AUTHOR’S NOTE CONCERNING NARRATION AND THE ORIGINS OF SEBASTIAN SMITH
In the early drafts of The Marvelous Adventures of Sebastian Smith, the above words appeared many, many times. In the draft which will very shortly hold in your hands, they appear once. ‘Dear Reader’. Well, perhaps twice. They were originally used to signal the intrusion of a narrator into the tale of Sebastian Smith, which you are soon to read. This character was a tool, used by me, the author, to ensure that you, my readers, would be absolutely certain to stop at the right moments, to appreciate a certain phrase, or to take notice of the myriad of small things which seem unimportant at first, but which are actually (what I believed were) the most crucial details in the entire story. I created this narrator, who used those two little words so frequently, because I was scared.
Do you believe that?
I made up a Narrator because I was scared.
I was scared for a lot of reasons. But most of those reasons are all really the same reason. I wanted to find a way to make you see the story of Sebastian Smith exactly as I intended it to be. It is a frightening thing, trusting people to understand your words. So I used more words than were necessary, to start with(and maybe still), hoping that I could make you see things exactly as I wanted you too.
It is a fear that all writers have, I think, trusting their readers, and one I will happily hope that each of you may have the fortune to experience one day. Because it would mean you had written, which is a wonderful thing indeed.
But there was something else I was up to as well, when I wrote the story of Sebastian Smith. Something which made it even more important to me that I tell his tale in just the right way. To understand that something, I will reveal to you the secret origins of Sebastian, and of his birth, not just on the pages of this novel, but much earlier, in a small, little used corner of my own imagination.
Sebastian Smith never would have come to life if it hadn’t been for Albus Dumbledore.
In brief, Albus Dumbledore was the mentor of another rather famous boy named Harry Potter, who also had marvelous adventures in his time. I cannot say for certain whether you have read J.K. Rowling’s remarkable series of books or not, but I would venture to guess that you have. And I share that experience. When I was young, it was Harry’s adventures I read. I laughed, and cried, and thrilled with him. I loved him, and I loved his world, and I thought nothing of the tiny effort I had to exert in order to imagine just a little bit further that Harry was someone just exactly like me. After all, Harry was pretty close to me already! He was the same gender as me, and he had the same color of skin, and even the same color of hair. At the time, he was also just my same age. What did it matter if Harry got crushes on girls, and I got crushes on boys?
I thought nothing more about the effort of imagining Harry was gay like me, than I did about imagining anyone was gay like me in the books I read or the television I watched. Because of course I had never NOT had to imagine that a character was gay like me. And I might never have thought about it again, if Ms. Rowling, who wrote Harry’s adventures, hadn’t done a peculiar thing one day during an interview.
One October day in 2007, Ms. Rowling said that she had always imagined that Albus Dumbledore was gay.
Of course there were all kinds of reactions. Fans loved it. Critics hated it. But most importantly something I did not expect to happen to me happened even still: I cried. When I heard the Albus Dumbledore was gay, I cried. I didn’t know why, really, for several weeks (because of course the heart knows things approximately one hundred times more quickly than the mind) but it moved me so profoundly I had a hard time talking about it at all for a long time.
What I realized was this: For the very first time, a character I loved, who was powerful and good and wise, who had fought darkness, and loved others, and helped to create one of the most beloved characters in my entire childhood, was like me.
He wasn’t exactly like me of course, but the crazy old wizard was like me in that one special way that no other character had ever been like me before.
What if it had been Harry Potter himself who was gay?
What really happened that day, was that I discovered what it was like not to have to do that extra little bit of imagining I had always had to do. It was remarkable to me. And almost immediately, another thought occurred to me, which stuck around in my mind whispering at bedtime, and periodically interrupting my shower singing. The thought was this: What if it had been Harry Potter himself who was gay?
My imagination was sparked again by that boy wizard, and then by many of the other great characters from my childhood (Batman, and Naruto, and Jeremy Thatcher the Dragon Hatcher), and just like I always had before I did that extra little bit of imagining. But for the first time that little imagining began to hurt.
Of course I wasn’t really upset that most characters weren’t gay like me. After all, there aren’t all that many people like me in the world (though there are more than admit it). But what made me upset was that there wasn’t even a single one I could remember. I was angry that there wasn’t any gay character I had ever encountered in my childhood. I went looking to see if I had missed any.
But I did discover that since the time when I was young, some more recent gay characters had emerged. Yet even those characters didn’t seem the same somehow. Sure, they were fun, but the stories told about them were almost always in the modern, real world setting, and they faced always it seemed challenges consisting of either bullying, or romance, or sometimes both. But always of the real kind you might find in a real school or a real home.
None of them seemed as interesting to me as Harry Potter had. None of them captured my imagination in that certain way which only the fantastical can.
It wasn’t until two years later…that I realized Sebastian Smith suddenly existed.
And so I did.
Of course, you’ll notice many differences between the adventures of Sebastian Smith and the adventures of Harry Potter. In fact, the two have almost absolutely nothing to do with each other. Sebastian’s world is something very different entirely than Harry’s was. But this is my attempt to write a story that would have entertained myself in the same ways, when I was young; that would have made me laugh, and cry, and thrill, in much the same way as Harry did, and that would have, just once, starred a kid I wouldn’t have had to imagine was just like me.
I can’t say whether I have succeeded. But I can say I did my best.
If you are reading this story, and you feel a little bit different, like Sebastian does, I hope you will enjoy it very much, and more than anything, I hope you will see that people like you and me and Sebastian can be heroes ourselves. I especially hope you see this when you find you are frightened by what makes you different, or feel badly for being just slightly (or even a lot) different than normal. I hope that you will remember at those times, as Sebastian must learn to remember, to love yourself, especially what makes you different.
If you are reading this story, and you are not like Sebastian, if you are, for instance, a girl, or you prefer to have crushes on people of the opposite gender, or if your skin color or hair color is different than his, or if you are different in any other way than him, I hope you will not begrudge me the small effort I must ask you to make of imagining that Sebastian is just like you (or that you are just like him). This story is for you too. It has absolutely all of the things you would want a marvelous set of adventures to have and an awful lot more to look forward to than just who Sebastian might come to fancy in the end. And you are, of course, very welcome to learn just as many of Sebastian’s lessons with him as you find useful, and maybe a few that you don’t.
And finally, though he has been edited out of the story many drafts ago, there will always be a Narrator in my mind, dear reader, who wants to step in, to guide you, and to shape your perceptions of my words, to point at a moment and say, “Look there! Did you see what happened just then?”
But I have decided to trust you, with my words and with Sebastian. His journey is yours now to enjoy.
However, I will give the Narrator, who is really myself, just one more paragraph to say what we were always trying to say any time we stuck our big noses into the tale. Whoever you are, and however you came to possess this text, there is only one thing I truly hope you take away from this story: Love yourself. Love yourself, and consider that wherever you are in the story of your own life, no matter how dark it may seem, perhaps you are exactly where you need to be, and the most important thing to do is to turn the next page and to see what happens next.
That is all either of us really wanted to say.