Why I Love Fantasy – A Rambling Essay of Sorts #WyrdAndWonder

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In honor of Wyrd and Wonder I’m doing my first kind of discussion post since I rebooted the blog a year and a half ago. Huzzah!

Why I Love Fantasy – A Rambling Essay of Sorts

Fantasy has been my top genre since pretty much, well, forever. And one of the things I love most about it is just how all-encompassing a genre it can be. From serious to silly to grim violence to light-hearted fluff, Fantasy has all those bases covered and more.

I’ll never forget when I was in college (oh, a looooong time ago) my psych 101 professor said that people who read fantasy novels had mental health problems because Fantasy is nothing but escapism. That’s something that always stuck with me because, first of all, wow, what utter bull crap. I mean, yes, there are a ton of people with mental health issues, myself included, but what has that got to do with Fantasy? And what’s wrong with a little escapism now and then? Absolutely nothing. But that’s the thing that really burned me up about that comment, dismissing an entire genre as nothing more than escapism. Fantasy is probably the richest and most varied genre out there. Sure, some of it is escapism, and that’s fine, but it’s not all just escapism. People that try to pigeon hole Fantasy into just one thing, like it’s all LotR or Harry Potter, don’t have any understanding of the depth of the genre and what all it has to offer.

Fantasy has to have so many subgenres just because there is so much that fits under its umbrella. The only thing you need to be Fantasy is a touch of the fantastic–a made up world, or magic, or fantastic creatures, etc. So, if I’m in the mood for something more romantic, I may pick up a book by J. Kathleen Cheney or Stephanie Burgis. Or, I’m in the mood for something that will make me laugh out loud at the truth of the world, well, Pratchett has me covered. If I want something a little more literary I can pick up some Guy Gavriel Kay or even dip into Magical Realism (I loved Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, for example). When I’m looking for some truly epic saga I may pick up another book of Malazan Book of the Fallen by Erikson or the next in the Realm of the Elderlings by Hobb. Or on a slightly smaller scale but just as epic, the Daevabad Trilogy by S.A. Chakraborty. Oh! And if I want some mystery? Well, most of urban fantasy has me covered. Although, honestly these days, I’ve been in the mood for more hopeful tales, such as The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison and the Heartstriker books by Rachel Aaron.

Anything I’m in the mood for I can pretty much find in Fantasy because it blends so easily with other genres. When people wonder why I don’t read much outside of the genre, well, I’m not ONLY reading Fantasy, am I? I mean, I just read a cozy mystery that also happens to feature vampires (and knitting!)! And right now I’m reading a fantasy of manners book set in early 19th century England that features a young woman trying to sort through a magical library she’s recently inherited. My favorites are when it’s a blend of several genres–fantasy, mystery, and romance usually go together really well!

I also, in the last few years, have discovered that I love weird stuff. Books that have truly weird things happening with little explanation, well, those make me think because the weirdness often stands out. I love trying to figure out what does it mean, this strangeness apart from everything else. I mentioned Winter’s Tale earlier, but also books like The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. That book was weird and pretty dark and I loved every minute of reading it. Or more recently The Book of Hidden Things by Francesco Dimitri–what a strange tale. You never even really find out if there IS anything fantastical happening in that book, everything is left up to the reader. When that’s done right, well, it’s such a great experience as a reader.

The only thing all these books have in common is their own answer to the question ‘what if…’. But that’s what I love so much about Fantasy! You can ask infinite questions of ‘what if…’ and even with the same exact ‘what if’ question there can be various answers. The possibilities are endless. And that’s what will keep me coming back to Fantasy again and again–the possibilities, the creativity, the passion for exploring everything this genre has to offer.

So, other readers of Fantasy, why do you love this genre? Leave me a note in the comments, I’d love to chat!

 

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45 thoughts on “Why I Love Fantasy – A Rambling Essay of Sorts #WyrdAndWonder

  1. Tammy says:

    Lovely post! I agree, fantasy encompasses so many subgenres I feel there is something for everyone. Fantasy is also a great way to explore the themes of the human condition, which is another reason I love the genre so much😁

    • Jorie says:

      Hallo, Hallo Tammy,

      I love how stories of Fantasy can be a strong representation of our own lives yet re-transitioned into a fantastical world which has their own set of limits/perimeters and sense of logic/ethic/philosophies/belief systems which strike a hearty balance between the aspects of personal quests, adversities to overcome or the aspect of just uniting into a character’s life even if their not doing anything outwardly extraordinary but living their rather ordinary life – to seek out what motivates them and how the life they are living within their world affects or does not affect others within their select universe. I also love the layering and loved how you broached that concept of the genre.

  2. Susy's Cozy World says:

    First thing first, you wrote an amazing post and I am with you at 100%!
    And then, what your professor said was just… Can I say stupid? On so many levels! Because reading is escapism, and it’s just not reading fantasy, but reading in general (as is escapism watch TV series, movies, and in some ways listening to music, visit museum and traveling, and a ton of other activity that you just do to take a break from your life). And there is nothing wrong in escapism as long as you know what is real and what not. Even if maybe you would be a happier person if you really believe unicorn exist, but that’s just a thought. And then we can talk about fantasy. Fantasy it can be a lot of things, encompassing a lot of different genres, as you said, but, overall, it’s a way to create an alternative narrative to our reality. And what I mean with that is that a lot of fantasy books, that you can take as a route to escape reality if you feel like it, are also deep sociological essays, embedded with our political, sociological, psychological and a lot more, issues and problems. I’m thinking about Pratchett books, for example, but also about books Abercrombie and Anne Bishop. And they are just the name at the top of my mind, but they are definitely not the only one. You can have an amazing time reading fantasy, and enjoy yourself, but you can also find food for thoughts and learn ton of things.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Yes exactly! Like, okay escapism but so much more! I mean, these days I’ve seen more and more Fantasy exploring mental health issues and other societal things overtly! And there is definitely nothing wrong with escapism unless one is overusing it as a crutch as some people with issues do with other things (shopping, alcohol, gambling etc). Like, I never got his logic on that and his total derision of Fantasy just floored me so much that it’s stuck with me for over 20 years.

    • Jorie says:

      I loved this response! It speaks to the heart of what draws each of us into Fantasy especially when we’re intuitively inquistive readers who like to cross-examine the worlds we’re reading against the realities of our own living world. There are a lot of inspirations in SpecFic which can become cross-related back to our world – either through direct experience, historical data, mythologies or any other resource that has struck the inspiring heart of the writer penning their individual piece of Fantasy.

      Secondly – I have no idea what is so wrong with reading or watching tv/films – a lot of people criticise people for those routes of personal time because they think you are not gaining anything outside of the experience in that particular moment of time. Sadly what they are missing is how multi-dimensionally expansive those viewers/readers are becoming of the world itself because each of those fictional experiences leads you closer to an appreciation for the many voices & lifestyles being represented in our living societies in a way which grants further empathy, tolerance and understanding.

      • Susy's Cozy World says:

        Thank you! ❤ And I have to quote you here: "Sadly what they are missing is how multi-dimensionally expansive those viewers/readers are becoming of the world itself because each of those fictional experiences leads you closer to an appreciation for the many voices & lifestyles being represented in our living societies in a way which grants further empathy, tolerance and understanding." That's it! That's exactly it!

  3. Laura says:

    I related so much to this post! Fantasy is such a varied genre that there really is something for any mood, which is probably why it’s one of my most read genres. Yes, there’s a lot of escapism involved, but personally I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Reading is supposed to be about escapism and getting lost in stories after all, and the same could be said for most tv Shows etc.
    Amazing post! 🙂

  4. Bailey says:

    This was a really lovely post! I’ve always loved fantasy for the escapism aspect but also because it felt to me like the genre that offered the most diverse perspectives growing up. Fortunately things are different a decade later and change is starting to happen on a larger scale, but some of the first books I read that weren’t by white, male authors came from this genre and fantasy will always be near to my heart for that reason.

  5. The Repvblic of Letters says:

    Thank you! I’ve been in the mood for fantasy and will pick up the ‘goblin emperor’!

  6. Zezee says:

    That psych professor was way off because I think all stories provide some sort of escapism. I love fantasy for the opportunity for escapism but also for how imaginative it is. Most of the worlds are simply wondrous and it’s amazing that some authors are so talented to be able to dream up such detailed worlds and convince us of them too.

    And thanks for all the books you’ve mentioned in this post!

    • Jorie says:

      This is what I LOVE about SpecFic – from Sci Fi to Fantasy to Cosy Horror – it is the potential to exit our reality for however long it takes to walk into another person’s vision of their world – to see how they crafted it together and to see how their characters are living within those boundaries – you can walk a thousand years within a genre of interest and the lives you take-on as your own are as varied as the characters who entreat you into their shoes. I love how the details in the descriptive aspects of those stories can also convince you’ve truly lived that experience inasmuch as any film/tv experience can by how it emotionally and pyschologically connects within your own mind/heart/spirit.

  7. Annemieke says:

    Oh gosh that professor would piss me of. Fantasy is so much more than escapism. Of course I use it for escapism, but lets be real, you can use any book for that, not just fantasy. There is nothing wrong with that. But fantasy offers so many rich things and species. I mean, dragons, hello? Great post ❤

  8. @lynnsbooks says:

    I have no problems with escapism – it’s why I’m reading so if people don’t like it they can basically *insert your own comment here* – naff off!
    Also, like you said, fantasy can fit into every genre. You can read classics, mystery, murder, thriller, historic, romance – well, anything, and it can include fantasy which is why I love it.
    Great post.
    Lynn 😀

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Thanks Lynn! Yeah, I also like the escapist aspect but I feel like people think because something is escapist it can’t also be meaningful and that really annoys me. Lol

  9. Realms of My Mind says:

    Wow, your psych professor sounds like…quite a person. Reminds me of the recent articles claiming sci-fi has “just” started being full of social commentary. As you rightly point out, there’s so much variety in fantasy you can really do just about anything with it, whether it is being pure escapism or examining more serious matters. Look at City of Stairs, which is a murder mystery in a fantasy world that also happens to be about cultural identity and the ramifications of colonialism.

