This is a reasonable question, yet one I’ve never really asked myself before. Why, out of all the genres out there, is it fantasy, most specifically YA fantasy, that appeals to me the most?
My bookshelves are so full that I have to stack books on top of books, and some of the books that I don’t want to get rid of but rarely read (ahem *Star Wars novels*) are packed away. I’d plead for more shelf space, but Carl has hogged it all already.
On my shelves, I have a smattering of classical literature – mostly Austen, Gaskell, Dickens, and Shakespeare. I have some of the Russians – Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky – but I’ve never made it all the way through one of their novels. The problem is I keep picking them up when I’m either pregnant or just had a baby, and I’m already prone to depression … not a good time to read the Russians, I have found.
There’s my history books covering two shelves, the books that I gleefully claim I need for research, but really just get because history of all kinds fascinates me. Then there’s my children’s lit – LM Montgomery, Maud Hart Lovelace, Elizabeth Enright, Louisa May Alcott, etc.
Agatha Christie gets one entire shelf to herself (she was a Very Prolific Author), and Dorothy Sayers, Margery Allingham, Josephine Tey, and Dorothy Gilman cover the next (none of them, alas, were as prolific as I would have liked). I do enjoy a good mystery, especially one that’s not too gruesome. And if you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time at all you know I have an illicit love affair going on with Lord Peter.
The rest of my shelves are all fantasy, and mostly YA or MG. From Narnia to Middle Earth to Prydain to E Nesbit’s England to Mossflower to Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom to the Enchanted Forest and covering a whole lot more in between.
So why? What is it about fantasy that draws me so, that makes want to read it more than anything else? What is it that makes it my default for writing? Even trying to write a simple adventure story set in 1920s England turned into an alternate history type fantasy (really have to get back to that as soon as I’m done with the rough draft of Cadi’s story – Maia does not take kindly to being set aside for a time).
I never got all that into the traditional sword-and-sorcery fantasy. I’ve read some of those sorts of books and enjoyed them, but not for writing, and I usually only borrow them from the library instead of buying them for my very own. And I’m definitely not big into paranormal or urban fantasy. I have yet to read the book-whose-title-is-synonymous-with-dusk, and vampires etc just don’t really interest me terribly. Unless that vampire is Angel. Duh. Again, I have read some urban fantasy and enjoyed it, but not to the point where I ever want to buy any of the books.
So what is it about certain types of fantasy that draws me the most?
This might be an unfair post, because I don’t really have an answer yet. I think it’s important to ponder, though, and I suspect it boils down to something along the lines of a Lloyd Alexander quote I love:
Fantasy is hardly a way of escaping reality; it’s a way of understanding it.
I think that for me, fantasy has helped me understand this “real world” better, while also allowing me to accept things which we cannot see or understand. I do still believe in fairies, you see, and that belief has helped to shape me into a better person.
And if I can be an ambassador of a magical realm to this one, then that is a task I am proud and yet oddly humbled to accept.
What are your favorite genres to read or write, and why? Do you believe that fantasy does help us to understand reality better? Do you – as Peter Pan might demand – still believe in fairies?