Fantasy and Science Fiction… these are the genres Academia refuses to acknowledge (with a few major exceptions – check out Corey Olsen and the university he started that is offering (soon to be accredited) graduate degrees in Tolkien and Fantasy studies: Signum University). These works are not “real literature”, or so most of my professors would have liked me to believe. To prove the validity of their claim, they point to the mountains of rubbish published in the genres. Conveniently, they ignore the bigger piles of rubbish in the respected fiction genres. Finally, they accuse fantasy and/or Sci-Fi as an attempt to distract from lack of creativity, that the stories simply are historical events or previous tales in a new skin. They get the data for their claim from the same piles of garbage that we can all agree are just that.
Now, there is no denying that there are precious few classics in the world of Fantasy. But let’s not forget that the genre had been practically dead for centuries until less than 100 years ago. And, not surprisingly, the first attempts by Fantasy writers other than Tolkien were almost identical clones. But since that time, Fantasy has grown. Writers that have branched away from not only Middle Earth, but even Tolkien’s vision of fae, and found a path that is their own. People like Robert Jordan, J.K. Rowling, Terry Goodkind, and Georg R.R. Martin have created unique worlds, each with different ideals, themes, and tones.
Fantasy allows us to explore how we believe the human spirit reacts both in similar environments that we actually encounter (without having to bind ourselves to a particular time and place) or how we believe we will behave when presented with a hypothetical set of circumstances. It’s not just about magic and swordplay – though those things are fun too. Fantasy allows us to deal with real world problems while stripping away the preconceived baggage and connotations of people groups and allows us to explore maybe how individuals or organizations with a few key differences would react in similar situations. Of course, it’s also a great genre for just a great adventure, and there’s nothing wrong with that!
When I read the works of the authors I mentioned earlier, I realized this is where I wanted to develop my own stories. While I enjoy “real” literature (I have a tendency to gravitate towards British literature, especially Victorian), it was Fantasy that first drew me into reading. It is only fitting that it is also where I take my first steps as an author. I invite you all to come and enjoy the journey with me.