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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I believe in Unicorns - Hagelrat

Hi, I am really hoping that my legendary lack of sense of time hasn't cropped up again and I am doing this in y'know the right month. Shaun has kindly offered me the chance to guest blog here over the next few days.
My permanent home if you don't know is Un:Bound which I am neglecting a little this week due to my involvement in the Special Olympics in my city, fortunately I have others to hold the fort for me there as I am attempting to help with here.
Anyway, my post for today:

I joined a local book club six months ago. I wanted to read outside my comfort zone and meet other people in the village who read. It's worked in that respect. We have read The Clockwork Orange, The Forgotten Garden, Cloud Atlas, The Gargoyle , Coraline & The life of Pi. Coraline was one I pushed for. The other books were all standard book club fair and there was nothing I adored so I made them read this spooky childrens book. They didn't get it. They couldn't see why button's for eyes, the characters weren't deep enough, they'd have liked to see the other father developed more. Umm the other father was a construct, he was supposed to be paper thin, that's the whole point. Buttons for eyes because it's abnormal and scary, y'know, creepy like a gingerbread cottage.
The problem was I simply couldn't understand why they didn't get it. Do they not still enjoy fairy tales? Would they want Hansel and Gretel's father to be a more complex character? Did they just accept that a wolf could get in, eat granny, don her clothes and then hold a conversation with Red? As children did these very lovely and intelligent women accept that it is possible to climb a tower using hair as a rope or to bring someone back with a kiss (well ok but even in my day fairy tales were a bit sanitised even if they weren't full on disneyed)? Presumably they did. So why don't they anymore?
My book group don't really do fantasy, they don't really get Coraline. My conclusion? They are too grown up and just can't believe in unicorns anymore. I think that's kind of sad. How must the world look if you never see dragons? So having now experienced this problem I started looking at it more widely. Obviously some people are just literary snobs and unredeemable, but what of the others, the grown ups whose inner child has given up? I really think that not being able to believe like a twelve year old hiding under the duvet with a torch, is what is keeping these people from enjoying genre fiction. I don't know how to fix them, they probably don't realise they are broken. They think comics are just for kids and LARP'ing is for the socially inept (seriously, they have no clue how hard it is to exist in their world 9-5 then fully take on a whole other set of social norms and acceptable behaviour when you escape for a few days).
So next time someone gets that expression on their face (the one that says ok you read at least 3 times more books in a month than I do, but it doesn't count because you only read SFF, y'know the one) remember, it's not their fault, there are no fairies at the bottom of their garden and we should be more tolerant and sympathetic. After all what could bring more pleasure than allowing yourself to believe in magic?

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  1. I believe in unicorns, too!
    I still love to read science-fiction and fantasy books - they're my favorite type of movie as well.
    I'm not sure at what point most people seem to lose that youthful spirit and sense of wonder. I intend to keep mine until the day I die!

    L. Diane Wolfe

  2. LDW - All the best people hang on to it.

  3. I met both loves of my life at fantasy related events (fantasy/Sci Fi convention and a LARP game) and will never stop believing in unicorns. What's the point of life without the inner child?

  4. yup. i knew you'd believe in unicorns.

  5. I believe in unicorns, fairies, and Klingons. It's all good.

    I think our myths are our most important story telling and while I can admire the talent and skill of many of our 'serious' writers, they often fail to engage me on a spiritual level or give me something surprising to think about. I can't say the same thing about fantasy and science fiction.

    Long live our myths!

  6. Great post, and so true.
    Sometimes I do feel a bit too "grown-up" and certain things I don't believe in anymore. But when it comes to books, well that is different. And what is the difference really between them and fiction. That hasn't happened either.
    Sad to loose that belief in stuff, I hope I never do cos fantasy is great. And hey, they count just as much as other books :)
    I will never understand people who look down upon it

  7. Pan Historia - well obviously Klingons too. :)
    Blo - thank you.

  8. I agree. There's a push in the move to adulthood to shed the fantasies of childhood. Imagination takes a side note for so many people, because to imagine too much is to invite ridicule, on some level. I think the boom in YA fantasy and fantasy in general in the last 10+ years is doing much to change this.

    Dana: Exactly! What is the point? Life should be enjoyed :).

    Pan Historia: Joseph Campbell and many others have a lot to say about the power of myth in human culture and even personal lives. In a way, we need myths to exist as anything other than robots. But the robotic side of us seems to be persistent in adulthood...

  9. Anonymous9:10 AM

    My imagination turned from gingerbread houses and unicorns into aliens and terminators and bizarre diseases that made people turn to zombies, and don't forget the dark vampires and wookies and... well, I guess I let my imagination get run over by the big screen and go soft from working too much in the medical field and watching too much real life trauma so I escape into darker stuff that just numbs my mind now :-(... I miss the sweeter stuff, thanks for the reminder! ~Fogwalker~

  10. Fog: Yeah, that happens a lot too, unfortunately. All you need to do is jump back on that fantasy horse and restart that imaginative side of your brain!