When I was much younger, I loved dragons. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Ursula Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy and of course The Hobbit were amongst my favourite books. As a teenager I devoured all of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books. When I got a job as an ecologist-cum-illustrator and had access to an art studio and free batik supplies, one of my first spare-time projects was a huge Chinese dragon that still hangs on my bedroom wall.
And yet somewhere between then and now, my love died. Maybe I just read too many fantasy novels with dragons in them and grew jaded, the way other readers do with elves and dwarves. All I know is, I now avoid books with dragons in them like the plague.
There are two downsides to this. Firstly, I have friends who write books about dragons; Stephen Deas, for example, whom I’ve known since he was a fellow struggling writer. I’d love to be able to say “I’ve read all your books, mate, and they’re brilliant!” — but that would mean reading about d– d– those big mythological reptiles. And there are, to be honest, far too many books in my TBR pile already.
Secondly, and worse, are the books that don’t even mention dragons on the cover but manage to sneak them in nonetheless, often as some kind of draco ex machina (which is maybe the source of my phobia in the first place). One may even be several dragon-free books into a series before the beasts raise their ugly, scaly heads.
To me it feels like the author has run out of cool ideas for the books, or is trying to prop up flagging sales by introducing a popular trope. Maybe that’s a mistaken assumption on my part and the dragons were being kept hidden to increase the impact of their revelation, but there’s often zero foreshadowing, which makes me think not.
I’m currently in two minds about reading the rest of A Song of Ice and Fire, since the “dragon eggs” given to Daenerys in the first book are looking suspiciously real and ripe to hatch. About the only “dragon book” I can still read is Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards!, probably because anyone who can come up with a tiny fire-farting dragon named after the father of jet propulsion* deserves my admiration for sheer pun-tastic inventiveness.
So, whilst many of my own projects are still no more than vague glimmerings of inspiration, there is one thing I can guarantee: there will be no living dragons in them. If you find any, you have my permission to have me committed, as I will clearly have lost it.
* in the Discworld, “whittle” is the term for the runt of a dragon litter