A lot of people consider one book, or more usually book series, to have formed a large part of their childhood. For many of our generation, that was Harry Potter. The day the last book came out, people flooded to the bookshops. And wept. When the last film premiered, it was like they too were leaving Hogwarts. It was the end of an era.
Though the series has had nothing like the astronomical fame and success of Harry Potter, for many of my internet friends Tuesday was a similarly sad day, as it was the release of the last Artemis Fowl book. I’ve been a fan of the series since I was about nine or ten, and so this for me was also meaningful.
Through my life I’ve been a big fan of series – up to a point. (I did lose track of how many Roman Mystery books I read, and I think there’s still an Alex Rider book I haven’t got around to yet.)
I wait for eagerly for each new Terry Pratchett book; I will be in bookshops the day ‘Requiem’ by Maggie Stiefvater comes out (I’ve waited three years, guys); I bought ‘Inheritance’ as a Kindle edition because I couldn’t afford the hardback, just to have the closure of tying up loose ends; and I bought Inkdeath the day it was marked down to a price I could afford (hey, I was skint).
But I can’t turn around and say, “This series was my childhood.” I don’t look at their endings as a new era.
My childhood was a patchwork of different books. For many people, they remember a series because it encouraged them to read. One of the reasons Harry Potter was so successful was because it enthused children who previously hadn’t enjoyed reading, so that they became its loyal fans. My sister, who through her teenage years read obsessively, lists Harry Potter high among her favourites because it was the first book she chose to read, the first book she wanted to read of her own accord.
I don’t remember ever having a book like that. I read obsessively from a young age and never needed encouragement. The first word I learned to read was ‘rabbit’ (pretty long, for a three-year-old). My ‘reading record’ from year 3 (I was seven) includes multiple notes from my parents saying, “Miriam had read this book before she left the playground. Could you please give her a longer one next time?”
(A couple of months into the first term, there’s a note that says, “Miriam hasn’t read her reading book this week as she was too busy reading The Hobbit.” I repeat, I was seven. By the time I joined his class I had read more books than my year 4 teacher and consistently got top grades for blatantly ripping of LotR in stories I wrote in Literacy class, which I got away with because he hadn’t read it.)
I remember the day I started reading The Hobbit, up to the cover illustration and where I was sitting and what Mum was doing while I was reading. I remember nagging my parents to let me read Lord of the Rings and though I don’t remember starting it, I remember my little year 3 desk with its tray underneath, containing our 1970s edition of the Return of the King (me in a nutshell). I remember when I started reading Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I remember my mum borrowing the Thieves of Ostia from the secondary school library in my brother’s name so that I could read it. I remember being given the first three Artemis Fowl books as a boxed set for my birthday. I remember my grandma buying me The New Policeman. I remember my sister recommending the Amulet of Samarkand. I remember my uncle giving me a copy of Mortal Engines just as he’d given my brother and sister a copy when they were ten. I remember first picking up the Discworld books. I remember the only time my brother had read a book I hadn’t – the Hitchhiker’s Guide – and his encouragement that I should read it.
I read everything. I devoured it all.
And there’s no particular book that inspired me to write, either. I was writing stories from about the age of six and I don’t know why I wanted to. I just liked it. I liked being able to control what happened and I liked making people read them. Kate Thompson got me interested in Celtic mythology; Eoin Colfer narrowed that down to fairies. From there I went on to Holly Black and Maggie Stiefvater, and all of them influenced me strongly.
But I was writing before I decided it was fairies that were interesting.
In my life I’ve met two authors (Caroline Lawrence and Maggie Stiefvater) and written emails to two (Kate Thompson and Megan Miranda). I actually engaged in quite a long email conversation with Kate Thompson. Not only was she incredibly encouraging of my new-found interest in Irish music and dance, she also did what many authors refuse to do – she read my story. And she told me that she liked it. (I was eleven and it was terrible.)
There are many other reasons why Kate Thompson (and Maggie Stiefvater, for that matter) are role-models to me, but that’s for another post. Suffice it to say that Kate Thompson’s encouragement is probably a factor in why I carried on writing.
But she wasn’t the reason I started.
And because I’ve always read so many books, I’ve never been bereft between the releases of books in a series. I’ve always had something else to read, something else to fill the time.
I finished the last Artemis Fowl book this afternoon (after it arrived this morning), and maybe I do feel like something has ended. But… do I really? There are eight books on my shelf now. I can reread them at any time I want. I can analyse them and write essays on them. I can cosplay them. (Hey, I cosplayed Holly Short before I knew what cosplay was. I was ten.) If I’m desperate, I can fan fic them (though I tend to avoid that and I lean more towards fan art anyway).
The series isn’t over, just because the last book has been published. In a few years he’ll probably give in and write another, or a prequel or something.
My childhood was a patchwork of books and so although many series have since come to an end, none of them have left me broken hearted the way they seem to leave so many people.
Because it’s like the Potterheads say:
“The magic will be with us, always. Until the very end.”