Any fantasy author can talk about encounters with the fantastic in the real world. We’ve all had them, or we wouldn’t write what we do.
Usually, I blame my choice of profession, and subject on the fact I learned to read out of The Wizard of Oz. But there were other influences. One of the strongest was, and still is, in Chicago.
My grandparents lived in Chicago, and we used to go visit a couple of times a year. My mother, who was really hoping to raise pratical minded children who understood the value of hard, practical work, would take us to the Museum of Science and Industry. She wanted me to be interested in things like the coal mine. Never worked. Whenever we went, the only think I wanted to see was the fairy castle.
This thing was amazing. It’s big, but when I was five it looked ENORMOUS. It was a toy for an old-time movie star, so it was as detailed and opulent as a Hollywood imagination could conceive. The glass slippers waiting for Cinderella were hollow. The books were legible, if you had a magnifying glass. The paintings on the walls were done by hand.
I was in love with this castle. I used to make up stories about it. I bought the souvenir book and poured over the pages. I think I still have it somewhere. Probably I saw other things in the museum, but this was the thing I remembered. This was the glamour and the magic what I fell in love with.
Never have gone down into that coal mine, but I never seem to have quite left that castle.