Monday, 14 March 2011

Fantasy as Metaphor

I like fantasy, as a reader it's what interests me, as an amateur/wannabe writer it's what inspires me. I mean it's not as if I won't read anything else, I also like detective novels and I read a lot of non-fiction, and it's not as if I won't write anything else either, but fantasy is my go to genre, my favourite. I really shouldn't have to defend that, but I keep running into people who look down on fantasy because it's 'just for kids', or even more annoyingly it's just for kids unless it's based very closely on an ancient story or preferably a legend in which case it counts as literature. That weird scrunching noise you can hear? that's my teeth grinding together.

I should probably point out that I've got nothing against stories being based specifically based on other stories, 'Lenore's Song' by Yunyu is a response to Poe's 'The Raven' and is awesome (and yes, literally a song, but that's not the point), Neil Gaiman's 'Snow, Glass, Apples.' is a retelling of the Snow White fairy tale and I love it. Done well the whole retelling / literary response thing is great, what gets on my nerves is the idea that a work is somehow better because it's a response to something else, or rather the inverse of that, that a fantasy work is automatically shallow and 'just for kids' if it isn't a response to something that has a literary pedigree. I won't even get into the issue of assuming that kids don't want any depth to their stories, that's a whole other rant for another day.

Now obviously I can't just say 'fantasy is for grown ups too, so there' because, well, I'm neither a five year old nor an American politician; and I can't really just point to the growing number of modern fantasy works that feature sex and violence (or come to that all the fairy tales that do in their unexpurgated forms), because I haven't been a teenager for a while and don't equate those things to maturity; not suitable for young children, sure, but that's not the same as 'grown up' now is it? What I'm going to do instead is point out the power of fantasy as a metaphor for real life.

Metaphor might actually be the wrong term, I think what I'm really talking about is abstraction, about fantasy as a gedanken or thought experiment for social thinking. The example that really springs to mind as example of this is Thud! by

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