Thoyd Loki

Yet Another Fantasy Genre Topic

6 posts in this topic

I pulled 2 quotes from Bill Bucko's review of The Golden Compass (found in the review section), a popular fantasy series that is about to be released as a movie. I find some problems with this view of the genre, that I have found elsewhere, but I think he makes more explicit than other past threads have.

I’m critical of the author’s approach. How do you expect to wean children away from one fantasy (religion), while promoting another form of the same? Isn't the whole point of atheism that the supernatural doesn't exist?

Is this not a conflation of two different things? Can a children's book (I have not read this series yet, but then HP was supposed to be for children too, so I reserve judgement on whether this series is exclusively for children as well) written in the twenty-first century be equated with religion? After all, this isn't the same as promoting Islam instead of Judaism. Is this a criticism of the genre itself, or is there a religious element to the story that is merely another form of religion? Is it the fact that it deviates from realism? That it has elements of the fantastic that have no equivalent here in the world we experience? You can say that religion is a fantasy, but that does not mean that fantasy is religion. I have to ask these questions because of the following paragraph.

And I remain skeptical in general, about the value of fantasy. Fantasies, at their best, can present a good sense of life (such as “Mary Poppins”); they can also provide emotional fuel by presenting examples of courage and other virtues. But in my opinion, the closer a fantasy is to reality, the better. I, for one, will never be a fan of the Harry Potter novels, since the author unreasonably expects me to care about far too many arbitrary minutiae that have no counterpart in reality (such as her complicated rules that govern who inherits a dead wizard’s magic wand). I’m afraid the massive deluge of fantasy series on the market today (and the corresponding dearth of Romantic Realism) reflects too many people’s desire to escape from reality ... as well as the poisonous effect of the impossible-to-practice morality of altruism.

Well, the closer a fantasy is to reality (that being realism and not journalistic naturalism) the less it is fantasy. Whatever happened to abstraction? Why can't something told through fantastic means translatable to one's own life? To not do so is escapism. To realms where there is no relation to one's own existence.

The first part of your paragraph answers the second. It is not the fact that fantasy's popularity is the result of too many people's desire to escape reality, but that most serious fiction today is beyond reality - beyond the relatable. Or, so relatable as to be sitting across the dinner table from you, or at the drugstore counter or whatnot. It is a result of the zero of modern literature that so many people turn to this genre. It is not a sign of the bad, but of the good. People still want to be amazed, to see larger than life characters, to be caught up in a vivid world where there is black and white. I've heard plenty enough reviews of "cutting-edge" books on NPR on the way to work to know that most mainstream and literature do not deliver this.

I think the exact opposite of what you think about this. I think the popularity of fantasy series is encouraging. The fantasy genre actually has heroes (however they are ethically defined through the author's morality - they at least have one). Name one from modern literature. [Leaving aside Edward Cline, please.]

I think this would be equivalent to denouncing rock music, but forgetting that the publics' alternative was Schoenberg.

I also think that even if regular fiction had something to offer, the fantasy genre would have something to offer. But, that is beyond the scope here at least for now.

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Fantasy is not necessarily escapist, except in the sense that all fiction is escapist, in that it invites you into a an imaginative world other than the one you spend the rest of your time in. A non-fantasy piece, a hard-boiled crime drama, paints a world in which very few of us live, in which the entire focus, as in the Sherlock Holmes dramas or the Kathy Reichs novels, is on murder and death; about horrible criminals who are brought to justice through painstaking examination of the facts. But it is not reality. I doubt that anyone here would support nor advocate Naturalism, but that is the genre that trumpets the absolute fidelity to "stuff that could happen," and proceeds to document it in mind-numbing detail. Well, it might be reality for some people, but the kind of ineffectual people presented in naturalistic novels are not the "reality" a purposeful individual would hope to spend time with.

What are the hallmarks of great Romantic literature? The achievement of the protagonist's highest values against great odds, usually against great adversity. If the crux of the dramatic conflict can be boiled down to essentials, to the most powerful protagonists and antagonists, that just makes it a more focused drama. If an evil antagonist that must be stopped is presented as, say, a Mafia Don, as in Mario Puzo's "Godfather" series, he will lay out dramatic examples of the depths of destruction and depravity to which this man will go to achieve his ends; assassinatios, terrorizing, torturing, and killing shopowners who refuse to pay protection mony, tucking a racehorse's head into bed with its owner, things like that. In "Star Wars," We see Darth Vader, we hear his mechanical breathing, we see him destroy an entire world full of people just to test a new weapon. This is fantasy, not science fiction -- there is no attempt at explanation of light sabers, death stars, or the special powers of "The Force." We are given an essentialized scene showing the absolute evil of which this monster is capable. Sauron in LOTR is portrayed in equally absolute terms. In fantasy, there is no explanation of how effects are achieved, only that the world portrayed is internally consistent, so that you can learn and follow the events and suspend disbelief. In Harry Potter, magic is commonplace, but certain things can be done with magic, others can't. The purpose of magic is partly an entertaining gimmic, but, more fundamentally, it is a way to heighten the drama by essentializing good and evil by giving the characters a tool that is far more powerful than one might see in reality. Voledmort flicks his wand and says "Crucio," with a smile on his face, and the victim is subjected excruciating, agonizing pain. He flicks it again and intones "Avada Kedavra" and the victim drops dead. Since intent is required for the curse, we see not only the heinous act but the nature of the evil of the perpetrator.

The fantasy genre, done poorly, is just a gimmick to dress up a mediocre and, often hackneyed, story. Done well, it raises the stakes of the battle and can create the kind of Romanticism that is rare in much realistic fiction. Of course both are potential vehicles for great art, but fantasy cannot be dismissed as inferior to realism, it depends on how it's used, on the story being told.

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This is going to sound totally escapist of me....but I like some fantasy novels specifically because they are not reality. The world as it currently stands is so miserable and collectivist that sometimes I just get tired and want to imagine myself away from it all, and fantasy novels are great for that. That being said, I have a hard time finding really good fantasy novels. Other than my obvious loves, such as The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, I have a hard time finding good fantasy novels that can actually keep my interest. And I totally agree that fantasy novels, even though they are not reality-based, can be excellent metaphors for various things that can be applied to reality.

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I Love fantasy genre, whether in movies, books or computer games.

I do not think it is escapist intrinsically. It depends on motivation.

It is only "escapist" if you spend hours upon hours absorbed into it. To the point where you don't get anything done or achieve any goals outside of the book, movie or game.

I love fantasy genre because of the sheer creativity that went in to it!

It's fun!

And no not because Reality is boring. I adore Reality and my Life as well, but it's interesting, it's different when I read a story or watch a movie about magic like Harry Potter. Or read a book where there are dragons and such.

The only thing that will even spark a remote interest in me though to want to read a fantasy book, is that it has all the elements that a GOOD story has: heroic, interesting characters, a well structured plot-line, a dramatic conflict, a heroic conclusion.

There is nothing wrong with fantasy. It is definitely an optional.

The only thing wrong with anything recreational is when it fills the void of the Life you're supposed to have.

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Ayn Rand included fantasy in Romanticism. She wrote

[... A scene from From Seven Gothic Tales by Isak Dinesen ...]

This is one of the most beautiful descriptions I have read in the Romantic style. ( Primarily a writer of fantastic stories, Isak Dinesen is hard to classify; but she is certainly nearer to being a Romanticist than a Naturalist.)

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To see Ayn Rand's views on fantasy, in great detail, see The Art of Fiction, Chapter 11 - Special Forms of Literature, pages 169-172.

She names examples of fantasies she likes and fantasies she has written herself.

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