Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Purpose of Fantasy

I had two book reviews written. I really did. I had them all ready, and then I lost the second jumpdrive I had after finding the first. Maybe they'll switch places soon so I can get my book reviews back. Or I may just have to rewrite them.

So I went back, found an old blog from a month or two ago, and decided I would post it. It is appropriate considering what I read yesterday at work. Yes, I read at work. I get distracted when I'm shelving. It happens.

Some author wrote a book explaining how C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were fine but J.K. Rowling clearly had evil plans in mind. It was a bit silly, though not quite as silly as Laura Mallory's website. The man was countering arguments in favor of Harry Potter, and doing a halfway decent job of it. The problem was that, though he claimed to have read the books himself, he only used those passages that proved his point, a huge no-no I recall from my college English class. He presented his opponents' viewpoints in the most simplistic and asinine way possible, then went into great detail of his own, giving appropriate examples from the books, while totally ignoring those parts that completely counter his own arguments. It was almost cute.

But at least he didn't do like that demon-busters website and complain about fantasy in general, and that, after a short preview rant, leads into my little ramble.

Because, writing fantasy must be part of my personality.

I have begun to realize that even my stories that were originally planned to be somewhat realistic have evolved into something closer to the fantasy genre. For example, I had a story planned in which a group of children were the subjects of mental experiments. However, it has started changing from them having simple neuroses due to the experiments to something more…and of course, much less realistic. Looking back, everything I have written has had something of the fantastical in it. I can’t be content with something-I know people dislike this term-mundane. Sometimes I wonder, is this a problem? Am I perhaps too lost in “my own little world” for my own good? Shouldn’t I be able to write something real life decently?

I confess there were many times I longed to truly get lost in my own imagination. Bullying was a very real thing for me and, strange as it seems, it felt easier to deal with the supernatural villains concocted in my head than the children I looked in the face every day at school. Perhaps because in a way I had control over those villains, and control over myself. I was brave, I was strong. I wasn’t shy and quiet; I wasn’t the one who longed for people to simply leave me alone. I wasn’t the “sidekick” or, more likely, the “red shirt”. I was the heroine and I could win.

I’m aware too much distaste for reality could be bad. As much as I see what is wrong with this world, I see many things that are right. I wouldn’t trade my friends and family for any adventures in the world. (No, not even David Bowie can change my mind, thank you very much.) I’m fully aware life is pretty decent. But perhaps, like everyone else, I long for the fantastical, for something far beyond myself. There are those that would argue, “Erica, you are a Christian. Isn’t this good enough?” Not in this fallen world, I suppose. It is more than just a desire for something beyond. I want to create. Now, seeing as I am not God, there’s no chance of anything I write really coming to life (though Inkheart was a pretty fun book), but it’s not necessary. I believe Tolkien himself felt that his writing was a way of imitating his Creator, though his world is but dim compared to what God made.

I’ve begun noticing something like a trend. There is always some genre that is looked down upon by the intellectual elite. In the 1800’s, novels were the scapegoat of the day. They filled young ladies’ minds with unladylike notions; they did not edify minds as did the biographies and literature collections of the day; they were unrealistic. How could something so unlike day-to-day life help anyone at all? And yet, as one of my favorite authors says, “….or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world …” (Jane Austen, for the unenlightened ones out there). Fantasy may be, well, fantastical, but it still contains much of human nature (even if the characters aren’t particularly human) and psychology. Perhaps it is as I said before-sometimes it is easier to face imaginary monsters than real ones. It is much easier to read about the defeat of a Sauron than face the back-stabbing she-devil at work. And maybe it’s good that way.

After all, if you can face a Dark Lord, you can snark at the she-devil.

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