Most fantasy writers get asked this question a lot. Moving into the discussion with a stance that I am not a fantasy writer, as much as a person who writes speculative—highly speculative—fiction, let’s look at what it is about creating new, strange worlds that appeals to me (and the people who love to read and live in those worlds, too). So, why fantasy?
First off, in a Science Fiction and Fantasy world anything can happen. I don’t mean Deus Ex Machina kind of stuff; writers and readers should steer clear of that, no matter the genre. I’m talking about your aliens, wizards, and dragons. Maybe a chalice that can pervert the course of nature by raising the dead or granting eternal youth. Incredible stuff, the stuff of which we—humans—dream.
As to why I—and others—lump Fantasy and Science Fiction together, I propose that’s because the best fantasy is almost identical to Science Fiction, in that you have created a believable world and a mythos. Next, plop in some specific citizens of that realm/ starship/ whatever, and you’ve just started your story, your narrative on life. A good story is a good story, no matter the genre. Legions of folks are into Game of Thrones, for example, and that’s not because it has dragons and ancient forces warring in the shadows. Sure, some of us like those additions to the narrative. Still, I’d safely bet that the “mainstream” appeal of that show comes from its human element. GoT resonates with readers and fans because its people—as despicable as some of them can be—are just as despicable, humorous and convincing as the folks that we can find here on Earth. We can see our triumphs and failings by watching these characters.
Besides the enjoyment of world-building, I write fantasy because I am a child of imagination. I love magic, wonder and mystery. I believe in the concepts of honor and heroism. In our age, I feel that we’ve lost the ability to perceive these elements. For there are heroes in the real world, women and men working together in a thousand different societies toward the goal of bettering humanity. (Happy International Women’s Day, by the way!) But we don’t talk about or recognize these people all that much. Instead we deify the Kardashians. And with our laser focus on superficial media, I feel that we’ve traded our reverence for what’s greater in the universe: our sense of the divine. I fear mysterious and wicked things much grander than ourselves. I fear Gods and monsters, even if my rational mind denies the existence of these entities. I believe that wonder, hope and fear are all part of the package of being human. Thus, I like to remind myself and my readers, of darkness and light, of horror and hope.
Touching back to what I intimated with the GoT world building bit, I’ve always believed that we see ourselves much clearer through a different set of eyes and perspectives. From the outside looking in. That’s why I tend to write a story from a lot of different heads, which isn’t the popular trend in modern fiction, where everything reads first-person like a diary entry. I understand that style, since it’s reflective of our current social climate, and it can be quite engaging to a reader. However, it’s not reflective of how the world actually functions, which is a tremendous battle of voices, wishes and opinions. We are not individuals, we are a series of individuals making up a society.
Taking everything into account: world building, characterization, multiple viewpoints, epic themes, explorations on love, death, war and all the meaty bits of human existence—there’s not one reason alone that I choose to write speculative fiction that happens to have supernatural elements. I would make a terrible anthropologist; too much schooling involved and my attention span is…What…Who…Oh right. I’m half a philosopher, an occasional activist, and only a therapist when I’ve had a glass of wine and someone has asked for my candid opinion. Therefore, while I’m not particularly good at any one of these things, I have managed to find a vocation, and a genre—fiction/ fantasy/ weird—that I feel fits my credentials and my desire to explore perceptions. I write to inspire. Personally, there is nothing more inspiring than worlds like our own, worlds where we can look to the faults and struggles of people—even though they’re imaginary—and learn from their experience how to better ourselves.
All my love,