Today would have been J.R.R. Tolkein's 115th Birthday. If DiAnne Cowan hadn't lent me a copy of the Lord of the Rings trilogy for Christmas vacation in 1978, I have no doubt I'd never have considered trying to become a Science Fiction/Fantasy writer. I had pretty much stopped reading fantasy or SF, having moved almost strictly into non-fiction (biographies, military history, astronomy) by then.
However, when I got home from college, I started reading The Fellowship of the Ring. 36 hours later, I finished the appendix for The Return of the King. Yes, I read the trilogy in one sitting, (which I'm certain annoyed my mother when she came downstairs and found me still sitting up reading . . . like that never happened in High School). I was completely fascinated with the books and my interest in fantasy was rekindled.
Tolkein led me to Katherine Kurtz and the Deryni series, which led me to Anne McCaffery and the Dragonriders of Pern, then Brian Daley and the Doomfarers of Coramonde and Andre Norton's Witch World, Lynn Abbey's Daughter of Bright Moon, Glen Cook's Black Company series and so on and so on . . .
So, at 2100, lift a toast to the Professor. Some find him fascinating and some find him hard to read, but few can question the effect he's had on the imaginations of SF/F readers since his books were published.
I think I may curl up with the Hobbit tonight and enjoy another jaunt through the Misty Mountains . . .