I grew up on Enid Blyton books, and it scarred me.
Enid Blyton wrote stories about children having adventures, being independent, exploring and escaping. It’s impossible now to ignore the quality of the prose, let alone the sexism and the racism, but at the time the storylines were irresistible. It was the adventures. They sucked me in. For years, I wanted to be just like her, and I wrote stories of children running away from evil captors or relations and doing extraordinary things. I wrote in a strange kind of code-switching style – my own English of 1990s New Zealand, and a pastiche of 1940s English jovialisms (“I say!” “Bother!” “How beastly!”), as my characters paraded around the countryside living in caves, hollow trees or gypsy caravans, drinking ginger beer, eating ice cream and escaping from bad men. Adult supervision and stability were conspicuously absent from their lives.
Of course, it’s not like I was unique. The spirit of adventure is almost the spirit of children’s literature. If it wasn’t Enid Blyton, most children have their equivalent – Roald Dahl, Narnia, Peter Pan, Harry Potter… Our horizons stretched, grew ever broader, as we lay on our stomachs with mouths open, engrossed in a tale of a faraway, foreign world filled with children just like us doing all the things we dreamed of.
I wonder if it is plausible to suggest that an adventurous spirit is a childish spirit. I don’t mean to say that an adventurous spirit is somehow stunted, stuck in an unattainable past. I am thinking of all the awe, wonder and curiosity displayed by a child as s/he approaches the world – the thirst for experience and for activity. A thirst to do away with injustice, and to cheer on the brave. An adventurous spirit is the opposite of apathy, and, while apathetic adults are commonplace, it is sad and deeply troubling to see an apathetic child.
I write all this with a slight sense of disappointment because I know that I have not fully maintained this kind of spirit. But I have hope – luckily, I still love to read, although for a period of time ‘real life’ made this really hard. I have high hopes that reading will rekindle my imagination, my curiosity and a sense of adventure – and I’m grateful to all our authors in this issue of Halfway Down the Stairs for helping me along the way. I hope you too get something indefinable out of this issue – all the best, and bonne chance in this big wide world full of adventure!
Our next issue will be on the theme of Possession, and we will be considering submissions from March 1 up until the end of April. We look forward to seeing what you have to offer!
— Alison Stedman, Senior Fiction Editor
© 2014, Alison Stedman