childhood influences: why I write what I do

In the past few weeks, I posted about why I think I write science fantasy. When that turned out to be a discussion on how to define the genre, I went on to elaborate how the different languages and vocabularies of fantasy and science fiction are blended in science fantasy.

Today I have a confession: The reason why I write science fantasy has very little to do with a reasoned, thoughtful approach to writing fiction and everything to do with my childhood influences. Behold.

(Note: science fiction elements in red, fantasy in blue, science fantasy in purple)

Exhibit A: ThunderCats

Feline humanoids with super powers flee their dying planet in spaceships and crash-land on another planet. There they encounter new friends  (unicorn-herding sorcerers, warrior maidens, galactic cops, and robotic fruit-harvesting bears), make a powerful new enemy (a five-thousand-year-old living mummy), and build a fortress and a cool tank. Their leader, a hotheaded young warrior with a magic sword, is constantly in and out of trouble.


These robotic bears must run on ethanol


Exhibit B: Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer

A magical girl who brings spring to earth travels across the universe to confront an evil space princess who is bent on adding a diamond planet to her collection of jewels. Features talking horses, both real and robotic, robots and spaceships, lizard creatures and magical belts.

I may have been one of the few people who, upon learning of the discovery of this planet, exclaimed, “They found Spectra!”


“Nobody can own Spectra! It’s the light of the whole universe!”


Exhibit C: Warriors of the Wind

I know, I know this is the horribly-mangled English-language version of Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, but I loved it as a kid and I don’t care that it cut out all the heavy-handed environmentalism. I’m grateful to the newer English version of Nausicaa for clearing up some plot points that had always puzzled me, but the dialog of Warriors of the Wind was funnier and I knew most of it by heart.

So. Blurb: In a post-apocalyptic world taken over by a toxic jungle and giant insects, a small peaceful kingdom is brutally attacked by a warlike state (with airplanes, tanks, and guns) when an ancient weapon is uncovered within its borders. Nausicaa, the princess of the Valley of the Wind, who has a strange connection with the giant insects, struggles to bring peace between the nations, and between humanity and the denizens of the jungle. There is also a prophecy.


I covet that glider.


It’s no wonder that I write genre soup, happily tossing fantasy and science fiction elements into my fiction.

What were your childhood influences? How have they affected your writing or other art?


  1. Awesome blog post! My answers would be too long for just one comment. I might need to do my own version.

  2. I LOVED Rainbow Brite! I remember my siblings and I used to make the robotic horses out of legos.

    As for influences, well, you’ve seen mine: unabashedly science fiction, fantasy, and classics, like Anne of Green Gables. I read everything I could get my hands on and when I ran out of fiction, I started reading the health books. No joke. This resulted in my continuing to be an eclectic mess of whatever strikes my fancy.

  3. Lots of fantasy and magic, magic, magic! I think we had similar childhood reading habits. :)

  4. I love this post, even if I don’t recognize any of the exhibits! I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I write what I write, so this was very timely. My sister and I were talking just a couple days ago about how very early in our lives certain things cement in our brains and hearts about what we love, all those very early influences that made us who we are. And we were realizing that her son, my nephew, at four and a half, is already at that point.

  5. Hmmm…it probably has to do with me being older than you and growing up with just one TV channel, but I’ve never heard of any of these. :p

    My TV childhood influences were “Emil from Lönneberga”, “Madicken”, “Den vita Stenen”, “Silas”, “Dick Turpin”, “Dr. Who” etc.

    Reading was also Astrid Lindgren, the classics (David Copperfield, The Last Mohican etc.), until I discovered Ursula Le Guin and the Wizard of Earth Sea, from that day on it was mostly fantasy and sci-fi. Comics were “Valhalla”, “Elfquest”, “Linda and Valentin”, “Douwe Dabbert”, “Lucky Luke”, and “Isabel”. :)

    • I’ve heard of Doctor Who, but none of the others. I have read Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking, right?) and many of the classics, but none of the comics.

      Definitely a generational thing going on here. I was solidly an 80s child. :D

      • You haven’t heard of Elfquest? Lucky you! The comics are online:

        And yup Pippi Longstocking (she was never my favourite, but my aunt’s nickname is Pippi after her :p). If you can get hold of dubbed versions of the Swedish movies and series, I am sure your kids would love them. Maybe Ronja Robber’s Daughter and The Brothers Lionheart is available in English?

        • I loved Elfquest! Anxiously awaited new issues back in the day, and still own like the first 30 comics or so. I did not realize it was online (though I probably should have!) Thanks for the link. I will probably spend way too much time there over the next few weeks, as it looks like there’s a ton I never got to read!

  6. I watched a little bit of ThunderCats when I was a child. And I knew about Rainbrow Brite’s existence but nothing about her/the cartoon’s premise. Never heard of Warriors of the Wind, but yeah, that glider is most covet-worthy. :D

  7. I remember the Thundercats. One TV station liked to run them week day afternoons in the 80′s, so I’d use them to unwind after school. {Smile}

    The other two you mention look interesting, but I don’t remember them.

    Of the things mentioned in the other comments, Elfquest sticks out. Their first color collections hit my high school when I was a junior and senior, I think. I lost interest in them later; maybe I should look further with them. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

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