Growing up, she showed many signs of her impending career. Very often she spent time alone in her room reading and writing. She would often present me with wall-sized posters of the worlds she had created and manuscripts of her writing that were very lengthy.
I certainly didn’t want to discourage her, but let’s be realistic: how many published authors do you know? So I often counseled her that in order to be a successful writer she would need to learn to waitress to survive and pay the bills.
Then she called me one day to let me know she had sold her first book and the book would be in stores and online within a year. I have never felt so much pride. I truly had never been so proud and amazed. Her dream, her life’s work, and her efforts had paid off.
One small point of contrition:
It’s true that my progeny writes science fiction and fantasy. And I read popular fiction.
Three years after she published her first novel, I have not read even one of her books.
Why, might you ask? Why would a parent of a science fiction and fantasy writer not partake in the fantasy? In particular, her own child’s science fiction and fantasy writing?
Because I am a die-hard, no kidding, when-is-it-coming-out, book-swapping, Oprah-loving popular fiction fan.
Anita Shreve? Yes! What will you think of next?
Wally Lamb? You make me cry!
Pat Conroy… You are hysterical!
Popular fiction makes me feel like I’m not alone. It takes me far away – but not too far - into other’s lives and worlds and problems, situations that are immediately relatable. Science fiction and fantasy, for me, is other-worldly. Unknown. I am confused by the new words, the various worlds and transcendence from the known .
But when I read The Night Circus, I can smell the smells of the night circus. I am chilled and frightened by snow and the fog of the Harbour. Sharp Objects and Dark Places engage me and capture me. Gone Girl kept me thinking and wondering. I am haunted by the dark foreboding of the Uninnocent and found myself contemplating its ominous message for days afterward.
I get in bed at night with my favorite fictional stories and I am transported to a relatable world. My thoughts, my world, become someone else’s thoughts and world.
When I read, I no longer worry about my life and circumstances. I don’t get caught up in questions like:
How will I ever retire?
Who will take care of me in my final days?
How long will my old wreck of a car last?
What happened to the relationships I have treasured? Where have they gone?
Can I keep up this struggle? To survive? When will I get laid off again?
Unlike real life, in popular fiction the good guys always win.
The trials and tribulations the characters in books experience are mine, but not really. There’s a safe, relatable distance between their woes and mine.
By contrast, science fiction wants me to contemplate its possibilities. Explore the unknown. But I want real. I want known. I want to explore a life that’s relatable to mine.
So I read popular fiction, and I’m sad for their sadness and elated for their good times. A really great evening, for me, is relaxing with a book and reading about someone else’s tragedies. Sometimes I wake up sad and realize it’s not my sadness but someone else’s. My own life’s troubles slip away.
What a relief…
I am proud of my daughter. I hope she writes forever. I am thrilled to have her science fiction and fantasy books on my shelves and I will continue to pass them along to friends and family.
And I hope she one day forgives me: because my passion is popular fiction.
Terri Hurley is the mother of award-winning novelist Kameron Hurley, the author of God's War, Rapture and Infidel. You can read what sort of books Kameron's passionate about here.