It was the summer of 1988. I was in a bookstore in Anne Arbor, Michigan. I was there for the national competition for the Future Problem Solvers of America. It was exactly as nerdy as it sounds.
It should come as no surprise, then, that these are the three books I bought from that bookstore: The Silmarillion by JRR Tolkien, and Dragonlance Chronicles Book 1: Dragons of Autumn Twilight and Dragonlance Chronicles Book 2: Dragons of Winter Night, both by Margaret Weiss and Tracy Hickman.
I never cracked the Silmarillion, mostly because at that point I hadn’t read the Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings, so it was all Greek to me. But I read the two Dragonlance books. Oh, how I read those two Dragonlance books.
In some ways, the original Dragonlance trilogy was a Lord of the Rings for a new generation. It was epic storytelling in a fantasy setting. They had a type of character for everyone, from the stiff, honor bound Knight, to the half-elf who walked the line between good and evil, to the serene priestess of a new religion. They covered all the bases in Dragonlance. They also made dragons scary again.
When I returned from the trip, I begged my parents to take me to Walden’s (how’s that for dating myself) so I could get the third book in the trilogy. I read it in a single day. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Heck, I simply have too many responsibilities these days to read for an entire day.
The Dragonlance Chronicles trilogy debuted in 1984, which meant I was 4 years behind, which meant there were four years worth of books to catch up on. I quickly devoured the Legends trilogy, the first Tales trilogy, and moved on to the Heroes trilogy.
My book buying habits were sporadic at best. I was dependent upon a) trips to the bookstore with my parents and b) how much money I had (which was usually not much as I was horrible at saving). I think the
first book I actually managed to buy relatively close to its release date was Dragonlance Preludes Book II: Kendermore.
At that point, I started becoming particular about which Dragonlance books I bought, which seemed to coincidence with TSR releasing more and more of them. I skipped the Elven Nations trilogy all together, but bought the six books in the Meetings series — how could I not? They were about the characters from the Chronicles, after all, which is mostly what I cared about.
Dragonlance‘s expansion was problematic for me because I only cared about those main characters. The additional books ultimately pushed me away, pushed me towards the Forgotten Realms universe of books, because those were upfront about being self-contained. They weren’t predicated on an initial series from which the rest of the universe expanded.
Thinking about it now, I don’t know if I ever even finished reading the Meetings sextet. Looking at the list of Forgotten Realms books released by year, I think I stopped reading much fantasy fiction after 1992, at least from TSR (I kept reading fantasy fiction until college, at which point I more or less stopped reading anything other than comics for pleasure).
A few years ago, I started tracking down copies of all the trade paperbacks I’d gotten rid of. Specifically, I started buying up copies of those Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books, the vast majority of which are out of print, but can be bought used for cheap. I bought them and I devoured them and it was fantastic.
Now that I’ve joined the world of eReaders, I’m buying up digital copies. I have a library of fantasy fiction and it’s wonderful. I’m not able to read as much as often as I’d like, but whenever I get the chance, I’m overwhelmed.
It strikes me that, in many ways, fantasy fiction is one of the last remaining fortresses of nerdiness that hasn’t been accepted by popular culture. Those playing D&D are still regularly mocked. Someone who, say, blogs about Dragonlance, is opening themselves up to ridicule.
And I actually kind of enjoy that.
Dragonlance isn’t responsible for me being a nerd, but it certainly helped.