A Passion For Fantasy

The first fantasy novel I read was the first of the Harry Potter series: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I was young enough then that my mother was reading it to me, at my request – the book seemed long and daunting to the nine year-old girl that I was. About twelve chapters in, though, I started cheating- I would keep reading after my mom would put the book down and say good night. A few chapters later, I felt guilty and confessed to my mother what I had been doing. She laughed and let me read it on my own from then on. That was the first average length book that I read on my own.
Today, it seems so funny to me, having read series upon series comprising eight-hundred page books. Fantasy novels tend to be long, full of twisting, complicated plots and myriad characters. One of my series even has a section listing the “Dramatis Personae” at the beginning of it, lest the readers should forget who’s who.
Too many people criticize fantasy novels for their themes: idealized past, patriarchal societies, a suspicious appreciation of monarchic or socialist systems of government. The ironic and critical presentation of such systems which is apparent in so many of the books is usually overlooked entirely.
Moreover, there is so little appreciation for the massive amounts of research and imagination that goes into the writers’ work. Fantasy writers create whole worlds from scratch, from political entanglements to the irrigation systems, from magic spells to religions, from the layout of the land to the very flora that grows in it. When they’re not building their worlds, they’re researching ancient warfare, the hundreds of different deities that exist in current and ancient religions, the way actual monarchies functioned once upon a time and much more. And this is just for writers of this type of fantasy – there are so many different types and sub-genres that they’re hard to keep straight, and critics often don’t bother to distinguish them whatsoever.
I’ve held these opinions close to my heart for as long as I’ve been reading fantasy, and I have never had the opportunity to research these phenomena. Why is fantasy so disdained? Why isn’t it appreciated, but rather looked upon as a genre only for children and teenagers and unsophisticated readers? Why are the writers of fantasy not praised for their incredible writing style at least? Why do fantasy novels reach the best-seller lists, but then get beaten down and criticized?

I wish it weren’t the case, that so much of the fantasy genre be treated as sub-par by so many – especially when books that are fun reads but by no means well-written become best-sellers overnight.

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3 thoughts on “A Passion For Fantasy

  1. thelittleredwriter says:

    All the arguements I’ve heard about the fantasy genre are interesting and…endless. But you could argue any genre. I don’t know how anyone doesn’t like Harry Potter? I adore the books. I think they are unique and fun.

    I also love The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, which was my first fantasy read – – or that I can remember. And the book Beauty (a retelling of Beauty and the Beast), and so many more! And, obviously, The Lord of the Rings, which I took a semester class on.

  2. Fantasy is one of my favorite genres to write and read, but it takes a lot of effort to create a really good fantasy book and or series. Many fantasy books often fall short however and end up being cliche and reduntant in plot and themes. This is unfortunately a result which happens to this genre often. An individual can put a lot of work into writing something, but that alone does not determine if it is good or bad. I think, as an author and writer, that the heart of every story lies within compelling characters, and then the plot/story line. If fantasy books are so strange and foreign sounding, along with the characters, then how will average indviduals be able to connect with them? I think a really good example of this is the Harry Potter series, and the Children of Hurin by Tolkien. The characters more than the plot were the drive of these books, and I think that is what will make them classics forever.

  3. I think the Harry Potter series is what has molded people into downgrading the fantasy genre to a genre best suit for children and teenagers. My first experience with a fantasy novel was my reading of JK Tolkien’s The Hobbit; I highly doubt there’s a lack of appreciation for Tolkien’s timeless classics. The problem is that there are so many works of fantasy genre, but only a few are actually of high quality. Quantity just can’t make up for the lack of quality.

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