Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Why Fantasy?

Yesterday our library kicked off a couple of months of celebrating fantasy with a Brandon Sanderson appearance in which he talked about his feelings for the fantasy genre.  People always ask him why he writes fantasy and he said he wishes he could say, "Obviously because everything else is boring!"

He listed some great points about why he thinks fantasy is legit, and it made me think about why I enjoy it so much too.

Brandon's reasons for writing/reading fantasy:

  • to explore other worlds, while at the same time learning about our own
  • to warn and to teach, to ponder the "what ifs" both  negative and positive
  • to focus on humanity. It's like an experiment where you change up all the variables in life, but the human characters remain the same, and are the control group. Thus, we come to understand ourselves better.
  • to simply enjoy the story itself. It's like mythology for our time. He told about when people were trying to figure out what Tolkien meant to say with Lord of the Rings. Was it about WWII? Was it symbolic for the atomic bomb? Tolkien always responded with a  resounding NO. It's JUST A STORY!
  • to inspire and to imagine. Reading fantasy is like doing crunches for the imagination! He reminded us of an Einstein quote (one of my favorites), "Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the whole world, and all we will ever know and understand." It doesn't have to be real for us to learn and gain something from it.

Great reasons, yes?

My reasons for reading (and loving) fantasy:

  • sweeping involved detailed and imaginative stories
  • extremely well defined characters
  • new worlds (language, races, cultures, religions, politics) to explore 
  • it's just plain fun! Of course it is!
Okay, so my reasons aren't quite as meaty, but still.  As Brandon Sanderson also said, there's those that get it and those that don't. I'm happy to be on the "get it" side. And oh man, there's so much of it I haven't read. It's overwhelming!

Where do you fall in this debate? Do you get the fantasy thing? Perhaps you are still not sure about it? Or maybe you won't even go near it? I'd love to know your feelings on fantasy!


  1. Do I get the fantasy thing? Oh, yeah. Life would be dull, dull, dull without it.

    And it isn't just the fun. Take the Star Wars Jedi Apprentice series for example. A tiny green creature is one of the most powerful beings in the world. Female jedis fight as well as men. All that was ingrained into my son's brain at age 5 and its still there, alive and kicking no matter what racist chauvinist stuff he might here.

    Anyone who loves fantasy or wonders why others do should read Ursula Le Guin's amazing collectionof essays, The Language of the Night.

  2. Yikes! I meant "hear"! I do know how to spell, I do.

  3. Love fantasy. Even though I haven't read much of it lately. Must remedy that. It's so much fun, and so brain-stretching, and I love it when the author builds a complex imaginary world yet the characters act so realistic it all feels real in unreal situations. Plus, I love that quote by Einstein.

  4. So true what you and Brandon Sanderson are saying. I wrote this post long ago about my reasons for loving fantasy, and got zero comments, which made me feel very alone. I'm so glad that since then I have found others out there that not only love fantasy, but recognize its merits.

  5. love Fantasy. and I appreciate Sanderson's list, and yours.

    sbjames' mention of LeGuin had me recalling the Foreword to her collection of short stories, 'The Birthday of the World and other stories', about imagining worlds and exploring them to discover further our human condition or just revel in them. she says quite a bit of fascinating things, but here's the portion that came to mind first:

    "These seven stories share a pattern: they exhibit in one way or another, from inside or through an observer (who is liable to go native), people whose society differs from ours, even whose physiology may differ from ours, but who feel the way we do. First to create difference—to establish strangeness—then to let the fiery arc of human emotion leap and close the gap: this acrobatics of the imagination fascinates and satisfies me as almost no other." (xii)


  6. I love fantasy, mostly just for the story. (Loved the Tolkien story. So true.) It's an escape, and when it's well written, it's a fabulous way to do so.

  7. Pretty much what you AND Brandon said. Fantasy allows for elements of story and character experimentation (and delving into issues) that isn't possible elsewhere. I love his books.

  8. Very cool that your library was able to have Sanderson there! Cool!

    You already know where I fall in line with fantasy. Love the stuff, and for the same reasons as you state, which I think are meaty enough. :)

    Did you buy his new book? I am eying it, and am thinking that I will read it soon...November or December. Have you seen the UK cover? Very cool, and I prefer it over the US cover.

  9. sbjames: I love this comment! Thanks.

    Jeane: Yeah, I think we should all have some fantasy going on no matter what else we're reading.

    Shelley: Oh, I hope you don't feel alone any more!

    Comtemplatrix: Thanks for that great quote. I really need to add some LeGuin stuff to my stack.

    Melissa: Yes, it is!

    Annette: He talked quite a bit about the racial issue (which I sort of skipped in my recap) and how you can explore stuff like that in fantasy without stirring up a whole can of worms.

    Ibeeeg: I haven't bought the new one yet, I think I'll wait for paperback since I know there's no way I can make time for it now anyway. Dang that thing is HUGE! And I agree, I think the UK gets all the cool covers. No fair.

  10. Oh I TOTALLY "get it" - but you know that already. :)

    I'm so excited that Brandon is coming to my town again. I'll get to see him on 11/5 and I'll pick up my copy of Towers of Midnight then as well - woohoo!

  11. (sorry, meant to subscribe to the comments last time - done now!)

  12. I have struggled so much with fantasy - but I persevere. I am such a literal person and reading about other worlds and species has always been a struggle for me. However, I am getting better :) --- and I loved reading the reasons that Brandon listed for reading/writing fantasy and I will continue to learn to appreciate this popular genre.



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