Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Childhood Influences

The recent death of Carrie Fisher brought a lot of emotion out among my friends, mostly but not all related to her role in Star Wars. It set me thinking about childhood influences and how much of a role they play in our lives. Part of this is because, well, as you know I saw the films too late for them to form much of an influence, and when I did it was through a prism of political theory which probably isn't very helpful but continues to colour how I view the franchise. Eve did find them a big influence, as did a load of my other friends and so I'm left in a sort quandary, wondering what did influence me as a child.

My teens were heavily shaped by Michael Moorcock's work, and by a plethora of D&D fiction among other books. Musically I was into miserablist indie, bands like Kingmaker and the Manic Street Preachers - I wouldn't discover Goth or the delights of RPGs until I went to university. I spent most of my time lusting after Stormbringer, or having weird fantasies about an enchanted panther skin that meant I could transform into said beastie (from memory this was a particularly convoluted power fantasy where my school had been dragged through into a massive, magical rain forest and far from being a little, cowed weakling I was able to be Mr Independent with my swanky coat).  Beyond that, I was heavily into Marvel Comics, especially the X-Men with a huge amount of love for the original five, and especially Archangel.

But my childhood? I don't really know if I'm honest. The only films I remember seeing at the cinema before I was a teenager were Disney's Robin Hood, The Jungle Book (twice), Return of the Jedi and Back to the Future, which I only got to see because I pestered my Mum enough for her to come to see it with me. Cinema wasn't really part of my parents' lives, in the same way, that Fantasy and Science Fiction weren't. Beyond that the only exposure to film I really remember was when my parents had their annual cheese and wine parties and I was pushed off to perform video duties with a hired VCR and their friends' sprogs. This was usually an exercise in confirming how little I knew about Film as the guests would invariably have seen things like Sword in the Stone and had no interest in seeing it again. For my parents, these things were distractions, they were adults in the old school and had 'put away childish things', from what I recall.

I probably only got into the genres because of my Grampy, and even then I'd read his big fat book of myths before I even knew about the Hobbit or Lord of the Rings. TV was the same, Colin Baker was the Doctor by the time I saw any Doctor Who*, so perhaps I missed out on the 'cower behind the sofa' years, and while I watched He-Man and played with the toys I had, it was never the huge influence that it seems to have been on other people (and my favourite toy was always Lego). To be honest, beyond the moratorium on watching Grange Hill (a children's soap opera which dealt with things like drug addiction and bullying in rather too much detail for many parents' comfort) and a desire to keep my sister and I from watching ITV as much as possible, I struggle to remember much about telly from when I was a child at all.

Books are clearer, not just the classics like Tolkien, Carrol and Lewis, but authors like Rosemary ManningRosemary Sutcliff and others. I even read some SF with a lot of clones in, which were probably what we'd call Young Adult today, but in those days were just children's books. It puts me in an odd situation where death has already claimed most of the people I would associate with growing up.

I'm not sure where that leaves me today, apart from often looking on in confusion as friends fall apart because of the high number of famous people who are dying (sadly I fear the next few years are going to be rough because we're reaching the point where the Baby Boomers are passing over in increasing numbers and us Gen X types are left holding the ball). I understand that they've been inspired by the people who are dying but to be honest, because I don't see death as a great and terrible thing and because, as I said, most of the famous people who shaped my childhood are already gone (or are connected to things in a fashion that doesn't impact on my enjoyment of said things directly), it feels odd. That's not a judgement on them, probably more of a sign that I'm disconnected from the rest of humanity.

*The age of 8 was apparently a pivotal one for me, as that's when I read Lord of the Rings, saw Dr Who, the friend who's birthday treat was see Jedi was turning 8, and I learnt my first swear word because my Dad had his nervous breakdown.