Guest Post: “The Voyages That Shape Us” by DK Mok
If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out my review of Hunt for Valamon, a novel that blends epic fantasy and jolly good fun! Today, I’m excited to welcome author D.K. Mok to The BiblioSanctum to talk about wild and wondrous journeys, both the ones from her book as well as those from our childhood dreams that inspire us.
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THE VOYAGES THAT SHAPE US: THE ALLURE OF FANTASY WORLDS
by D.K. Mok
I’ve always been drawn to fantastic worlds. As a child, I spent countless afternoons at my local library, and every book was a portal to some opulent masquerade ball or desolate, far flung star. Every time I opened a new book, I felt as though I were stepping gingerly, excitedly, into a different realm. What marvels would I see today? Would I be chased by giant amoebas or would I untangle a diplomatic standoff between warring galaxies?
I loved the brave and inquisitive characters and their wild, rollicking adventures, but one of the things that hooked me into fantasy was the sense of discovery, the sense of place.
I didn’t travel much as a child, although I dreamed of hiking through the raucous jungles of the Amazon, or treading softly through the pierced-stone palaces of Agra. In primary school, I was fascinated by Enid Blyton’s The Magic Faraway Tree, with its branches lost in a different enchanted land every story. For years, I longed for a tree that would take me away to extraordinary lands, before I eventually realised that, technically, that’s what a book was.
The places I visited in the stories I read became as much a part of my world as my dinky local milkbar. I found comfort and camaraderie in the arboreal Inn of the Last Home in the Dragonlance sagas; I walked in awe through the ethereal realms of Tolkien’s Lothlorien; and I jostled through the pungent bustle of Discworld’s Ankh-Morpork.
By seeing lands vastly different to my own, I could begin to understand what it might be like to live in eternal winter or beneath the shadows of dragons, to ride on the shoulders of benevolent giants or to walk beside the forest gods.
There is something both confronting and reassuring about seeing people – just like yourself – living their lives in such places, wrestling with the same problems of injustice, corruption, uncertainty and self-doubt. Yet there’s something about the fantastic that stretches the mind, shakes out the soul, and scrubs the smudges of day-to-day life from the eyes.
In Hunt for Valamon, the reclusive cleric Seris must leave behind the sanctuary of his ramshackle temple and embark on a politically compromised mission to rescue a missing prince. Navigating his way across unforgiving lands, grappling with the fears and ambitions of villagers and warlords, Seris is forced to grow and change, to confront questions about who he is and who he needs to be.
In my mind, the best journeys are those you return from slightly breathless, slightly changed. The ones that leave you standing in your living room with your luggage still jangling with tags, seeing the world with a slightly different song in your heart. For me, this is the power of stories, and the reason I still dream of fantastic worlds.
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DK Mok is a fantasy and science fiction author whose novels include Hunt for Valamon and The Other Tree, published by Spence City. DK’s short story ‘Morning Star’ (One Small Step, FableCroft Publishing) was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award and a Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award.
DK grew up in libraries, immersed in lost cities and fantastic worlds populated by quirky bandits and giant squid. She graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour.
She’s fond of cephalopods, androids, global politics, rugged horizons, science and technology podcasts, and she wishes someone would build a labyrinthine library garden so she could hang out there. DK lives in Sydney, Australia, and her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.