June 13, 2012

Why Fantasy?

I have often had people ask me, "Why Fantasy?" when they find out what I write. Why write in the fantasy genre? Well the answer is complex.

1. I love reading fantasy. It is my favorite genre to read. It is the genre I am most familiar with. It began with my dad reading me "The Hobbit" and "A Wrinkle in Time" and "The Chronicles of Narnia" and other books like that, and I was hooked on fantasy for life. I would never want to write something I wasn't interested in reading, so fantasy is a safe bet.

2. Write what you know. According to most writers, you're supposed to "write what you know." Well, I know fantasy.

3. Fantasy is a wildly misunderstood genre. Although it is gaining in popularity since the advent of Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings movies by Peter Jackson, fantasy is still a genre that is often given a bad rap. It is often written off as "stories about magic and dragons" but Fantasy is so much more than that.

Fantasy is about adventure. It often contains battles, sword-fights, and a quest of some kind.

Fantasy is about heroes. It contains complex characters, often with a lot of depth and back-story. The fantastical elements of the story are often contained to the setting (the world the story is set in, the physical laws of that world: e.g. the existence of magic, or mythical creatures, or the fact that the world is flat and could not exist in our universe as a habitable place) and circumstances (such as poor Harry being forced to live in a closet by his aunt and uncle, or the Pevensie children finding an alternate world in the back of a wardrobe), while the characters themselves are very realistic. Fantasy is about hope and overcoming seemingly unbeatable odds. It is about persevering in the face of enormous obstacles. It is about loyalty and trust and often depicts strong friendships that survive despite complications and hurdles along the way.

Fantasy often contains some sort of redemption story, and almost always has some sort of happy (or at least satisfying) ending. As Oscar Wilde wrote: "The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily, that is what fiction means." However, as more and more fiction these days ends with cliffhangers, and the bad guy winning, or the good guy dying... it would seem more appropriate to insert the word "fantasy" in the place of "fiction" in this quote, in order for it to ring true.

4. There is a sad lack of "clean" fantasy out there. Growing up in a family that read together, it was often difficult to find stories in our favorite genre that was also age-appropriate for four young children. My dad would sometimes have to skim over whole paragraphs when reading out loud to us, continuing the book because the overall story was good, despite there being some not-so-good parts in the story. Trying to come up with fantasy fiction that I can recommend to friends who have young children with high reading-levels is often a frustrating exercise, because the fact of the matter is: there are some really good stories out there... but they contain inappropriate content for younger audiences.

These are just a few of the main reasons behind why I write fantasy. Because I love it. Because it contains themes worth writing about, reading about, and discussing. Because it reflects the ultimate end of time when all that is good ends happily and all that is bad ends unhappily. And because there is a gap in fantasy fiction that needs to be filled: a gap of books that needs to be written so that families can read adventure stories together without fear and recommend books to friends without hesitation.

So, really, why NOT fantasy?

1 comment:

NanJ said...

I sure appreciate your explanations here! It helps me understand better a genre of reading that till now did not really pique my interest much.
I am currently reading King's Warrior-- and this blog post helps me know what I need to be watching for. :)