Why you should care about fantasy fiction

Image courtesy of Jason Coates

Image courtesy of Jason Coates http://bit.ly/1yPwIZ5

I’ve known a few people (and I’ve heard of more) who say they just don’t like fantasy. When I’ve asked why not, the answer has usually been that they don’t like the orcs and trolls and goblins and elves and dwarves and all that sort of thing. They prefer realistic stories that have to do with the real world.

So why does fantasy exist at all if it’s mere freakish escapism with no connection to reality? Why can’t we get our heads out of the clouds and settle down to something more practical?

I’ll spoil the end for you: I believe that fantasy is eminently practical — that it has much more to do with real life than most people might suspect.

Fantasy reflects our world through a curious sort of lens, and by showing it this way, it helps us see our world all the more clearly. That’s the real magic.

Sometimes this roundabout way is the only way for us to see things about our world that we’ve been blinded to, not because they’re hidden, but because they’re right under our nose. I agree with C.S. Lewis that humans are marked by “the horror and neglect of the obvious.” Fantasy helps us see the good and evil, mercy and cruelty, courage and cowardice, justice and treachery, and wonder and awe in our world more clearly than we might have seen otherwise.

But some people haven’t experienced this. Either they’ve never tried, or they have tried but couldn’t see past the elves, wargs, wizards, nymphs, and the like. It seems people who don’t like fantasy make a great mistake: thinking that these fantastical things are what fantasy is *about.*

All these fay and faerie elements are the skin of fantasy, not its soul.

Of course, bad fantasy might focus on the dragons and gnomes and witches and magic for the sake of the spectacle they provide, and stories like that are hardly worth telling.

What do you think? Does fantasy give us something that can’t be gotten elsewhere? Does it have other value or uses?

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Lawman: a short story

I could see dark spots where blood from others had soaked the backseat fabric of the police cruiser. The faint acrid smell of ammonia spoke of the latest attempt—probably by the rookie at the wheel—to erase these indelible marks of that which makes their job necessary. My knuckles, pressed against the small of my back, joined my lips to drip and trickle their marks onto the seat and my ripped shirt—a sort of defiant graffiti, saying to me, you were here: here are your genes and your father’s and your mother’s smeared in stains.

To my left, Lyle Christen was in much the same condition. His body had been all right angles since we were handled into the car: knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, eyes. He must have memorized the wavy pattern of the back of our driver’s head—if he was seeing it at all. The deputy (who couldn’t have been much older than me) reached back to gingerly scratch the spot on which Lyle’s gaze had been fixed.

At this, my old schoolmate turned toward me. The one eye he could open met my own. His shoulders were now less rectangular, and his spring-mud-brown lens, after that moment, retracted to focus on the air between us. One corner of his mouth turned upward, and he said, “You stupid bastard.”

I wanted to laugh and scream at the same time—laugh because it was equally true, strung in that space between us, and scream because it said far too little—the killing white-hot pilot light in my sternum inspired far more awful names.

Our chauffeur glanced in his rearview and said, “Quiet.” I knew he was a rookie because I’d never seen him around the station until a couple weeks ago. Now he was trying to imitate that gaze that made me feel cut from stone. They all did. He should’ve known better than to try on me an amateur version of what I’d lived with all my life.

(more…)

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Becoming PRO-fessional: getting my fiction mojo

word rose flower

My approach to becoming a professional writer is two-fold:

  1. blogging professionally (duh)
  2. learning to craft literary fiction

I love telling stories, and getting paid to do it would be a nice bonus! Almost three years ago, I got a great start in writing fiction thanks to a great teacher and mentor. I wrote two award-winning short stories (here’s one). Since then, however, I’ve let it languish, and I haven’t produced a single new story.

But that is going to change — and soon. (more…)

Becoming PRO-fessional: baby steps

Writer

Today begins my two-month, full-time journey of developing myself as a professional writer. Think of it as a short-term, unpaid internship at Nathan the Paul, Incorporated. By the end of this time, I’ll have learned/done a lot more about: (more…)

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