It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
OPTIONAL QUESTION: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?
MY ANSWER: Fantasy. Or to put it in a wider perspective, I should say speculative fiction, because I like to read and write in many sub-genres of speculative fiction, including sci-fi and magic realism, but fantasy remains my favorite, bar none. Here are the reasons why:
1. Fantasy is an escape from reality. Most fantasy stories have magic, in one way or another. As magic is thoroughly lacking in my own life, I like to read or write about the worlds where magic holds sway, where it is available for solving problems. I like to immerse myself in the fantastic doings of angels and werewolves and heroes, because I’ve never met such a bunch of fascinating characters in my life and never will. Fantasy characters, my own or those written by other writers, are my best friends, and occasionally, they help me deal with the real-life problems. If they could do it, I tell myself, so can I.
2. Fantasy presents us with its own set of rules. Sometimes, they are quirky or idiosyncratic, and they fluctuate wildly from story to story, but they are all different from the real world, where the rules are based on science and never negotiable. Even better, when I write a fantasy story, I make all the rules myself. I don’t need to fact-check. I don’t need to research or conform to the rigid scientific parameters. If I say that magic comes from frogs, and the more frogs a magician collects in his private aquarium, the more power he can command, it is true in the realm of my story. Nobody could gainsay me, even if no other fantasy writer ever collected magic from frogs. Or maybe someone did? Anyway, my story – my rules.
3. Most fiction is fantasy, if you stop and think about it. All the mythological systems and folk tales – from Greek and Indian to Russian and Japanese – are in their core fantasy stories, where gods walk the earth, and magic runs unchecked. Where talking animals help the virtuous, and demons punish the villains. Even the current trend of darkness in fantasy books has its roots in mythology and fairy tales. Have you noticed that many of those are pretty dark too, bloody and ruthless?
4. Fantasy worlds are frequently populated by non-human characters. I love reading (and occasionally writing) about elves and werewolves, intelligent badgers and amnesiac dragons, benevolent dryads and vicious toothy clouds. Their ‘otherness’ makes me feel safe, makes me feel that I belong, but too often, the difference between us and them is only skin-deep. Like us, those fantastic creatures go about their adventures while trying to fit in, to find their place in the world, just as we do in our not-so-fantastic lives. Perhaps fantasy is not as unrealistic as one might think.
5. My second favorite genre is M&F romance, but in my opinion, romance is pure fantasy as well, even though it doesn’t have magic or elves. It has something better. In the best romance stories, the male lover is an absolute invention, a figment of female dreams. A guy you encounter in a romance novel – sensitive, selfless, understanding, ready to sacrifice anything for the woman he loves, but still an alpha male – doesn’t exist in real life. Real marriage, I mean a successful marriage, where the couple truly love each other, is often 80% compromise and only 20% affection. At least that’s what I see around me. The ratio is usually reversed in romance, allowing the writer’s imagination to soar. Romance has its own set of rules and its own make-believe characters. If that is not fantasy, what is?