‘Lewis is not particularly interested in us knowing for sure that “Aslan equals Jesus.” He always plays it slant, and never once mentions Jesus by name. Lewis believed that myth prepares us for “true myth.” He loved the story of Balder, for instance, and believed that the love he had for that story, with the god’s death and resurrection, prepared him for the true and (by his estimation) historical myth of Jesus’s death and resurrection when he finally came to accept it. As he told his friend George Sayer, he wasn’t looking to convert people through Narnia so much as prepare them to meet Jesus in the real world. “I am aiming,” he said, “at a sort of pre-baptism of the child’s imagination.”’
Which is why it’s disheartening, if I’m being generous, and maddening, if I’m being honest, to see so many new stories conforming to such old conceits. To see so many contemporary fantasy authors subscribing to antiquated models, either because of nostalgia, or the ease of well-worn roads, or, more likely, because they still feel adequately represented by them.
What a waste. The most beautiful part of writing fantasy is the freedom, not from rules—because we all know that good stories need good worlds, and good worlds, whether they’re rooted in fantasy, sci-fi, or realism, require solid scaffolding—no, not from rules, but from the exact details of the present we inhabit.
We have the opportunity to subvert the established tropes, to redefine power, to conceive of social landscapes and climates perpendicular to the ones in which we live. Fantasy allows us to explore the strengths and weaknesses of our own world through the lens of another. To draw a concept from its natural framework, its classic, well-worn context, and examine the underbelly of the idea. To restructure, and re-center. Fantasy affords the luxury of close examination—of the self, and of society—laid within a framework of escapism. It can be a commentary, a conversation, and it can simply be a refuge.
Good Fantasy operates within this seeming paradox.
It allows the writer, and by extension the reader, to use fictional and fantastical analogs to examine the dilemmas of the real world.
But it also allows the reader to escape from it. To discover a space where things are stranger, different, more.
In my opinion, there is no such thing as pure Fantasy.
Fantasy, like all stories, has its roots in reality—it grows from that soil. Stories are born from “what if…”, and that is a question that will always be rooted in the known. “What if…” by its nature is a distillation of “What if things were different?” And that question depends on a foundation of what we want them to be different from. In that sense, all fantasy is in conversation with a reality we recognize. It is a contrast, a counterpoint, and in my opinion the best fantasies are those which acknowledge and engage with that reality in some way.
Perhaps that means we see the world we are leaving—we board the train to Hogwarts, we step through the wardrobe—or perhaps we simply acknowledge the foundations on which our story is born and from which we are departing.
I’m not advocating for fantasy as an overt metaphor. The questions and counterpoints need not be the driving force of the narrative—as with Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness—but that question, “what if…?”, is strongest when it challenges the world we already know, and finds a way to pivot from it. To ask more interesting questions. To tell new stories.”
A humble statement about its sublime, urbane, inventive meaning to come later. #Titualr #Tit #SomeoneStopMe
We wonder if there is a difference between placing gods in America and Americanizing them. We certainly hope so. #NoHubris
Neil Gaiman and Rick Riordan have distinctly different audiences but they do have one area where they create similar worlds: their Americanisation of ancient gods. So when I read Neil Gaiman’s American Gods for the first time, I found it hard not to compare it to Rick Riordans work.
(As a quick disclaimer, I’ll be referring only to Riordans Percy Jackson series and the Heroes of Olympus series. I’m aware that Riordan has written about the Egyptian Mythology, but I haven’t read them yet so I can’t include them in this blog post. I’m also using Gaimans ‘preferred text’ so if anything seems unfamiliar, that may be why.)
Rick Riordans ‘Percy Jackson’ series is a young adult book which focuses on adventure whereas Neil Gaimans ‘American Gods’ is more of an adult novel which reads like a road trip. Since Gaiman targets an older audience, it means that he can…
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