I was recently contacted by Joe Praska of The Continuing Voyage to contribute to an incredible series called My Fandom. My Story. In this series, writers explain how a piece of science-fiction, whether in literature or in film, shaped their perspectives and personalities. Immediately, I thought of the plethora of books I’ve read in my lifetime, and how each of them carved away at the lump of clay that I was and eventually carved out the person that I am today. When it comes to sci-fi, The Animorphs series stands out as revolutionary to me in so many ways, and I hope that this series continues to create more intelligent, compassionate, selfless, and committed young people in the future. Battles for liberation are never easy, but they are always necessary.
I was eleven years old when K.A. Applegate’s The Animorphs series made its debut. Being a poor kid without extra money to spend on books, I didn’t read the series upon its initial release – but in the fall I was elated to see the first couple of books in our school’s book fair flyer. I didn’t eat lunch for the entire week leading up to the book fair so that I would be able to afford the first two books, The Invasion and The Visitor. Immediately, I was hooked. I’d never considered myself a very big sci-fi fan; up until this point, my favourite books included the Anne of Green Gables series, The Baby-Sitters Club series, and the Goosebumpsseries. But The Invasion sparked a fire within me that no other book had. I read it within hours of buying it and raced to the library as soon as I got to school the next morning in order to reserve The Encounter.
I devoured these books in a matter of days. They weren’t being published quickly enough to keep up with my voracious appetite. To make matters more difficult, we moved around a lot when I was a kid and there would be lapses of months before I could get my hands on the series again. But I eventually did finish The Animorphs, and it had been totally worth all of the stress. The upside in starting these books in my formative years and not finishing them until early adulthood was that as the series progressed, matured, and became more nuanced and complex, so did I. I often think back to The Invasion, and how tame that book was in comparison to the other books near the end of the series. “Tame” isn’t a word that most would use to describe a book which revealed the plot of a parasitic alien race traveling through galaxies and colonizing sentient species along the way, but the progression of the Animorphs series, like many processes of growth, was gradual.
Jake, Rachel, Cassie, Marco, and Tobias are all around twelve or thirteen years old when the series begins, average American kids with worries confined to school, friendships, dating, and family. But when they learn about the existence of extraterrestrials, an unseen alien invasion which is already underway, and that the fate of the word rests on their narrow shoulders, their eyes are opened. They see the world around them for what it truly is, and they become soldiers. Once the group becomes aware of the existence of the Yeerks and learns that controllers can be anyone and everyone, their innocence is gone. Though life was easier in their state of ignorance, once they are awakened to the truth, they can no longer shut their eyes.
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