What Speculative Fiction Taught Myke Cole

About the Author

As a security contractor, government civilian and military officer, Myke Cole’s career has run the gamut from Coun­tert­errorism to Cyber Warfare to Federal Law Enforcement. He’s done three tours in Iraq and was recalled to serve during the Deep­water Horizon oil spill.

 

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So, Sarah emailed me the other day and asked if I’d be willing to talk a bit (and by “talk,” I mean “type”) about what I love about speculative fiction. There’ve been a lot of kerfuffles in the industry lately, from Orson Scott Card’s public douchebaggery, to Jim Frenkel’s recent (and long overdue) dismissal from Tor. There’s the “grimdark” tempest in a teapot. There’s the baseless accusation that big publishing doesn’t employ female editors (fun fact: MOST editors in the Big 5 are women. My imprint’s editorial staff is entirely female. Harper-Voyager, DAW and Baen are all run by women). There’s Vox Day’s toxic implosion and subsequent expulsion from SFWA.

Hanging out on Twitter, one would think that Internet outrage is pretty much all we do. And frankly, I’d be hard pressed to prove that wrong.

But the real reason I got involved in the genre was for great stories. Sure, they can make political points, paint pictures of worlds where the injustices of our own are put right. All of that is a piece of the magic. But, at the root, the story is what I’m after, the heady feeling of transportation and resonance. The notion of possibility.

And one other thing: Science Fiction is my father. Fantasy is my mother.

That’s not hyperbole. A couple of years ago, Ethan Gilsdorf interviewed me for a piece in salon.com (read it here – http://www.salon.com/2011/03/09/dungeons_and_dragons_comes_back/). The conversation was about Dungeons and Dragons, but the truth was that it encompassed the whole genre in all its mediums, from novels to comic books to film and television.

As a pasty, scrawny weakling kid, playing role-playing games in my mom’s basement, I knew something was wrong. I didn’t like how powerless I was. I didn’t like being picked on. I didn’t like being afraid. In the absence of qualified male role-models, superheroes stepped in. I learned resourcefulness from Batman, righteousness from Superman, finding strength-in-weakness from Daredevil. The party structure of D&D forced me to socialize until it became natural, and the fighters and paladins I always played showed me what it meant to be brave. Novels followed: Tolkien and Brooks and Anthony and Bradley and yes, even Orson Scott Card, whose magnificent Ender showed me that a child can be powerful, can be so good that he is impossible to ignore.

I rolled those dice, and pretended to be that paladin, for years upon years. And, after a while, the act seeped into my DNA, the role consumed the player.

By the time the smoke cleared, I wasn’t playing anymore. I *am* that paladin, just as I’d always imagined I would be.

I love my parents, but I can’t lie. They were too busy fighting their own fires to take care of me.

So, the genre did. Science Fiction and Fantasy are more than a form of entertainment to me. They’re my FAMILY.

And do I love my family? Yes, I do. Truly, madly, deeply.

I’ve been asked if I’m surprised that I wound up writing fantasy novels. I’d counter that it was inevitable

Blood will tell.

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