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Not-So-Imaginary Friends

Not-So-Imaginary Friends: A D is for Dinosaur Guest Blog

by Beth Cato

Confession: I am 37 years old, and I still want to believe in magic. I want there to be glorious beings and places that we can’t quite see, and that all of us potentially hold power that is manipulated by the mind, not muscles.

Along those lines, I love the idea of imaginary friends that aren’t imaginary. I want children to see–really see–what is around them. Magical beings. Aliens. Portals to other realms. It’s the stuff of my own childhood wish fulfillment, no doubt, and my writing career gives me the chance to make it all real. In a way.

My D is for Dinosaur story delves into the dark side of not-so-imaginary friends from more of a science fiction angle: the relationship between a brilliant young girl and her mentor, who is invisible to everyone else, but in her eyes is a rainbow-toned velociraptor. The girl knows her dinosaur friend is real. She also knows that, because of her own brain maturation, she will no longer be able to see or hear him soon. And she’s tragically aware that because of that, she’ll begin to doubt that he ever existed at all.

It goes to the very concept of faith. What is “real?” What is imaginary? Can we trust our own memories?

For me, this is a very personal dilemma.

Being a weird, precocious child, I was aware by about age nine that there was a point where other kids stopped playing with toys or looking for fairies hidden among the hedges. To me, it seemed like an ultimate betrayal of self, like these children forgot who they really were. That their imaginations were tossed in shoeboxes along with battered childhood toys, destined for a thrift store shelf at some much-later date.

I made a vow to myself that I wouldn’t toss aside my imagination. I’d stay true to myself.

Reality is cruel. We’re told to “grow up.” Stop playing around. That imaginary friends don’t exist, that they never existed. That we need real jobs. That if we make art, it’s not worth anything.

I lost my way for a number of years, caving to pressure that reading and writing fantasy wasn’t “real” writing. But I came back to it because I realized I was incomplete. I still wanted to see hidden magic in the world, and I needed to write it in existence.

My story heroine contends with all of these emotions, too. She’s a kid who has always had an invisible-to-everyone else velociraptor as her dearest friend. She’s going to lose him. She’s going to grow up.

It’s my hope, though, that she grows up in some ways but not others.

 

Beth Cato is the author of the Clockwork Dagger series from Harper Voyager, which includes her Nebula-nominated novella WINGS OF SORROW AND BONE. Her newest novel is BREATH OF EARTH. She’s a Hanford, California native transplanted to the Arizona desert, where she lives with her husband, son, and requisite cat. Follow her at BethCato.com and on Twitter at @BethCato.

 


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