Some of my best friends have lived within the pages of books. As a kid I was a little socially awkward, and I didn’t fit into any of the groups. I wasn’t a jock, I wasn’t a star student, I wasn’t a preppy kid with a crowd of hanger-on. What I did have was a love of books.
I discovered Tolkien sometime around Junior High and I remember walking around with one of the Lord of the Rings trilogy tucked on top of my stack of textbooks and I spent more time in Middle Earth than I ever did in Civics. Later I discovered Asimov, Heinlein, Pratchett, Brooks, McCaffrey, and King and disappeared into their worlds with the same abandon and for the same reasons. Through their characters I could be someone different, I could see new and strange worlds, and through their coming of age stories, or adventures where an Everyman becomes something bigger and better, I could dream about what could be in my own life.
In high school I had a teacher that had the foresight to recognize this in me and she would slip me books all the time. She introduced me to even bigger and better worlds. She showed me characters that were just like me that weathered the trials of life and did something big, epic, even heroic.
When you’re that kind of kid, you start to get pegged as the nerd kid that’s always talking about computers and NASA and reading some book about Elves and Orcs or some such nonsense. But the cool thing is that there’s always someone else. You start to notice that there’s another kid that has those same tattered paperbacks tucked into his or her own stack of text books and friendships are founded on the mutual love of things bigger than each of us.
I remember an annoying jock that picked up my copy of Dragon Riders of Pern and tossed it across the room while saying “these books are for losers” while his group of idiot disciples laughed. I was embarrassed at the time, and I really hated him for it, but looking back he was right, at least partially. That book, and books like it were for me. They were for me and for folks like me. They took me out of a place I didn’t want to be and challenged me to be something better than I was.
Not only Gandalf’s wisdom, but Frodo’s heroic sacrifice and the subtext of different cultures working together taught me to be a better person, and continue to challenge me today.
Looking back now on those times makes me laugh. With the internet it’s very easy to find your tribe and to connect with people that think the way you do and like the things you do. It’s a good time. Hosting this podcast has also afforded me the opportunity to meet lots of people that are making good art and that have written some of those books that “are for losers”, and hopefully I am writing books for some kid that feels like he is a loser, but through my characters, he gets to experience something new, and just maybe I will encourage him to take a trip he never would have, or set out on a new adventure, or just be a better friend.
So yeah, books are for losers. Losers like me. And thank God for them.