Until my breakdown at age 23, I read a shitload of fiction. I’ve always been a big reader, but back then it was mostly novels. After I started recovering enough to read again, I found I could only read non-fiction. And I’ve figured out over the years why I can read some things but not others.
I don’t trust my brain. I can’t. For too many years it lied to me about what was and was not reality. Novels require too much imagination. I get lost. It makes me deeply uncomfortable. So instead I took up weird history books, because history is (more or less) true stories. I still get to enjoy a good tale, but it’s a tale based in reality.
But about a year ago, I discovered I can read fan fiction. It was a huge breakthrough for me. It doesn’t require as much imagination, you see. I already know what the characters look and sound like, because I’ve seen them in comics or films or television shows. I know how the rules of their universe work. I know they are played by real people. So I can lose myself in fanfic, because I don’t completely lose myself. Fanfic leaves me an anchor to the real world. And I adore it for that.
I can also read comics for the same reason — I can see the characters and their world, so I don’t get lost. I don’t have to trust my brain to fill in the imagery, because it’s right there on the page. I read a fair amount of comics these days, but most of them are short reads. For long reads I like novel-length fanfic works, if they’re written well. And many are. Ao3 has been a lifesaver, in terms of new reading material.
Sometimes I try to read regular novels. I do. But it’s incredibly difficult for me. I’m so lucky I have other options. Because stories are wonderful things, and I’d hate to not be able to read any at all.