Fantasy is a special genre

“Your strengths become your weakness, and your weakness becomes your strength.” A teacher once told me, several years back. To this day, I have wrestled with this idea, thinking about which direction I want to go- to strengthen things I am weak in, or to let my strengths become weak due to imbalance. I can say that the latter did not occur, as I did not methodically develop my career or expertise in a major way beyond seeking entry-level employment. I did, however continue to read about new ideas and fields, quenching my thirst for knowledge in world events and customs. One thing that was a previous study, literature, has comforted me on recurring occasions. Answers I cannot not find in a 200 word news article or even a 2000 word essay always seem to be floating in a novel somewhere. Quantity does not equal quality, but the effort is missing in shorter reading exercises that leaves me longing for something that delivers satisfaction. I enjoy the long expository form of writing to shorter treatises. Yet I haven’t read completed a novel in almost a year, one that is more than 150 pages. Collectively, the number of web articles I’ve read in that time is over thousands of pages, but it’s like walking a marathon- there are many breaks in concentration  and the direction changes in a news stream, whereas a novel is uncompromising, and uninterrupted in its sequence in describing another world.

The voluntary subjection to reality from compiled mainstream news and citizen journalism sources may be a weakness to some fantasy readers, but I will first suggest that it is my weakness in deeply exploring fantasy beyond skimming wikipedia summaries of Tolkien novels and lesser known works. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t read the news, but I know I read more news than others. Non-fiction can’t be compared to fiction. It can be more of a page turner to someone who is impressed by writers who aren’t concerned with inventing a sprawling, personalized world that is not subject to the fact-checking that is expected of society’s more public servants and legislators, and those who ultimately shape what is allowed and disallowed. The challenge of reading world and local news (by someone who is not obliged to have a major participatory role in society) is forcing oneself to deal or witness the proven struggles of the world, unless one considers oneself solipsistic, because “the real world” may commonly  be construed to more likely involve the reader than the adages of fantasy and fiction genres.  The challenge of the realist in reading fantasy, however, is letting go of hard-earned truths and inheriting grander mores than one is normally afforded.

Artists create a world as it never were, or reflect it for maximum impact. Innovations and Entrepreneurs in the real world are not necessarily artistic, thus writers and artists that communicate do this best. The fantasy genre is a privilege to a writer because it is so open-ended, yet to appeal to the mainstream, a work of literature most likely needs to contain a minimum trace of realism such that it would be recognizable at least as an accessible portal to a reader that doesn’t know where to begin, despite the obvious sequence of letters on the first page. this way, it can be used as a metric stick for its relevance.  Once someone enters a galactic or universe portal, “reality” changes insomuch as the laws of nature or supernature can allow them to do so. This is when fantasy emerges to be the dark giant of the literary genres. Fantasy is an unknowable expanse, hinted from a horizon,  but not immediately accessible without a change in displacement, unlike the established elements and predictable events and knowns of the real world. It is mysterious insomuch as scientists have not discovered nature’s unsolved theorems and visible mysteries, yet it remains as a fountain of human creativity, much like the unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in natural sciences.

Fantasy is the way forward wherever there are shortcomings in the world. Real world “obstacles” (as if this were American Gladiators) or struggles shouldn’t always be neglected or abandoned, however. They should be approached with new ideas, solutions as well as old and forgotten ones. Fantasy is a protest of injustice; a rejection of narrow norms, an opportunity to make a new life without the labels and instructions of assimilation. Fantasy is potentially a more peaceful genre, insomuch it promotes tolerance and coexistence. Every detail of a society that has prospered from unity at the expense of diversity, can be the subject of an expository untangling. Fantasy doesn’t require a dominant nation-state for there to be peace. Historically, hunter-gatherers and tribal states may have appeared to be weaker technologically, but fantasy has the opportunity to convey a utopia. I think of New Zealand when I think of utopia, because that’s where they filmed Lord of the Rings. But there are things even in that story that I would reject. What I think contemporary fantasy works have succeeded in, is capturing the imagination of some of our earliest pristine concepts of a “pure world”. There are potential “perils of perfection,” but sometimes only in the wrong context/contrast. Some “pure”lakes can appear clear and fresh but may not be potable. Yet, the intent and technique of fantasy is that it will continue to seek what has not been explored, whether to existing reality or that not yet created. Fantasy writing is a worthy endeavor and one I plan to embark on.


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