I posted in September 2012 about writing fantasy and the guilty pleasure it gave me. That idea came from an article written in 2005 by Sandra Miller and in this, she rehearses the responses that most of us need to prepare when we talk about ourselves as writers–if we dare.
Personally, I steer people away from the topic as much as I can and talk about warts instead. I find warts a pretty good alternative because of their universality. People can understand warts because most people have had one–some in significant numbers and not anywhere they’d care to show you. And inevitably, it’s going to happen. Not warts per-se, but being asked about the writing. In Sandy’s article, there’s a lot of stuff about vanity, ego and a sharing of self. But the bit I liked best was here.
“Speculative fiction offers a necessary retreat from modern society. The twin genres of science fiction and fantasy allow the reader to move for a while out of the context of the real world. Important issues are addressed outside of the familiar settings of more traditional genres. Speculative fiction is a much-needed respite for the mind of the reader.”
All so true.
And there are deep philosophical arguments about our need for fantasy and the desire to try and understand worlds other than our own because of the decline of religion and our secular existence. But I will leave that to others more metaphysically agile than me.
And those of us who write fantasy and SF get to make up all of this stuff so that other people can immerse themselves completely. It’s a very powerful drug for the writer. And for the reader, it’s the dream car that you get to sit in and enjoy being a passenger on a journey through some very dark places. Places you would not normally go perhaps, but where where you can now go safely. You might not even know that the country you’re being driven through bears some stark similarities to the harsh realities of the world. So it’s possible to engage in thoroughly unpalatable topics like religious fanaticism, or the world’s financial crisis, or what a dinosaur tastes like. But the important point is that you, the reader, might vaguely recognize these parallels, but since they’re viewed through the tinted windows of the dream car they’re usually well under the ‘boring alert’ radar, or appear much more accessible, sometimes understandable and occasionally even funny.
And as the author, you get to choose the journey. I mean how much fun is that!
But what isn’t mentioned in Sandy’s article is what I do. I don’t really consider myself an author of speculative fiction. After all, what I’m doing is simply reporting events that have actually taken place. Don’t ask me why I got the job, it’s just the way it is. As I’ve said many times, some people say that this is contemporary fantasy fiction but believe me, it’s real enough on planet hipposync. That and the fact that the head of the Dept of Fimmigration likes having a doctor around in case of emergencies…and his gout. Not forgetting George Hoblip–a Brownie–who wants help with his follow up to 50 shades of Fae, the smash fae porn novel, which he’s called For a fistful of hollers.
I’m not saying any more because most of this is explained in The 400Lb Gorilla and it would take for ever to do it here. You have been warned.