I realize that’s it’s been awhile since my last post, but I thought I would start up again with this intriguing article
Fantasy, and Why We Need It
by Laura VanArendonk Baugh
Today I intend to justify fantasy as a genre. Not that it needs justified, no more than any other genre, but I’m going to anyway.
But first, I’m going to tell you a story.
I’ve taken only one real writing class, if we don’t count that Creative Writing hour every Wednesday afternoon in third grade. I’d always written stories, since elementary school, and my senior year of college I finally took a real class on writing fiction. I was terribly excited and I felt like a Real Writer.
We had a lot of guided writing assignments, of course, but once we were given free rein to turn in whatever we wanted. I chose the opening chapters of a novel I was working on, The Sightless Sisters. My instructor called me in for a private meeting. “This is pretty good,” he said. “But you realize this is fantasy. It’s schmaltz. Nobody but twelve-year-old boys will ever read this stuff.”
And for the next decade, I told myself I didn’t write fantasy. I wrote historical fiction, I said, and sometimes I would write historical fiction for places that didn’t exist, with histories I made up, but that was okay, wasn’t it? If I wrote a little fantasy on the side but mostly in a legitimate genre?
And whenever I would notice that I had written a lot more words in fantasy than in historical fiction, I’d tell myself that when I got serious about writing, I’d write more historical work. I was just goofing off with the fantasy stuff.
I’m mostly over that, but if you pay attention, you can still detect traces of embarrassment and denial. If one asks what I write, I’ll answer with a joke about Big Fat Fantasy. My body language will change subtly. I may mention more than one genre, camouflaging.
And I do write other genres, too. But it’s okay to write fantasy.
Fantasy is not just a step-child genre for sci-fi and historical writers who were bad at research. And it’s not just a place to explore Myth, though of course that’s important too. It has its own purpose in helping us assess who we really are and who we should be.
Oh, right, the skeptic responds. A story about dragons and wizards in a fake medieval country is going to tell me who I am in suburban Middle America. Riiiiiiight.
Stick with me a minute.