I’ve read fantasy for a long time. I’ve been known to take a break and read other genres but I always seem to come back to fantasy. I guess it’s the kid in me and the love of a good yarn that keeps me reading these stories. But there are other reasons the genre interests me as both a reader and a writer.
I got into a conversation after completing my interview the other night about speculative fiction and why it’s useful for story-telling. One of the main points noted about fantasy and science fiction is how flexible these genres can be. A writer can explore all kinds of topics through setting and situation. This is done in science fiction by using technology and in fantasy through magic systems.
As a reader, fantasy attracts me for several other reasons, one of which revolves around courage. So often, fantasy characters – main, secondary or otherwise – are faced with dire circumstances regardless of their magical assets (spells, weapons, etc.). It’s at this point that courage becomes the factor in the story with outcomes that can be either victorious or disastrous. I like to see how a character of any kind might react courageously in the face of these extreme situations.
For instance, in The Lord of the Rings, Gandalf refuses to budge in the presence of both the balrog and the Lord of the Nazgul. Likewise, Eowyn stands up to the Lord of the Nazgul just to defend King Theoden. That’s gripping as well as courageous.
Additionally, I like to read about characters who take on leadership and just do what’s necessary. In such stories, a character might make decisions because they have nothing to lose and nobody else is willing to make that call.
And then there’s the pure adventure of a fantasy tale. One recent book that captured adventure well was Michael J. Sullivan’s The Emerald Storm which is a tale that largely takes place on a sea voyage. It captures elements of Treasure Island in a fantasy setting. And who doesn’t like adventure on the high seas.
So for me, fantasy is a way of examining people in extraordinary circumstances all with in fantasy settings that add to the wonder and excitement of the story. Sure, I could watch Saving Private Ryan to see the defense of the bridge and the courage it takes – and love it. But put that in a fantasy setting and you can come up with some really good stories. I could read or view ocean voyages like Moby Dick or Master and Commander but add magic and some monstrous critters and it gets doubly interesting.
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