Friday, June 15, 2007

When people don't know they love fantasy/sci fi

I belong to a book group. We get together once every two weeks to talk about a book, which is usually "literary" in nature - you know, Man-Booker prize winners and so on.

The success of the group can be measured by the fact that it has been going more than 40 years. [No, I haven't belonged to it that long; in fact only one of the members has been there from the very beginning. I have belonged 12 years.]

Perhaps one reason the group has been so successful is that the members - usually numbering about 10 altogether - sometimes come and go, changing the group dynamic, and that they encompass many different religious/cultural/ethnic groups from different countries. It is always a stimulating discussion group.

Alas, they rarely discuss sff (science fiction & fantasy) unless it is called something else, you know: magic realism, post-modern surrealism, realistic futurism or some other totally silly phrase that actually means, well, science fiction or fantasy. So Cloud Atlas is permissible (because it was short-listed for the Booker) but space opera is not, no matter how well written; The Lovely Bones would be fine, but a "fantasy" is not, no matter how much you might enjoy it, and so on.

Yesterday, the group discussed Heart of the Mirage, the first book of The Mirage Makers. Perhaps they were being extra polite because the author was sitting right there, grinning inanely (having one's book discussed in front of you is an exercise in extreme embarrassment), but they seemed bowled over, rather taken aback by their own enjoyment of the story, intrigued by some of its sub-text.

These are people who would like fantasy, if only they would admit it.
And why is it so hard to admit?
Because magic is somehow linked to children's literature and reading it smacks of immaturity?

One wonders just how popular fantasy could become, if only people would acknowledge that the genre offers everything that mainstream also does, depending on the book: pure entertainment, thought-provoking stories, lyrical tales, tragedy and ethical dilemmas, comic relief, adventure, fun, romance, chick-lit, crime, war, human-interest, etc etc. Serious or fluffy, it's all there, just as it is in mainstream literature.

All you have to do is find the type of book you like to read. Give it a try sometime. You might be surprised.

7 comments:

Kendall said...

So now you will sneakily say, "Oh, since you liked this book, let me recommend...[insert other fantasy novels]"??? ;-)

Glenda Larke said...

I shall tell them it's actually magical realism...*evil grin*

Anghara said...

Try them on "Tigana" or on "Song for Arbonne" or "The Lions of Al Rassan" - all Guy Gavriel Kay titles, all ostensibly fantasy, but all rattling good STORIES that would - well - you said it, blow them away if only they'd LOOK at them...

Congratulations (on the bookclub admittance of your books) and commiserations (on the orphan pariah status of fantasy in general) from a fellow ghetto dweller...


(and why won't your silly comments set-up register my website as a live link...? growl.)

hrugaar said...

Think maybe you have a point there, that speculative fiction (FSF) is somehow linked to children's tales of magic and/or light entertainment, whereas 'serious adult minds' are (apparently) supposed to be focused on literature grounded in the so-called real world.

Which is of course ludicrous, if you stop to think about it, and just smacks of insecurity. ;oP

Satima Flavell said...

I'm so glad you're doing your bit to strike a blow for the promotion of our beloved genre, Glenda. With wonderful examples such as Heart of the Mirage to start them off, maybe all your friends will be converts. I sure hope so.

I wish there was a way of getting it into the heads of the litereary snobs that all fiction is fantasy. Of course, some works are more obviously fantasy than others - Pilgrim's Progress; Gulliver's Travels; Alice in Wonderland; a good third of Shakespeare's plays, for example - but anything using imaginary characters in an imaginary place is surely fantasy. Saying some kinds of fantasy are acceptable and some aren't is pretty arbitary, and calling some of it "magical realism" (as in, forex, the works of Margaret Atwood) doesn't make it any more enjoyable or worthy of merit. Or any less fantastical:-)

But whatever we call the stuff, may it live long and prosper:-)

Anonymous said...

Hi Donna here

I think that's great, Glenda, that they read and commented on your book. Though I can understand how you must have felt, knowing they didn't like or read fantasy.

Donna said...

Hey I now have a blogspot blog too. So I have an id. No longer will you not know who I am. However, this blog is for discussing serious stuff. There are two sides to every Donna.