Reading Habits

11 Ways to Start Your Next Adventure

Rumor has it that spring is here. Hyacinths and daffodils would agree if the endless rain didn’t (gone, April showers!), so I found myself thinking about adventure. Generally, these aren’t the dragon-slaying, world-saving types, but more like “Look, I bet there’s a beautiful view from that mountain” or “Maybe we might visit a place we’ve never been to before.”

Spring cleaning is one thing, but so should spring adventures. We—at least those who live in the northern hemisphere—may be waking up from hibernation season, stretched out like blooming flowers and new grass, eager to do something that isn’t indoors. Where to start? Well, SFF Books definitely has some suggestions.

Note that I’m using the word “adventure” rather loosely here.

First, wake up. The most basic first step. You don’t even have to get out of bed, really (see: Grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). You might be on an adventure (or just a hungry cat). Or you might find yourself suddenly the heir to an empire, like poor unprepared Maya in The Goblin Emperor. Plus, waking up can be dangerous. The first line of The Hunger Games is “When I wake up”. We all know what happened to that guy in Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Second, taste delicious food. That’s the case with Helen Oyeyemi’s Gingerbread. There is a witch’s house in the forest. There is also Turkish delight (debatable level of deliciousness). If you happen to be a hobbit, there are probably four or five kinds of scones and muffins for each breakfast. You have to start somewhere, well-fed is best.

Third, watch out for birds. They might steal your siblings (Colin Meloy, Wildwood), or say something that surprises you, or need your help (Charlie Jane Anders, “In the Sky” All the Birds of 2009″).

Fourth, investigate a doorway. Another classic. Maybe you just need to check every closet and/or wardrobe in the house in case there’s a path to Narnia that you’ve overlooked. (Isn’t there an episode of King of the Hill where the dryer is a portal? Goodbye, lost socks; may your adventures never need refills!) But there are doors, there are doors, like in Alix E. Harrow’s The Gates of January. People may always choose a less straightforward path. As Catherynne Valente writes in “The Girl Who Fell into Wonderland and Partied There,” “You know, a book is a door. Forever and ever. A book is a door to a gateway to another place, another mind, and another world.”

Fifth, let’s go travel. It doesn’t have to be an epic journey or involve light-speed travel. Nalo Hopkinson’s Ti-Jeanne (The Brown Girl in the Ring) begins her story on a tricycle. The Thistlefoot siblings head to New York to claim their inheritance (which happens to be a chicken leg house). Of course, you can take a spaceship to a place in deep space that is absolutely full of monsters, or you can take a train and enjoy the view. Works just as well, really. (Though perhaps not a train to hell, as suggested in Kelly Link’s “Flying Lessons.” Many Link’s stories start at the starting point; in one of her books, you can choose an interesting beginning.)

Sixth, join a sports team. Please bear with me, because I am not talking about brooms. The hockey players in Quan Barry’s We Ride On Sticks will laugh; they have their own magic (and more athleticism). Teamwork makes the dream come true, especially when the dream begins in a historic witch town and involves Emilio Estevez’s image on a particular notebook.

Seventh, find a rare manuscript. Yes, this may require a trip to the bookstore first. Obviously, it was a terrible fate. But one never knows what one may find, as the fantastic framing device in Jody Rosenberg’s Confessions of a Fox demonstrates.

Eighth, go to work. Applicable to varying degrees, depending on how interesting your job is, this can mean a lot of things. Garth Nix’s left-handed bookseller could one day face as many strange adventures as most people who pursue wizards, knights, spaceship captains, Doctor Who, and more. If your job is more down-to-earth, maybe you can still venture to a new coffee shop on your lunch break. (We take excitement where we can get it.)

Ninth, stop at the liquor store. Before passing judgment, remember: the adventure doesn’t have to start during the day. More precisely, Devon in Sunny Dean’s “The Book Eater” stops by a store that somehow sells vodka and skin cream at the same time. Many of our towns have limited liquor stores. The Devonshire adventure was a difficultand harrowing one, filled with family history. But the liquor store can be a hangout for interesting villains, and if it’s not, you can always pick up ingredients for a new cocktail. Beyond that, you might walk into a nearby tavern, like Blake in Auxiliary Justice, especially if someone outside looks familiar and needs help.

Lastly, let’s go for a walk. You don’t even have to walk all the way to Mordor. (Of course, you can if you want to.) You don’t even have to reach the Lonely Mountain. There are a lot of walking things in fantasy fiction. Is this still a task if your feet don’t hurt? Good thing we specified adventures, not quests. But setting yourself a manageable task—say, walking to a slightly distant but attractive ice cream vendor because the weather will be nice again one day—can lead to short, satisfying adventures.

And tenth, change your life. Even for Becky Chambers’ sibling Dex, this doesn’t happen all at once. But one day you need a change. Maybe a little. Maybe a new career. Maybe a new route for your daily walk. Maybe move to a new town. Maybe it’s a decision to be kinder to yourself. This can all be an adventure, if you let it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *