Fantasy is Not My Cup of Tea
Posted by Jerry on July 23, 2007
I just don’t get fantasy genres. Their appeal eludes me. Perhaps, I’m lacking in the unbridled imagination it demands; perhaps, I just refuse to entirely suspend my grip on reality for the completely supernatural. Perhaps, I insist on using my own mind in unraveling a plot as I go along than just being goaded on as a docile but awestruck spectator in the author’s fantasy world. Perhaps, the liberal use of the deus ex machina makes me feel inefficacious and as if I have been cheated off a truly innovative turn in the plot. Perhaps, I believe that a fantasy world is the easiest to fabricate: where you have no rules other than the ones you create, where nothing reins you in but your own imagination, and where plots and characters are as easily dispensable or modifiable as they are created. I believe little children do something quite similar regularly within the confines of their playful minds and cardboard boxes.
I just don’t get fantasy genres. Although, I do enjoy some of them for the momentary pleasure of being fascinated, I am hardly irresistibly drawn to them like a moth to a lamp. They never feature among my favorite works of art–although the movie versions of fantasy novels like LOTR and Harry Potter must be credited and recognized as superior works of technical skill and innovation.
Given the extreme detachment of fantasy worlds from the reality that I am familiar with, including to some extent the abstractions and motivations of their characters and the metaphysical laws governing their entities, I am hard pressed to regard them as artistic concretizations of my widest abstractions.
Indeed, I often find it difficult to extract the author’s metaphysical value-judgments from such works because they comment on a “reality” that is totally removed from anything I have ever encountered or will experience in the future; i.e., the world they present and their underlying commentary on that world is all alien to me in the most proper sense of the word. Typically, my reaction to such works project a detached sense of amusement–of the kind that accompanies the knowledge of how silly all of it really is–like an atheist watching a movie of ghosts, demons, souls, and angels and knowing at back of his head how utterly unmoved he is by all of it.
Perhaps, the most I can garner from a work of fantasy is the hint of a sense of life–a subconscious view of existence–“an emotional appraisal of life”–the widest and the most vague equivalent of an explicit metaphysical value-judgment.
On the other hand, the sci-fi genre is slightly more appealing to me: it is usually grounded in the existing or the very plausible reality and builds its imaginative fantasies on those set of rules. Some of my favorite movies and popular novels are sci-fi, like Gattaca, X-men, the Matrix, etc.
Ultimately, however, in my opinion, nothing can ever surpass the sheer pleasure of experiencing an incredibly complex and imaginative plot structure spun from the brilliance of a mind that has grappled with the existential constraints of reality. A plot that is wholly based on reality, wrestles with the tension between hard facts and the anarchy of free minds and volitional characters, and which logically but unpredictably progresses toward an eminently satisfying climax by virtue of some ingenuously crafted resolution.
In sum, I contend that nothing rivals the genre of Romantic Realism in literature. Although, none of what I have said should indicate that I am shortchanging the authors’ of immensely popular works like LOTR and Harry Potter their obviously evident literary skill and imagination–it’s just not my cup of tea.
[Edited for clarity and added examples to illustrate]