Welcome, my friends, to the mind of Western Australian fantasy author Bevan McGuiness. Bevan is a veteran of novels (including his Eleven Kingdoms and Triumvirate series’), short stories, reviews, and textbook works on science, a subject he sufferes through daily in the name of education the teens of this world.
Keep your arms and legs within the carriage, and please, ignore the man behind the curtain..
Precious Things: Bevan McGuinness
My most precious literary ‘thing’ is a memory.
I grew up loving Science, firmly believing I was going to be a scientist, in fact I recall saying when I was 11 that I would be a Theoretical Physicist. I actually read encyclopedias (encyclopedia?) for fun and watched Doctor Who (and Star Trek of course, with my Dad on those occasions when Mum went to bed early). It was all sorted – Physics for me.
Something that every scientist should do is read Science Fiction, which I did. I read Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury and Hugh Walters among others. I watched documentaries on TV and went to the museum, all the time looking forward to my life in Science.
All the time this was going on, there was a little three-shelf bookcase in the passage at the back of our house. It faced the big linen cupboards and had a picture of something I do not recall on the wall above it. The passage led from the bathroom to my parents’ bedroom with the dining room beyond the right hand wall and the bedroom I shared with my brother beyond the left hand wall. It was fairly narrow and I could sit with my back leaning on the linen cupboard door and my feet resting against the base of the book case, with my knees bent just enough to rest a book on them.
It was in that corridor, sitting just like that, that I discovered my parents’ book collection – the grown-up books. I would love to be able to list off a dozen or so of the titles to impress with my amazing recall, but I can remember very few – The Third Eye, The Horsemen, The Treasure of San Michel, The Good Earth and The Fountainhead are some of them. When I was done reading a sci-fi novel, I would often sneak out and read a ‘grown-up’ book.
Sitting there, under the somewhat yellowed light of a 40 watt bulb, I discovered that characters in stories could be nuanced, could be noble but flawed, could be so good it hurt and so bad I could actively hate a made up person. I learned that stories could tell about bad people doing good things and good people suffering for doing good things. In short I learned everything children’s books of the sixties did not tell me.
I grew a love of the written word in that passage, with my back to the wall, squinting in the dim light. It did not occur to me then, or for many years, how much impact reading those grown-up books had on me but the memory of those complex, far away lands and those subtle real people never left me. I owe a lot to that little book case.