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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Ten Reasons Why Fantasy Is Still Awesome

Hot on the heels of my "Ten Reasons Why Science Fiction Is Still Awesome" list, here is my take on the reasons why fantasy is still awesome. This list was much more difficult than the last primarily because most of the reasons I came up with were cliche. I wanted to do something more with this list than just talk about dragons and magic (granted, those things are in this list, just not as separate items). Don't be scared to leave me a comment.
And here goes:
  1. Popularity
    It seems like the fantasy genre never had to worry about dying out. It's always been popular and probably always will be because it is the ultimate escape. Science fiction, unfortunately, is limited in scope. It can only go so far before it becomes fantasy. Fantasy can go anywhere, anytime, anyplace (why it doesn't, I don't know). And with all the movies, TV shows, comics, etc. being made out of fantasy series, I don't expect this popular boom to stop.
  2. Improves Literacy
    You might disagree with me on this, but I see the fantasy genre as one that has drastically improved literacy across multiple generations and improved the desire to read among the young. Harry Potter may not be the best fantasy or literature in general, but it has fired up the imaginations of kids all around the world. Even Twilight and Paolini's Eragon have done wonders for literacy and reading. Say what you will about any of these authors. The fact remains that while kids are still picking these books up, they're still reading. Some of them may move on and try more "literary" things, or some may stick with fantasy, or science fiction, or both. It doesn't matter. What matters is that they're reading!
  3. Variety
    How many different series are there in fantasy? How many of them are still going? Every year the list gets longer and longer. The genre isn't letting up. True, I find the automatic move towards the trilogy or the never-ending series tiring, but the one thing you can't knock fantasy for is the variety. There are so many authors, so many different kinds of fantasy, so many publishers, so many lengths and characters, etc. The tropes are still there, but if you're willing to flutter along the edges you can find some fascinating, thought-provoking works.
  4. Movies
    For some reason it seems like fantasy books make far better movies that science fiction books do. Case in point:
    The Lord of the Rings movies were absolutely brilliant, as were the books. 2001: A Space Odyssey or Blade Runner? Not so much. Visually they were brilliant, but as far as being entertaining films...not by a long shot.
    Fantasy has Stardust, Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, Spiderwick, and Conan (yes, this last one was a good movie for what it was, thank you). Science fiction can't really compare as far as well-rounded films go. This is referring ONLY to books turned into movies. As far as completely original works in film form, science fiction trumps fantasy every single time (Star Wars, Star Trek, etc.).
  5. Contemporary Fantasy
    This "new" trend of fantasy stories that flirt with the edges of the genre are particularly fascinating these days. It's probably partially because they're being written by people far outside of the genre (or at least not people who are known as part of the genre), or maybe it's for entirely different reasons. Either way, contemporary fantasy, as a genre that isn't all that new and yet feels so, well, fresh, is, in my opinion, revitalizing an already healthy genre. To put it simply, it adds character.
  6. Escapism (Still)
    Fantasy is still the kind of escapism, and I mean that in a good way. While some of its subgenres have become a little tired, new forms are erupting all over the place, drawing people in and giving them the opportunity to see fantastic worlds that never existed, to meet kings and magicians, and to see amazing creatures brought to life. Fantasy is still the only genre that truly offers an escape into the impossible, and it will continue to do so in the future.
  7. Imaginativeness
    This ties into escapism, but at the same time is separate. Fantasy has an obvious history as the genre of the imagination, where things come to life that otherwise could never exist. Science fiction does a good job covering the possible, but fantasy covers all that stuff that never will be. As such, it's a genre of imaginative elements, drawn together into new and striking worlds and characters. The cliches are still around, but the longer you look into the genre, the more you come to realize how much creative diversity exists there (it's interesting, also, to consider that many of those old cliche elements are now being reworked and changed; orcs can now defy their "programming" and be good folks, if you can believe it).
  8. Comics/Graphic Novels
    While I'm sure there are some excellent science fiction comics/graphic novels, most of the ones I have enjoyed have been fantasy, in some shape or form (and almost always some sort of Japanese concoction). Even the superhero genre has a hard time breaking out of the fantasy genre, if that was ever its intention. Granted, a lot of the best comic/graphic novel-based movies were science fiction, but that doesn't seem to have phased the thriving fantasy comic/graphic novel market. I'm particularly fond of manga (such as the work of Yuu Watase, who did Alice 19th, one of my favorites).
  9. Manly Men and Strong Women
    Unlike other genres (like cyberpunk), fantasy is populated by strong female leads and manly men. When I say manly men, I mean dudes who wield swords and chop off orc limbs with ease. None of this dork with bifocals waltzing around getting laid by cybernetically augmented super witches crap. No, in fantasy, the status quo is still maintained for the sake of realism. Do any of us really believe that a super dork can land a hot girl one not and spend the next twelve hours performing the sexual equivalent of the Olympics? No, because it's not realistic. They may be good, but nobody is that good. Fantasy men have muscles or cool magic (and, in the case of the younger characters, they have heart). The women are equally as iconic, what with all the sassy urban fantasy maidens and the magic-wielding sorceresses. Of course, there are exceptions, but we don't have to count those, do we?
  10. Ageless/Timeless
    No matter how old you are, you're never too old for fantasy. The same can be said for never being too young for it. Fantasy is one of those genres that never ages. It grows, changes, etc., but it never ages into an old, decrepit thing; it never dies. It's always been there with its fantastic adventures, amazing creatures and characters, and beautiful landscapes. There have always been dark lords and quests, knights and goblins, and magic. That's the thing about this genre: while it may become a new beast as time progresses, underneath it is always trying to achieve the same thing--to take you to faraway places and/or show you amazing, unbelievable things. It's been this way since the dawn of time (or, at the very least, at the dawn of the written word). True, the genre moves away from its cliches in some areas, but that's part of what makes this genre great: it can evolve with the times.
    Here's to another millenia of great stories!
Well, there you have it. What are your reasons for why fantasy is still awesome?

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  1. Wow. Ok. Remind me to write fantasy about a weakling who stays a weakling and only manages to land a dorky girl.

    I'm hard pressed to think of any right now but I swear there must be books that defy the manly men trope!

  2. Great post. During the ten years I've been a bookseller I've watched the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre move up in popularity, but it has never dropped from the top 5 subjects in our store. Right now it's in our top 3. I usually read epic fantasy, I love the long story lines and getting to really know characters. What I really love about fantasy is the ability to go wherever and do whatever, there are no limits.

  3. Loopdilou: Haha. Well I know that there are non-manly men in good fantasy works, I'm just saying that at least fantasy knows how to make manly men. Conan. Hellz yeah.

    Nancy: What are numbers 1 and 2? Romance and Mystery/Thriller? Just curious.

  4. There other two are general fiction/ literature and business. :)

  5. Nancy: Ah, cool :).

  6. Anonymous1:48 PM

    Heck ya fantasy is awesome! My first published book was fantasy, and it is my favorite genre. It is really a great escape to read and especially write it. The unique characters and the cutltures are some of my favorite aspects of the genere; it also has quite a bit of literary versatility. A writer can put so much in a fantasy novel; drama, humor, satire, and perhaps a little science fiction. If done well fantasy can seamlessly tie all of these facets together. I love fantasy.

  7. James: All good things about the genre :P. I agree.