Why I love fantasy:
Over at the GalacticaBBS forum, we’ve been having a very interesting discussion about what makes us love science fiction and fantasy. This struck me as an excellent topic for my blog. Rather than type all my thoughts again, I’ll just copy what I wrote there.
What do I love about fantasy? A lot. My reasons are very complex, and I’m still not sure I fully understand all of them, but here are some of the broad strokes:
Partly, it’s simply that I find the real world boring. Don’t ask me why. It just seems… pointless. None of us really matter; none of us will be remembered long after our deaths. Our parents tell us we’re special, but we’re not. We’re just another inauspicious human in a long line of them, bumbling along randomly until our lives draw to a close. There’s no moral to our stories. There’s no point or purpose.
But in fantasy, things matter. People matter. Decisions matter. There’s a point to events. There’s a sort of beautiful order to things, and there’s the comforting knowledge that everything will be okay when the book or movie ends. Sure, sometimes there are unhappy or tragic endings, but I feel — and I know many will disagree — a story has failed if it doesn’t provide us with a happy or at least somewhat optimistic ending.
I also like stories that present interesting moral conflicts or dilemmas. Sure, you can do this with stories set in the real world, but in a fantasy world, where anything is possible, there’s so much more potential. You can look at things from angles you couldn’t with a story set in the real world.
I hate to do this to you guys, but once again, I find a good example in the Warcraft universe. Now, Warcraft is generally pretty simple (bordering on the mindless at times), but once in a while, they tackle some very weighty issues, and one of the best examples of this is the Blood Elves. Their storyline dealt with intense subjects like addiction and what it’s like to survive a genocide.
Again, you could cover these with a real world story. You could write a story about a man who is hopelessly addicted, who suffers constant agony from withdrawal and fears he will die if he doesn’t get his next fix. You could even make him the survivor of a genocide to add more drama.
But it’s so much more interesting when the story is about an entire race that is hopelessly addicted and in the constant agony of withdrawal. There’s so much more drama for the characters when they fear that not finding their next fix will not only kill them, but bring about the extinction of their entire species and culture — a culture that has already been ravaged beyond repair by a nightmarish genocide.
The Blood Elves did some awful things after their fall, consorting with Demons and other monsters. But can you honestly say you would have done differently? Could you really have said, “Yes, our civilization has been crushed, and we’re all dying a slow and agonizing death from withdrawal, but I’m not going to accept the one and only offer of help our people have received. This guy seems kind of fishy.”
That’s the kind of story you just can’t tell in a real world setting.
Also on the subject of morality, there’s what I said in my opening blog post about how I find the concept of ultimate evil oddly comforting. If ultimate evil exists, then, theoretically, so must ultimate good. I would happily make the world suffer through a Darth Vader or a Lich King (who are really the same character, let’s face it) if it meant we could get a Luke Skywalker or a Thrall in exchange.
I also love the sense of history the genre brings. I’m not sure why, but I can never get enough of the vast histories people create for fantasy worlds. In the Three Worlds books, I think I almost enjoy reading about the worlds’ ancient history more than the actual action of the books.
And I like studying the differing psychologies of the non-human races in fantasy culture. Some people may zone out when they hear about Elves and Dragons, but I love trying to imagine the world through the eyes of a being who has an entirely different perspective and thought process from a human.
And then there’s the mystery and sense of adventure that comes from a universe where literally anything is possible.
Finally, there’s the more basic appeals, like “Elves r hawt” and “lazerz go pew pew.” Sometimes, it’s just fun to watch people beat each over the head with flaming swords.
I think I’ll close it there, as I’ve already written a small book here, but I think I’ve covered all the main reasons why fantasy appeals to me. Most of this also holds true for science fiction, though not all of it. Sci-fi tends to lack the sense of history fantasy brings, for instance.