Tagged Bedtime Stories

Fang & Talon

Jacob Gulliver, writer/director of Fang & Talon and my former student, says this:

My earliest memories of bedtime stories are Batman comics–cute, kiddified Batman comics, but still comics. One of my father’s close friends was an eccentric Italian mathematician named Lino who spent a lot of time at our house working with my Dad (also a mathematician). As my Mom says, he didn’t have any kids of his own to spoil, so he would read me Batman before I could do so myself. He did all the characters voices with a heavy Italian accent. Kevin Conroy does a better Batman, but Lino does the best Two-Face.

Jacob’s webseries needs patrons. Glimpse it here, and become a mini-Medici if you like what you see.

The Bedtime Stories of WisCon 36

“What is the very first bedtime story you can remember?”

I often ask this question of my fellow authors. Last weekend at WisCon I asked it several times, and this is what people told me:

Christopher Barzak remembers many rabbits; listening to Peter Rabbit, requesting The Velveteen Rabbit, and then reading Watership Down on his own. If rabbits are his totem, then I suspect that the moon rabbits of Japanese folklore watch over him–or maybe the Aztec rabbit gods, who were known to be extremely fun at parties.

Ted Chiang suspects that Hop on Pop was among the very first books read to him. Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! must have also played a significant role. “Think and wonder, wonder and think!”

Eugene Fischer also remembers Dr. Seuss, along with The Hobbit and a Heinlein short story involving an antique plate. Neither of us could remember the name of that story, but I’m pretty sure it’s somewhere in The Past Through Tomorrow.

Jen Volant has food-themed memories of bedtime books. We were at a restaurant when she brought up The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, so the setting may have had a mnemonic effect. Then we all talked about the malleability of memory.

A.A. Milne made an impression on the early years of Ellen Klages–though she preferred his poetry to his prose, and still considers those verses science-fictional. After describing the otherworldliness of Milne’s poetry, she led a room full of people in a full chorus of “Disobedience.”

“JAMES JAMES MORRISON MORRISON WEATHERBY GEORGE DUPREE…”

Her WisCon reading was a heartbreaking short story entitled “Goodnight Moons” (published here and here). Every beat in the story made all of us laugh, until we finally noticed ourselves quietly crying.

The earliest bedtime stories told to Delia Sherman involved the mischief made by escaped dolls. They were told to her in Japanese. She does not speak Japanese, and yet remembers the stories perfectly.

Sherman’s magnificent novel The Freedom Maze just won the Andre Norton Award, by the way.

Nancy Werlin was not read to as a child. She insists that her parents didn’t neglect her, but they were occupied with medical challenges posed by her older sister. Nancy taught herself to read by the time she was three.

Thus ends my WisCon 36 collection of bedtime stories.

 

Ursula K. Le Guin

As I’ve written elsewhere, one of the very wisest voices in contemporary literature is Ursula K. Le Guin. Her fiction (and poetry, and essays) have shaped and reshaped my sense of story. She recently read my novel Goblin Secrets, and this is what she had to say about it:

It was hard to stop reading Goblin Secrets, and I didn’t want the book to end! The author’s imagination is both huge and original, taking us to a truly new place, rich with  lively, vivid scenes, fascinating people, and marvelous inventions. He doesn’t explain things, yet everything is clear. And he tells his fast-paced story in language that’s a pleasure in itself — subtle, tricky, funny, beautiful.  More, please, Will Alexander! 

-Ursula K. Le Guin

You know the happy dance that muppets do, with little muppet arms flailing? I’ll be doing that for the next several hours…

***

I don’t yet have a bedtime story memory from Le Guin, but on the topic of early influences she credits Lord Dunsany’s Dreamer’s Tales for showing her the way to her native country. Go find “A Citizen of Mondath” in The Language of the Night if you want to know more–and I know that you do.

 

Dave McKean meets the Wolfman

Busy with book stuff, but here’s a bedtime story I’ve been saving. Except it isn’t a really bedtime story. But it is how the artist Dave McKean answered my favorite question, and his answer certainly qualifies as an early influence, so I say it counts.

The first thing I really remember sort of having an affect was this terrible, boring, bland, banal television program called Nationwide that was on in England at about 6 oclock. It was just local news, it was dull and boring. And, you know, you’d come home from school, my Dad would come home from work, and it was just on in background, we’d have some tea. It was just drab stuff, you know, go out to see the latest patch of cabbages growing in Norfolk, I mean it was just dreadful stuff. And one evening they said “Now we’re going over to the Isle of Wright for a story, and younger viewers may find this disturbing.”  This had never I mean this was really a strange thing to say, and we all went like this [slowly turns head away from imaginary tea to imaginary television] and this piece came up with these families reporting that they had seen this figure who was erect like a man, but very shaggy. And people had been calling it a wolfman. And this particular couple said that they had woken up at three in the morning and seen this figure in their doorway, and it bounded down the stairs and out of the house. Now the context is the thing, the context is banal program about local events, and it was a strange story, totally deadpan, absolutely played straight. I still don’t know if they were joking. It might have been April the First, might have been a stupid joke like the spaghetti trees. It might have been, but I still don’t know, and it terrified me. It absolutely terrified me, and I absolutely remember, with the hallway there in the doorway, doing this [wakes up with a start, checks the imaginary doorway] to see if the wolfman was there. 

You don’t know what you take from these things, but I think what I took from it is context is everything. You play one expectation against something else. It’s very powerful. And actually that’s something I’ve always tried to do in the stories, the things that we’ve done. You think you know its one kind of story, and you twist it or change it…

(Transcribed from the Q&A following this event.)

The First Story I Remember

My book exists. It moves through the world. Total strangers might be reading it right now.

I’ve been interviewed twice this week; once by Nancy Holder, author of novels and comics and books about Buffy, and once by Megan Kurashige, writer/performer and fellow Clarion grad.

Here’s the first interview at The Enchanted Inkpot.

Here’s the second at Fantasy Matters.

It was strange and entertaining to be interviewed. Both sets of questions made me remember all sorts of things about my book and the writing of it that I had completely forgotten. And then Megan went and asked my very favorite question, the one that started this blog:

MK: You curate a wonderful collection of bedtime story memories on your blog. What is the first bedtime story you remember?

WA: Ha! I’ve been asking authors this question for years. It was only a matter of time before someone asked it back at me.

My parents had different gifts when it came to bedtime stories. My mother was much better at reading them. She did the voices. My father was better at making them up on the spot. He got bored while reading aloud. His mind would wander and his voice would slip into monotonous autopilot. But he told far better stories if he got to use his own words.

The very first one I remember was about Flash Gordon. We had just watched the movie adaptation at the drive-in (the silly one with the Queen soundtrack, starring Brian Blessed’s teeth). I was convinced at the time that a) the events of the movie had actually happened, and b) that Dad would know what happened next. So I demanded an immediate and swashbuckling sequel, and he made one up.