For many of us in the United States, the holiday season - and sometimes, specifically, Thanksgiving - is a time for both family and reflection. This year, as my wife and I expect twin girls to arrive in the next few weeks, my pending parenthood has caused me to look back at my own upbringing and one of the definitive sources of my own geekiness and love of genre storytelling: my own geeky mother Julie Dillon.
I should state upfront that I was very lucky and fortunate, having been raised by two parents that did all they could for me, constantly supported me, and who passed on many of the morals and values that I carry with me today. With that said (and while my father did pass on much to me that I am eternally grateful for), it was undeniably my mother who encouraged and shared the love I have for the geekier things in life. What follows are just a few of the many reasons I’m thankful for her presence in my life, then and now.
For one thing, I’m thankful that I had a mother who encouraged me to read. My mother has always been an avid reader herself and worked as a librarian for a number of years in central Pennsylvania, where I grew up. She fostered a taste for reading in me at a young age by bringing assortments of fascinating books for me to flip through, even before I had learned to read on my own. Not only did she teach me a love of stories and reading, but introduced me - through a shared and passionate interest in books - to enduring interests like my fascination with dinosaurs and sharks, my love of drawing (boosted by many "how to" guides), and the simple joy one can get from an unstressed afternoon at the local library.
I’m also very thankful that I had a mother who wasn't afraid to have her own geeky interests and share them with her children. While my mother has always been supportive of my own obsessions and endeavors, it has never seemed to come at the cost of her own reading or viewing selections, many which she would often share with me. The first time I heard the title of Jurassic Park, it was because my mother was reading Michael Crichton's novel and imagining Velociraptors creeping through the dark hallways towards her. I viewed Terminator 2: Judgment Day for the first time because my mother had rented the VHS and thought it was too amazing of a flick to not share with her young son. I've carried a serious vampire fascination since my teens, but my mother was reading Anne Rice long before I ever tuned in to Buffy the Vampire Slayer or picked up a Vampire: The Masquerade RPG manual. Films like the Star Wars trilogy, Terminator, Back to the Future, and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn were common place in my house because my family, particularly my mother, found them interesting. The stories we shared together and the discussion we had afterwards certainly left an impression on me in many regards.
And this continues to this day, which is one more thing I'm grateful for. I'm thankful that genre stories were, and continue to be, a way I can connect with my family and friends, especially my mother. While I never expected her to stop enjoying the fantasy, sci-fi, and horror genres that she introduced me to, the current wealth of genre narratives these days have been a joy to share with others, and for me this has been particularly special with my parents. Over the past few years, films like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and TV series like Game of Thrones and Watchmen have really provided entertaining drama and fertile ground for worthwhile discussion afterwards. My father has always seemed to prefer more grounded stories based in our own reality and history, but my mother’s interest in these genre films and shows has had a similar effect on him and now, occasionally, I find myself discussing with my father the themes behind the latest Avengers film, how it teaches young people about the world around them, and how that applies to our own actions in this life. I would have never guessed that connecting via these stories would also allow my parents to connect to what I chose to do with my life (creating and celebrating stories), but, then again, I also would have never guessed that my green-thumbed mother would start naming her plants after George R.R. Martin's dragons one day.
We've been discussing the importance of stories in our lives and culture all through this year through Fanbase Press' #StoriesMatter initiative. A lot of that discussion has been focused on the value each story contains, but we must also be sure to not discount the communal experience and connection that stories provide in a simple and basic way, especially when shared with family and loved ones. We may not always immediately connect our annual re-watch of the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, or The Hunger Games films after Thanksgiving dinner to the tales shared by our ancestors around the fire after filling their bellies, but both are traditions with their own power and social benefits. We must never forget that the enjoyment, shared experience, and memories forged with family while sharing these stories are just one more reason why stories matter to us as human beings. The opportunities to connect with others we hold dear is just as an important part of the narrative as the plot and messages within.