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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"Fantasy is a Waste of Time." Sounds Familier? Does to me!

I’ve often heard people regard fantasy as frivolous entertainment, not quite good enough to spend too much of your time and money on, not quite in the same league as the ‘serious’ and ‘worthy’ classics, biographies and the books on history, science, politics, religion, philosophy, travel etc.   Now, fantasy being the fire that warms my soul and the ice that cools my brow, I wasn’t quite delighted with that.

I am going to quote Terry Brooks for a short and really accurate response to this kind of thinking:
People who view fantasy as second rate or childish are usually people who don’t read or understand it. I like to tell them that good fantasy is social commentary combined with good storytelling - Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, the Oz stories and so many others. Sure, the stories take place in an imaginary world. But those worlds mirror our own and tell us things about ourselves that need to be said and understood. I also like to tell them how often other forms of literature use fantasy as the bedrock of their own stories. Fantasy transcends its own form in wider scope than any other type of writing.
Fantasy has its roots in mythology and folklore and one example of hypocrisy that really gets me going is that people will willingly worship mythological characters (even though they are the patriarchal products of patriarchal cultures which shows that we are living in a patriarchy, but let’s not digress), cite them as examples of good and evil, consider the study of ancient texts to be scholarly; but the same characters, situations and creatures in modern fantasy would be labelled ‘mere entertainment’ by them. Yes, fantasy is mere entertainment and then so much more.

Fantasy is a medium for speculating about different possibilities (what if?), the themes of which can range from history, science, politics, religion, philosophy, travel to simply stretching your creativity and imagination as far as they can go in the boundless universe fantasy offers; fantasy can explore ways of looking at and considering different forms of societies as material for anthropological speculation; and this is all united by a thread of universal emotions and experiences underlined by the unique malleability of magic; of knowing no normal rules apply; of knowing anything can happen and will happen. Fantasy is freedom for me; writing and reading it feels like flying. To be able to experience things impossible in real life, imagine things impossible in real life… Every bit of fantasy literature can be just as intricate as a sculptor’s work, just as expressive as a painting, just as moving as music, just as sharp as a writer’s words, just as sad as poetry, just as gay as dance, just as entrancing as an actor on stage and just as much of an art form. Fantasy doesn’t have much of a practical use; it is often disconnected from real life and leads to a world that does not exist; it can be said to be mere entertainment; simple aesthetic pleasure for the senses. But then, that is exactly what art is: speculation and expression.