Fantasy can be central. (Destiny)

by General Battuta, Monday, May 05, 2014, 08:55 (3640 days ago) @ Cody Miller
edited by General Battuta, Monday, May 05, 2014, 08:58

I don't disagree with your disdain for much of fantasy, but you're throwing the baby out with the elves.

Fantasy can also challenge our ignorance of the past. Because we build our models of the future from data on the past, this is an important task.

As a trivial example - years of Ren Fair history and shallow fantasy tripe have taught us that medieval Europe was a monoculture dominated by white straight Christians. This, in turn, fosters a kind of grim naive realism - people genuinely believe that women were only prostitutes, housewives, and noble ladies; that POC lived in Africa and the East and never became part of European society; that being gay was a ruthlessly prosecuted pathology.

This, in turn, feeds back into the false belief that women never fought or held power, that gay people were closeted throughout history and only 'came out' on a global level in the last 50 years, and that great civilizations rarely interacted.

Fantasy can challenge this ignorance by writing about the world as it actually was - or by creating fantastic worlds that draw on a broader, more sharply researched vision of history. Game of Thrones is an example of something popular that's not great at this - but then you have fantasy like Hild, Earthsea, NK Jemisin's work, Ellen Kushner's Riverside, all of which force people to confront and update their models of the past. When those models update, so do their heroic fantasies about the past. When Ged, the hero of Earthsea, was off-handedly described as a black man from a civilization of black people, it meant something enormous to a lot of readers.

And they're also very compelling, well-written stories. People shouldn't shy away from them out of the erroneous thought that they're 'message fantasy'.

I should declare a bit of a conflict of interest here: I just sold a fantasy trilogy (first novel sales, woo) to Tor Books, about a revolutionary who falls in love with the woman she'll have to betray. Although they're 'fantasy' because they're set in a world that isn't Earth, they don't have any magic - unless you count economics, neuroscience, and game theory.

So I have a selfish reason to disagree with your assessment of fantasy, too.

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