would you like to live in? 🙂

A photo I took of my friend's cat in Stockholm, 2012.

A cross of Middle-Earth, Narnia and downtown Stockholm. 🙂

This set of questions is brought to you by one of my best friends, Arrate Hidalgo-Sanchez. Arrate is interested in all things science fiction and she writes and translates speculative literature that deals with interesting women. Among other things she likes noodles, rocks, the Northern Lights, silly dance moves and going to the pub with friends and/or books. Arrate does not know where she lives yet but she is having a good time finding out. You can read her brilliant thoughts on her blog, Emerald Grapefruit.