A significant portion of my personal library, and my regular reading, consists of Science Fiction & Fantasy books. This is inevitably a source of much comment from a significant portion of the people I know.
The Sci-Fi books usually pass muster, because, you know, it’s full of Science. But the Fantasy ones?
When will you grow up? Only kids read all this magic-magic stuff.
It’s all just talking swords and dragons and elves, isn’t it?
You know that this is just really a form of escapism, right?
It’s not really literature, is it though?
So much ughness.
Whenever some jamoora asks me any variant of the above questions, I’m tempted to launch into a full-blown rant. I’m tempted to point out the vast number of sub-categories within the genre, from High Fantasy to Gothic to Low Magic to Humour to … oh go look it up yourself. I’m tempted to point out that all genre-books do tend to revolve around a few basic concepts – and that’s why they’re called genres. I’m tempted to point out that those beloved classics of theirs by Dante and Swift and Poe are Fantasy. I’m tempted to direct them to the writings of Mervyn Peake and Doris Lessing and Ursula Le Guin and Terry Pratchett and defy them to tell me that’s not literature at its finest. I’m tempted to invite them to consider that you can’t create five-book series (of 400 pages each) that go on to sell millions of copies if there wasn’t a decent plot that involved more than just flying carpets. I’m tempted to point out that most of these books are about people, and politics, and power, and love, and betrayal, and well, all the things a standard fiction book has – just with a little sparkle-dust thrown in. I’m tempted to point out that unlike other fiction, Fantasy has the scope to play with entire new worlds. I’m tempted to …
Oh never mind.
I usually just end up agreeing it’s escapism. Because, really, when there’s so much misery and trauma to be found by just opening the morning paper, why wouldn’t you want to lose yourself in other worlds and different futures? Ok, this is me, being a hedgehog and rolling up tight. Because the other alternative is to lose my mind and burn the whole place down.
So go away, jamoora, before I wave this wand and turn you into a footstool.