The importance of dragons

Fantasy is a given for most of us— as kids we were probably all exposed to fairytales before almost anything else (though not everyone carries on  liking the genre). Science fiction, on the other hand, although grouped with fantasy, is always an acquired taste.
I’m gonna talk about how I got into SF. The first thing that I remember was a BBC radio serial called “Shadow on the Sun” (about which there is surprisingly little on the internet). It was the first thing I was excited to tune into every week. Around the same time I clearly recall an image from a comic (not a comic book), which I think was about a kind of Swiss Family Robinson in space. It showed the protagonists being flung in all directions by a meteorite impact. I think I’m about eight years old here. I also read Jules Verne at this age, and several times at that.
Fast-forward to 1963. I’m ten, and we have just acquired out first TV set! The week before, a show called “Dr Who” aired for the first time, and caused quite a media storm— so much so that the first part of “An Unearthly Child” was repeated on the day of the TV’s arrival at our house, followed by episode 2.
My dad and I were hooked, and remained so. But I still don’t recall reading much in the way of written SF until quite a bit later. Then “Star Trek” came along, and other things, including “Blake’s 7”, which rather subverted the genre on TV. I didn’t read the adaptations of the TV Star Trek until I was in my first year at uni, by which time I had, somehow, started reading the stuff. By the time “Star Wars” came along, I was a pretty hardcore fan of both SF and fantasy (this was before the fantasy genre boomed, so apart from “Lord of the Rings” there wasn’t that much around).
When I say “hardcore” I don’t mean I was particularly a fan of “hard” SF. I was always drawn to stories with a smaller focus, by which I mean I like a Big Damn Hero better than a big damn spaceship, but I prefer a small human drama to both. Although I’m as much a fan of big damn space battles as the next geek, my eyes glaze over when the narrative starts describing the hardware (David Weber, you know who you are!).
There’s a line where SF and fantasy blur. One of my all-time favorite SF writers, Ursula Le Guin, writes stories that could be categorized as either, or both. Another, Elizabeth Moon, writes equally well in both genres. When the tale is set on another world, it could be either. If a spaceship lands, it’s evidently SF. But when a dragon pops in to call, it’s fantasy.
That’s not to say dragons are the only distinguishing feature of fantasy, or spaceships SF. But I did succumb to the temptation to bring one into the DaSilvaverse. Kind of.
The story is called “The Dragon That Ate The Sun” and it was published in Supernatural Tales in 2003.
“It was not, strictly speaking, a dragon. As tales grow in the telling, so do the monsters they describe. The air of the world is too thin to buoy the great flying dragons of legend, though it can, for a time, support the roc and the garuda. Moreover, what East and West mean by dragon are very different things.
“So, although the creature that found itself unexpectedly freed into the river Seine was of the same species as Tarasque and the others which the saints long ago had overcome, it was, in fact, a demon. The distinction is not semantic, although poor Etienne didn’t much care what it was that ate him. Dragons are things that belong, in whatever form, to men. They may be supernatural, but they are not unnatural.
“This creature, however, was not bred in our world, but elsewhere.”


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