Thursday, 20 December 2012

That Much Maligned Dirty Rascal The Fantasy Novel

“Are you sure/That we are awake? It seems to me/That yet we sleep, we dream” 

Modern day fiction still sells in bucket loads. The most popular and therefore the one that sells the most is the crime thriller. It is a fashion thing of course and will undoubtedly change but, as the success of James Patterson via regular publishing and that of John Locke via Kindle proves, the public like their detectives.
The world’s first and oldest genre, the one that birthed great literature, has fallen foul of the buying public but also the self-claimed intelligentsia. Oh how Homer must be turning in his grave.  As any of those great camp fire story tellers would tell, those who preceded the Greeks, those tales they told, with their Gods, their monster and their heroes were the founders of literature. Their incomparable inventions ignited imaginations giving birth to what has been, after Tolkien’s ‘Lord of The Rings,’ referred to as fantasy.
The term fantasy is now much derided. Authors tend to steer clear of such a tag. Why they do is beyond me. The modern perception of fantasy includes having dungeons, dragons and chaps in funny hats wearing frocks. That is how Tolkien presents it and Terry Pratchett, that genius of comic writing, lovingly lampoons it. Fantasy though is far more than monsters and magicians. Daniel Wallace’s ‘Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician’ uses a plot that employs fantasy. It may be dressed-up by others as being something else but it is nonetheless fantasy. The outstanding Margaret Atwood is another author whose boundless invention sometimes uses the fantastical to reveal the dark hearts of mankind. There is also the matter of the world’s best- selling book, The Bible, which surely is the epitome of fantasy poetry?
Throughout the history of the written and oral word fantasy has been at the forefront: Beowulf being a prime example of Anglo-Saxon fiction, The Iliad and The Odyssey, being Greek and older, another. But it doesn’t end there. Fantasy, to continue to use the distorted modern term, includes Lovecraft and King’s works of horror; it embraces Wells and Asimov’s science fictions, Stan Lee and Alan Moore’s supermen but should include those two note worthies I mentioned above (Wallace and Atwood) and also Neil Gaiman, Yann Martell, Haruki Murakami, Susannah Clarke, J.G. Ballard, Jeanette Winterson, Angela Carter,  Charles Dickens, Will Self and yes, even William Shakespeare.

Magical realism, horror, science fiction - all are fantasy by another name.
Within the real world is where we live. We are real. We eat, breathe, drink and sleep. When we sleep we dream, some of us even dream when awake. Within our dreams exists another world as real as the one of the waking world: The immateria  It is the dream world, the world of the imagined. It is here that fantasy, if that is what it is, springs from.
magic realism "is like a polite way of saying you write fantasy
Fantasy for me equates to having an unfettered imagination, of being able to conceive the inconceivable then portray them in story form. Too often writers confine themselves to their perception of what is real without seeing that ‘real’ doesn’t exist and therefore is a fantasy in itself.
Without the world of dreams, the wheel wouldn’t exist; sailing boats wouldn’t have navigated the globe; cars wouldn’t run down highways and man wouldn’t have walked on the moon.
The real and the imagined are one and the same within the creative minds of human kind. And when conceived In book form they sparkle with wit, wisdom and unparalleled intelligence. For me that is the only excuse I need to read them.

I think it time we stopped giving fantasy such a bad name.

all words and art are copyright © of Russell 'C.J' Duffy.To view my books on Amazon/Kindle go here: -- For another side of CJ go here: sOMeThiNg For tHE wEeKeND, SiR?


Perfect Virgo said...

Detective fiction seems to have had well over a century in-fashion: Conan-Doyle, Christie, Chandler and an unbroken chain through to the modern procedurals, forensics etc? (Personally I wouldn't mind if the likes of the Kathy Reichs heroine get elbowed out.)

Russell Duffy said...

Hi Paul, You may be right. I like the best of crime fiction, including those authors you mention, but it has become rather the genre of choice. I like Fred Vargas' work and she employs a central character. What I have grown tired of is reading so many authors deriding fantasy. So many people see it as being the creation of Tolkien and there is far more to it than that.

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