I get stones thrown at my fantasy nerd cred all the time. I’m not sure where it comes from, but it rankles.
This is because reading fantasy has always been more than a hobby for me. My mom figured that fantasy novels and comic books were a phase that would pass once I grew up. It never did.
I am who I am because I was reared on fantasy novels and comic books. I learned valor at the feet of Wolverine, cunning from Loki, patriotism from Captain America. I looked to Taran to walk me through the trials of adolescence. I dreamed of being the guy who bested Red Sonja and got her to give up her oath. I watched Elric cope with loneliness. I saw Thomas Covenant atone for past mistakes. I noted Ender beating impossible odds.
That these people aren’t real doesn’t matter. I am who I am because of them.
On my commissioning day, I raised my right hand and repeated after Admiral Acton:
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.
But even as my mouth moved, my heart shouted out other words, words that will be familiar to most of you:
Hear my words and bear witness to my vow. Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.
Words are wind, some would say. There are false knights aplenty. Even crows turn their cloaks. But Stannis had Davos, and the Winterfell had Ned.
And you, my fellow dorks, have me.