13 February 2009

Fantasy Elements #2: In Defence of Fantasy

Warning: This is a rant, and contains religious references. Deal, or skip this post return on Monday :P O:) And should you happen to be interested, here's my first defence of fantasy, where I explain one of the reasons why I love the fantasy genre.

Fantasy is evil. Fantasy is the spawn of the devil. Fantasy is inherently immoral, amoral, anti-moral, and wrong.

Gah, how comments like these make my blood boil, particularly when issuing from the mouth of religious leaders or religious people. Yes, this happened a couple of days ago :)

So why, exactly, does this get me riled?

Mostly, I think, because it displays a tremendous amount of ignorance and narrow-mindedness.

First off, 'fantasy' is just a genre. Genres have defining features, but underneath, they're all stories. So why is 'fantasy' so much more evil than anything else?

Apparently the primary issue is magic. At least, I assume it must be, because what other difference are there? Setting? Nope, see sci fi and historical, or alternate historical. Character? Well, some people are good, and some are bad, but that's the same in all genres. Plot? Yeah, sure, some fantasy plots are so cliched they might as well be evil, but really, that's not fair...

So it must be magic.

But here's the deal: magic is a thing. Things can't, in and of themselves, be evil. Things can be used for evil - but they are not themselves evil. Notions of good and evil is a people thing. Not a thing thing.

Secondly, stories are written by people, and people have beliefs, and those beliefs seep through into their writing. Sure, some fantasy is atheistic; but wow, so is a heck of a lot of non-fantasy, and you know what? It's to do with who wrote it, not what genre they wrote it in.

And a heck of lot of fantasy is religious. A lot of it's even Christian. Fantasy writers are the devil's tools, are they? Great. Tell that to J.R.R. Tolkien, founding father of the entire freakin' genre, whose Christian themes and allegories abound, or to C.S. Lewis, arguably one of the greatest and most prolific Christian writers of the century.

Yup. Fantasy's evil. Darn that Narnia, and it's allegorical Aslan.

Not to mention, if we're going to be blunt and truthful about it, the Bible. Prophecies that come true? Dreams of the future? Allegories and strange visions of fantastic beasts that don't exist in our reality? Come on, that's not fantasy?? Not to mention the ultimate Chosen One, and - le gasp - magic. Yes, magic. Hello, water to wine, anyone? Healing the sick? Raising people from the dead?!

(Hmm, interesting doctrinal point: Is God the ultimate necromancer? Or is necromancy by definition the raising of the dead to an unlife, rather than to life?)

And finally, the ignorance. The people that disparage fantasy so emphatically seem to have little conception of what fantasy really is (see number two above). Apparently, it's only fantasy novels that are evil, and even then only ones written in the last century or two. If it's old enough to be called a myth or a fairytale, apparently it's fine. Cinderella? Yup, that's a pretty evil story. The Little Tin Soldier? Oo, terrible story, that one.

Not to mention Disney. So, it's evil of novelists to write stories that involve magic, but Disney is a happy, fun, family-friendly, movie-making company (heh, actual evils of the company itself aside %-))? Let me get this straight: The Wheel of Time, Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, Song of Ice and Fire, the Farseers, and so forth, are evil, but The Lion King, Suddenly 30, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and Toy Story are not?


I'd like to end by saying - People, before you try to take a swing at me for writing fantasy, you'd better be damn sure what you're actually swinging against - but since most of the people to whom that applies won't ever read this, is there really any point? :P

So, tell me dear faithful readers: What genres do you write in, and do you ever cop any flak over it? Are you perfectly happy to tell anyone who asks, "Yes, I'm a writer, and I write blah genre!", or do you hedge around the edges, mumbling non-committal responses in the hopes that they'll go away and that once, just this once, you won't get flamed for your writing preferences?

(Okay, so I've never actually been flamed, as such, and I've been pleasantly surprised a few times by a supportive response. But the point remains :D)


Just_Me said...

I write primarily sci-fi, and I get a lot of flak for it.

"Sci-fi? Why don't you write a real book?"

"Sci-fi? I hate sci-fi because it's all spaceships/gore/blasters/men in tight pants."

"Sci-fi? How mind-numbingly dull, couldn't you write something with a plot and meaning?"

"Sci-fi? That's not *real* writing. It's not *real* literature. Sci-fi will never survive the decade."

Please ignore The Time Machine, 2000 Leagues Under the Sea, ect ect ect. That's not *real* writing that will survive a decade after all...

I'm with you 100% on the fantasy thing though. I can't see any reason to object on a religious or moral ground over a book. I may not like a book, but it's because the character, story, or style don't appeal to me. I suppose I might object to child-porn erotica or splatter-porn on moral grounds, and grounds of good taste, but that's not often in fantasy.

Anette J Kres said...

"evil is a people thing, not a thing thing"

lol... thing thing. I love it!

I totally agree with you on this topic.

It should be pointed out that not all religious people have that skewed view of things (classic case: Stephanie Meyer is mormon), but it does happen. And as a religious person myself, it totally irks me when they do that. They're just stories, for crying out loud. Fiction - as in, not fact. Yeesh!

/end mini rant

I read and write fantasy like an addict. I think thats why I get so riled.


Lady Glamis said...

Stephanie Meyer has gotten a TON of flak for being Mormon and writing vampire stuff. I sure hope my religion isn't given flak for me writing about dead guys and guns and crap.

Good post, Inky. I agree with your points. I haven't been "flamed" per se. Yet. For writing stuff that looks like commercial fiction, but goes much deeper in my opinion. :)

Spartezda said...

I think I had a comment, but I forgot when I got to the "Is God the ultimate necromancer?" line.

My morning now has its required dose of awesome...

Krispy said...

I have to ditto Spartezda. That line made me LOL and now I'm unable to form a coherent comment without giggling about it. :P

So I'll just say, you go, girl! :)

Beth said...

Good post, Inky. I am with you 100% on everything.

I've never been given flak for writing fantasy because only my family and internet friends know about it. But I'm rethinking writing romance within my genres; I'm just too ashamed for some reason.

Off topic, but still about writing and being given a hard time:

Before I was published more than once, I had some kid ask me (in the most snotty voice) "Are you published?" When I pointed to a single essay I had written, he made a condescending sound and looked at me as if to say, "You've only published one little thing and you actually refer to yourself as a writer?" Like you have to be published first before you may call yourself a writer. Young rascal.

Merc said...

I think I went off on shiny distractions about God being the ultimate necromancer comment... bwhahahah, that is so awesome!

(Man, that makes me SO tempted to get into a debate about necromancy being 'evil' just to bring it up and see what kind of reaction I get...)

I'm trying to remember if I had an actual comment...


Since I frankly just don't talk about my writing in RL to people face to face, I've not run across the reaction too much. At work, when I get pressured into mentioning something, people ask if it's fantasy like LOTR or HP. ;) The sorta 'clueless about fantasy in general'... and not a lot else (though they are politely positive in the 'oh, that's neat' kind of way).

But yes, the sentiment about fantasy DOES get me ticked off, and so I find this rant lovely and very accurate, Inky.

I probably would get worse reactions on the fact I like horror if I bothered to mention it at all, but I'm just not interested in explaining to people. :P I can imagine the looks and comments, though, especially if I went to church and mentioned anything...


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