Archive for February 1st, 2011
It should come as no surprise to those read this blog that WC reads a lot of fantasy. And WC gets mail criticizing him for it: “Escapist stuff,” said one. “Celebrates witchcraft” said another. Or, harshest of all, “That stuff’s weird.” With the assistance of the great fantasist Sir Terry Pratchett, WC will examine each of the accusations.
I’m quite happy with the word. There is nothing wrong with escapism. The key points of consideration, though, are what you are escaping from, and where you are escaping to.
Terry Pratchett, “Let There Be Dragons”
As a teenager, WC escaped first to what was then called Outer Space. WC read a lot of science fiction, which is just scientifically rationalized – sometimes not very well rationalized – fantasy. But it led WC to classical literature, to electronics, to anthropology, and even to critical thinking. Time travel led WC to Mark Twain via “Connecticut Yankee.” It also led WC to science, which turned out to be a way of thinking and not John Glenn whirling around the planet in a tin can.
We live in a science fiction world. Two miles down, we’d cook or be crushed; two miles up, we can barely breathe. The planet get clobbered by giant comets at irregular intervals. Finding this out when you are 13 years old definitely puts acne in perspective.
Escapist literature let WC escape to the real world.
“That stuff’s weird”?
Adult science fiction fans may look a bit scary when they come into bookshops; some have been known to wear plastic ears. But people like that are an unrepresentative minority and are certainly no weirder than, say, people who play golf.
- Pratchett again
If you mean it defies your expectations, well, for WC, challenging expectations and beliefs is where he lives. It’s part of the charm. Homer wrote fantasy. WC supposes some classical critic took Homer to task for it.
WC will rely on another great writer to answer this one:
The objection to fairy stories is that they tell children there are dragons. But children have always known there are dragons. Fairy stories tell children that dragons can be killed.
G. K. Chesterton, “On Fairy Tales”
The great lesson of “Lord of the Rings” is that the greatest evil can be overcome. That sacrifice and loyalty can save the world. You got a problem with that?