  10. PerfectlyTolerable says:

    I can’t believe that your professor said that!! That is awful 😦 I’m glad it didn’t dissuade you from loving fantasy ❤ I never really thought of it before, but you are totally right about Fantasy covering pretty much every genre! I am a total mood reader but I tend to stick with fantasy too and can read tons of completely different books that are all technically fantasy! Great post!! ❤

  11. Kathy @ Pages Below the Vaulted Sky says:

    Yikes, I’ve heard similar things about fantasy books from lit teachers and profs, but for a psych prof to say that is WILD. I mean, sure, fantasy can be escapism. But it can also mirror reality in ways that make us go, “Huh. I never thought about X topic from this perspective.” And I love that so much. And speaking of mental health, I love how fantasy makes it easier for me to read about mental health issues without it being so triggering–which is often the case with contemporary.

    Oh and I LOVE, LOVE this post. If you couldn’t guess. 😛

  12. Jorie says:

    Hallo, Hallo —

    As an aside – as I think your Professor was quite bonkers as it sounds to me like they didn’t understand what they were discussing and thereby went with an answer/definition that they were comfortable sharing as they were outside their depth if you will,…

    “Masks and Shadows” took me by surprise – I am quite particular about the Dark Fantasy I’ll entertain to read and Burgis definitely has proven to me over the years (as I’ve read two of hers) that she’s one writer whom I can handle in that regard. I’m hoping that Czerneda will prove to me I can equally trust how dark she goes in Fantasy as I already have mad respect for her in Hard Sci Fi!

    You approach reading Fantasy the same way I do – whatever appeals to you in the moment you wish to be reading it – this is why I too, seek out different sub-focues within the umbrella of what is considered Fantasy. Including of course Sci-Fantasy – it was Urban Fantasy which surprised me the most to be frank as I wasn’t sure it was going to be as good of a fit in my readerly life as it has become (just see any Ms Chris review on my blog for the Tipsy Fairy Tale series to gauge what I am referring too!) – inasmuch as I am having a hankering to explore Sci Fi Satire now. The beauty is how our reading moods both continue steadfast and might alter in route a bit the more we delve into the genres we love reading the most. (at least this has been my experience)

    In regards to “The City of Brass” — that is one novel I’ve been hoping to get inside for the past few years — maybe Wyrd And Wonder Year 3? Here’s hoping!

    “A Magical Inheritance” needs to make my TBR List — it seems like a plum pick!

    Another blogger pitched the reasonable Q of ‘why do you love Fantasy’ and I found myself equally unable sum my admiration in a quick go-to response as I am right now. I’m going to spend some time contemplating that and it will appear in my wrap-up post for #WyrdAndWonder! Still – what readily intrigues me about Fantasy is the elevation of what is potentially plausible to exist and take flight inside the world-building. It is limitless truly and it is the whole dimensional viewing of that world which is most attractive as well.

    • waytoofantasy says:

      It really is tough to sum up ‘why do you love fantasy’ in one simple statement! There are so many reasons, truly. ❤

      I've found myself completely in love with Burgis' writing. Even her short stories are quite sharp and fun (she wrote a short based on Cinderella that was both hilarious and very socially cutting).

      The City of Brass had a very slow start for me but the ending was amazing and elevated the rest of the book. The sequel was amazing and how she flipped my opinion on some of the characters kind of blew my mind–I'm very much looking forward to the last book and highly recommend checking out the series when you get a chance. 🙂

      A Magical Inheritance – If you like Austen-y Fantasy of Manners focusing on friendships between women you'll probably enjoy this one.

      Thanks so much for stopping by! I really appreciate all of your comments. 🙂

  13. Jess @ Jessticulates says:

    Love this post! Also, I can’t believe one of your professors said that – how sad that he’s clearly missing out on one of the best genres around!

    I’m so pleased to see The Goblin Emperor get a mention – it’s my favourite novel, and you’re absolutely right that it’s a really hopeful story – and, as you said, I love fantasy because there are so many subgenres within it. Much like you, if I’m in the mood to read a mystery I’m more likely to reach for urban fantasy than a crime novel. I love fantasy because it is an escape – personally I don’t want to spend my time reading things I could be doing, so why wouldn’t I choose a book that has a faerie in it rather than an accountant? (Although I’d 100% read a book about a faerie accountant.)

  14. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    Oh ow your psych professor was an ass! 1 what a douche about mental health- ironically he probably shouldn’t have been teaching psychology. 2. there’s NOTHING WRONG WITH ESCAPISM! 3. It’s so incredibly narrow minded and inaccurate to see it as “only” escapism. Like you said, there’s so many subgenres and personally I always think of it as holding a mirror upto our own world (also, *newsflash*, no book is real, technically speaking 😉 ) And I love how fantasy explores the question of “what if”. Amazing post!!

    • waytoofantasy says:

      Oh, I agree. I think he was just a sad little man, tbh. And I agree about escapism, there’s nothing wrong with it at all! Everyone needs some time to just enjoy life once in a while! Hahaha, I often think about that all the time ‘well, technically all fiction is fantasy’ lol. Thanks!

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