When Susan asked me to write about why I read fantasy I thought, “Sure. That’ll be fun.”
It is not fun. How do you explain something almost everyone loves? (Do you like Disney and Pixar movies? Fantasy. Every super-hero movie is fantasy. How to Train Your Dragon, Charlotte’s Web, and Toy Story are fantasy. Anything with reindeer, elves, and Santa Claus is fantasy.)
Do you read stories with talking bunnies to your (grand) children? All fantasy. Need I mention Harry Potter and Game of Thrones? The point is that no matter what they say, most of society loves, and to one degree or another, embraces fantasy
Old black and white TV hits like Wagon Train, Roy Rogers, and The Lone Ranger got me interested in Westerns, the first book genre I remember reading.
I read The Right Stuff about Alan Shepard, and of course biographies of Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig (the last biographies I have read). Then I got deep into Ellery Queen’s and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazines. I bought compilations of short stories with my limited funds. (Looking back, I think they triggered my fondness for short fiction.) While I liked most of the books I was required to read in high school, none of them made me a fan of any one author or type of story
In 1967 I joined the Navy. (Swamps, mosquitoes, and bullets led me to conclude the extra two years, that turned out to be four, was a small price to pay.) It was then my reading changed again. My subscription magazines took weeks to find me if they did at all. I was back into novels. If you read as slowly as I do, a book can last a long time. As an aside, slow readers get to enjoy that ‘great story’ much longer than the average person.
I was all for reading whatever I heard was good. I’d give it a try. It wasn’t until much later I realized that I never read anything that would be considered literature. None of those story lines peaked my interest. And never, never, never non-fiction. I hated history. No, I loathed history. “The True Story Of…” stayed on the shelf.
But Why Fantasy?
Okay, I’m almost at 400 words and I haven’t gotten into why I like fantasy.
Fantasy creates other worlds more, and I think better, than any other genre. It is known as the” genre of tomes.” If you write a book of over 100,000 words, you must have a multifaceted environment. Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series follows six main protagonists through 15 volumes and 4,410,036 words. The Game of Thrones books are big books. World building that frees the author from reality brings me into that other world.
Studies have shown that readers of fantasy are more empathetic. You are forced to put yourself in the roll of others that, I guarantee, are not like you or anyone you know.
Fantasy gives your mind a place to rest from what is happening on around you. More than once I’ve escaped into fantasy when stressed. If I am not in this world, this world can be forgotten – at least for a little while. And that detachment helps you sleep. If you are not consciously working on a problem, you can truly relax. Let your brain work on things while you’re sleeping.
Fantasy explores changing worlds, and by example teaches you how to do that in real life. You see characters dealing with a shifting reality, and fantasy subconsciously exposes you to tools that may help in your changing reality.
Fantasy stories are stories of inclusion. Oh yes, the troll and ogre are vilified in “this” story, but in “that” story they are the heroes, saving the villagers from the evil bunny rabbits. The walking trees may come to your rescue.
The vast majority of what I write has a twist at the end. Sometimes it’s humorous (The sailor who finally found his porpoise in life) and sometimes just a surprise. I attribute some of my love for that kind of story to fantasy. (In one of my writing groups, I take a writing prompt as a challenge. How can I change the prompt into something unexpected?)
If you want to install a love of reading in your children, I strongly suggest you start with stories of fantasy.
One thing unique to fantasy is its diverse menu of sub-genre stories. There may be a few subs in other genre, but thoughtsonfantasy.com suggests there are 17. https://thoughtsonfantasy.com/
- High Fantasy / Epic Fantasy – The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit
- Low Fantasy – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Twilight
- Portal Fantasy – The Chronicles of Narnia, Peter Pan
- Urban Fantasy / Contemporary Fantasy – Storm Front, War for the Oaks
- Paranormal / Paranormal Romance – Twilight, Halfway to the Grave
- Fantasy Romance / High Fantasy Romance – Daughter of the Blood, Daughter of the Forest
- Young Adult Fantasy (YA Fantasy) – Vampire Academy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone
- Children’s Fantasy – The Never-ending Story, Alice in Wonderland, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
- Fairy Tale Retellings – Ever After [Film], Maleficent [Film], Frozen [Film], Tangled [Film]
- Sword and Sorcery / Heroic Fantasy – Conan the Barbarian, Elric of Melniboné, Swords and Deviltry
- Medieval Fantasy / Arthurian Fantasy – The Mists of Avalon, The Once and Future King, A Game of Thrones
- Historical Fantasy – Outlander, The Mists of Avalon, The Golem and the Djinni
- Comic Fantasy – Magic Kingdom For Sale/Sold, A Spell for Chameleon
- Science Fantasy – Dragonflight, Cinder
- Grimdark Fantasy – Prince of Thorns, The Black Company
- Gothic Fantasy / Dark Fantasy – Perdido Street Station, Something Wicked This Way Comes
- The New Weird – Perdido Street Station, Annihilation
There are a few subgenre I don’t read but look at the diversity of stories available. Any time I wish to escape into another world, I have a place to go.
Bottom line: reading any kind of fiction makes you happier (or you wouldn’t have picked it up). Fantasy takes me to worlds I could never imagine, and I often like them better than the one we live in. They don’t mention the waste disposal problem, et cetera, and I don’t think about it.
Remember, you need to believe in unicorns to see a unicorn.
Here is an excerpt from On the Road to Catmanduel, by S.Arthur Yates. Thank you for sharing, my friend.
Setting the Scene
The protagonist enters a diner where he encounters a drop-dead gorgeous woman. They meet and leave the diner together. Romance is in the air, so he drives to a secluded place.
“Hey, what are you doing? ”she demanded. “You’ll regret trying anything with me. Bigger men than you have tried – much to their chagrin.”
Again, my hackles sprang to attention. That had never happened before when I changed. She was making a statement, without any hint of fear. Something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t stop. Much to my shame, I never can. The only way I can live with it is to embrace it.
Quickly, while I could still be understood, I turned to her. “You really seem like a great girl, and I am sorry about this. But my advice to you is – run!”
The change was underway, and she just sat there, laughing. No one sits there laughing when I change. As my face agonizingly morphed into full canine – snout extending, teeth protruding, saliva dripping – she casually opened her door and stepped out. No panic, no fear.
I stumbled out of the car as my new body ripped through my clothes. My back arched, legs pulled in and down, dark brown fur where once there was pink skin.
With the change complete, I bound onto the hood of my car, ready to hit the ground running. I was shocked to see her still standing there, a Cheshire grin lighting her face.
“Oh, this is too good to be true,” she said.
Seeing her standing there, head tilted to the side watching my transformation, made me pause in my pursuit.
“What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?” she teased.
With that, she changed. While my metamorphosis is hard and violent, she just settled into her new shape. It was like I was forced into this abomination and she was returning to her natural form. Where there was once a beautiful woman, now crouched the most graceful creature I had ever seen. As she took a step to the side, it was as if she was gliding, every muscle in symphony. The light from the metal halide streetlamps glistened off her fur, darker than night. If it weren’t for her eyes – her fantastic, beautiful eyes, that seemed to radiate as if lit from within – she would be almost invisible.
What were the odds? In the whole world, there may be a few hundred werewolves. And here I was, confronted by a were-cat.
Steve graciously offered a link to the entire story. Thank you!