Hello, I'm S. Forrester Lybrand. This website, simply put, is a place for me to share my books, thoughts, poetry, doodles, and snapshots of my life. Like just about every site these days, it has a blog. If you’re into that kind of thing, read away. Comment away. Let’s share, let’s argue, let’s agree, come what may. But I’m not looking to start debates or comment on topical topics for the sake of going viral or whatever. I aim to share real thoughts I have about what I’m reading or creating or learning or seeing; I hope for your feedback too. I won’t be writing about a dress-color debate, or why the latest episode of a TV show was “problematic.” There are a million other people trying to make their voices heard on such fleeting, flimsy events.
Above all, however, I’m a writer of books.
I write for those who like to read, who do read, and even those who write. I write for myself, as I believe all passionate writers do first and foremost. The books I hold most dear to my heart involve friendship, a love of beauty, and moral goodness standing up against oppressive evil. All the books I’ve written so far reflect these values in some fashion, though that doesn’t mean they’re all the same tale or bear the same outcome. There’s a fourth characteristic in the books I cherish, one that finds its way into my own writings sometimes, and it’s hard to title or categorize. I believe this characteristic has something to do with oddness, or whimsy, or absurdity. Every human is a little strange in their own way, but some commit to peculiarity as a lifestyle; I don’t mean to make myself out as so many strange people I’ve known, who try to force their entire identity on the world with an attitude that shouts: “Look at me, I’m special because I don’t do what the majority of humanity does! And everything I do is meant to affirm my specialness.” No, I’m not special. And I rarely try to stand out. But the books that I cannot escape are those that contain a lovely, fantastical oddness, so to speak.
I mean books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and what Alice Found There (both very misunderstood by the mainstream, yet still beloved for their weirdness by all who know of them). Lewis Carroll’s imagination notwithstanding, Sir John Tenniel’s wondrous illustrations must be credited for creating such a special, strange world to explore. The story and the drawings are symbiotic and should never be separated (as an aside: if any filmmaker truly wants to do those books justice one day, they would use Tenniel’s drawings as the only concept art, no exceptions. It was done right from the first, and too many lesser minds have tried to reinvent Wonderland). That old pen-and-ink Victorian style which presents grotesque and silly creatures, all bouncing off Alice’s unflappable wit and curiosity. Reading those books for the first time was like going on a conscious tour of a dream, and a powerful dream at that. It’s the imagery and the characters that made those stories stick with me, not any Gothic impositions or drug-related interpretations. I never read them as dark books, yet too many people mistake them as such. They are smart books, they are clever and rich. While they are not strictly childish, “dark” is inaccurate. Alice’s adventures are not morbid. Weird, of course. Not nightmarish. I think the haunting uniqueness of her travels was mistaken by much of her audience, being recrafted into something altogether unpleasant and untrue. One does not have to be haunted by nightmares and ghosts only, but by strange and pleasant landscapes, as I was. Intended, I believe, by Carroll and Tenniel. The author prefaced the first tale with a poem, in which he muses on its purpose. I find his words a better description of the stories’ appeal than what I’ve tried to convey,
“Alice! A childish story take,
And with a gentle hand,
Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined
In Memory’s mystic band”
Other books that I found a kindred joy in were such stories as The Wind in the Willows and the Oz tales. Willows is full of beautiful scenery and adventure. It put a body and a history to all children’s love for animals, our wish to speak with animals, our first toys being animals and dear friends to the toddler and onward. Ratty, Mr. Toad, Mole, and the incorruptible Badger. Many chapters devoted to adventure and travel, or of simply longing to explore the world, wayfarers all. And, for a young child, it introduced me to the climactic battle-ending found so often in books, not the little nursery tales I was used to at that point in time. The retaking of Toad Hall, while not graphic, was a sudden violent venture motivated by putting everything to right before “The End” could interrupt the tale. I remember marveling at that chapter most of all when I first read the book. Toad, joined by his friends, taking up swords and sabers, sneaking into his old home at night to battle the weasels who took it. I loved that. Surely my book, The Beast-King, owes Kenneth Grahame his due credit.
And the Oz books, truly in my opinion more strange and ridiculous than Carroll’s inventions. Oz was a wild country continuously being expanded in each new story; L. Frank Baum added more cultures and creatures as he went. Its illustrations too were helpful for the imagination, not inhibiting but enabling it to understand all that Oz had to offer its reader. The zoology of that fairy country and its neighboring nations contained much more than cowardly lions and living scarecrows, what with the orks, the growleywogs, the nomes, the mangaboos, and on and on and on.
And of course I read The Hobbit, and The Lord of the Rings later. And of course I read The Chronicles of Narnia. And Narnia, with its strong moral themes and slowly unravelling world, was a favorite place of mine above the others. The chivalry, the creatures, the magic, the outstanding personalities (Puddleglum, Reepicheep, and Trumpkin, for example). In Narnia there was the weirdness of fantastical creatures in a magical land, but with a noble purpose unfound in Wonderland or Oz. They are books about justice and truth. And Middle-earth wears that purpose even more blatantly and gravely, but even old systematic Tolkien couldn’t avoid including outlandish races and peoples in his dramatic epic. Silly characters like Tom Bombadil and Treebeard populate a dark, intense story. The heroes are hobbits, laughable and simple. Yet heroes.
This whole ramble is an attempt to explain to you something of myself. These are only a few books/series/authors I love (I haven’t mentioned Kipling, or Bradbury, or Lawrence, or others), but I’m trying to tell you what I’ve read and what has influenced me. My books are not copies of these tales, but they follow the spirit of them all. My books are whimsical and strange, yet serious and sad. They tell of weak sinners trying to be good, and of noble archetypes from other worlds. They are inhabited by creatures, beasts, and monsters, by heroes and wickedness and horror. By beautiful landscapes and dark rooms.
Again, I am primarily a fantasy author, at least at the time of this writing, and I hope to tell many different kinds of stories before I’m gone. Wander takes place in the real world, in Texas, without magic or fate, and yet it isn’t discordant with the rest of my tales. It reflects on themes of the unknown, of the struggle to understand goodness, and it seeks to find beauty in the world it explores.
I, like any author, hope you will read all of my writings. I hope you will appreciate them and find joy in the adventures therein. And I hope above all to hear from you; please, share your experience of reading my books and others, as I have tried to do with you in this brief essay. Enjoy this website, enjoy what you find here, and enjoy all adventures, writ and lived.
S. Forrester Lybrand