Sunday, March 23, 2008

Oh Noes! Fantasy geeks! Fantasy GEEEEKS!

That's kind of a stupid headline isn't it? Oh well. Imagination equals fail for me. Anyway, onwards and upwards to the point of this post.

Whilst watching a documentary about the history of fantasy fiction, (which incidentally failed in two ways I think, because -
1) it started with Tolkien. Now fantasy to me goes back many many many centuries and truly starts with tales such as the Mabinogian, and the ancient myths. OK, so the myths are religion and not strictly speaking fiction, but I'll betcha they spawned many folk tales told as stories, and I'll betcha they featured wondrous fantastical creatures and magic.
2) They said Lord of the Rings was intertwined with and partly responsible for the hippie movement. I think because lots of people dropped acid and thought they were on middle earth, or something. That seemed to me to be a stretch and I think they just wanted to show naked people on the telly. Anyhows)

it struck me that people refer to fantasy, and sci fi, as escapism, and seek to understand why all the fans want to escape form their daily lives. they need to find a reason, such as weariness with the daily grind, abuse or poverty, that explains wanting to read about dragons and elves etc.

This seems to me rather daft, because isn't all reading escapism? Why not ask the question of anyone who reads any book? Even history books and autobiographies and misery memoirs. It's all escapism. Yet there doesn't seem to be a need to justify why other forms of fiction and non fiction are read. This seems to be unfair.

The other thing that struck me was why do people look down on fantasy and not on historical fiction? Take Robin Hobb's Farseer trilogy I'm re-reading now. There's very little actual magic in it. It's all court intrigue and conspiracies and politics and war and murder and treason. Isn't that what books like The Other Boleyn Girl focus on too? Add in that Robin Hobb is a beautiful writer and the language spoken by the characters is so poetic at times, this results in a very satisfying, well written, immensely enjoyable, sophisticated book.

So why the snobbery surrounding fantasy? I say, nay, this is unfair.

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