Is Fantasy Necessary?

“If the issues your story deals with are non-fantasy issues, why bring the fantasy in at all?” asks Pat Bowne in an article at The Royal Academy at Osyth Blog.
The answer to that is, because fantasy sometimes really is the “spoonful of sugar” that makes a bitter medicine go down.
Don’t get me wrong – I tend to agree with the thrust of Pat’s comments (read it all in the link below) about fantasy hitting late in a story “like a mound of mint frosting plopped onto a filet mignon.”
My fantasy is recognizable from the start, so there is no bait and switch with the steak. But it does not then follow that what remains is pure frosting and sweet enough to give you diabetes.
Real issues and characters are just as valid in fantasy as in ‘reality’-based fiction. My characters, however grounded in the fantasy-based world I have created, remain real people with real problems.
Good fantasy isn’t frosting. This may have been the problem with the novels of which Pat speaks, but good fantasy is self-justifying. Books by Ursula le Guin, Judith Tarr, Guy Gavriel Kay – by writers like Neil Gaiman and China Mieville — are VERY much not frosting, but definitely steak from an exotic beast.
That’s what’s glorious about the things these people write — it’s real without being oppressive. It’s sprinkled with just enough fantasy that the reality of it all doesn’t stick in your craw, or hurt unnecessarily if it strikes a little close to the bone.
Adding a layer of the fantastical onto the harsh and “real” things that you might write about is … well, magical.
Unneeded Fantasy
A language at risk of dying out.
The language of Ayapaneco has been spoken in the land now known as Mexico for centuries. It has survived the Spanish conquest, wars, revolutions, famines and floods. But now it’s at risk of extinction, the Guardian reports.
There are just two people left who can speak it fluently – but they refuse to talk to each other.
Language is important to everyone and everything — communication, the expression, transmission and continuation of culture, etc. … and sometimes in fiction.
My signature novel, The Secrets of Jin-shei, is set in a culture in which women have their own language. And that story idea came from a real language in ancient China that recently died out when the last speaker who had learned it from her mother died.
The dying language
31 Day Blog Challenge, #6
Taste: the coffee I just finished drinking
Smell: I could say likewise but THAT feels like cheating. So I’ll pick a smell from another time: the scent of summer twilight as the day cools down. You know what that smells like, of course.
Touch: the satisfying click of a computer keyboard underneath my fingertips.
Hearing: There’s an owl outside again, somewhere in the dark. I can hear the whooo-whoooos. I love it that we have owls in our woods.
Sight: Books. Surrounded by them, I am.
Common words with surprising aviation origins
Believe it or not, the Royal Air Force was the first to coin the term ‘gremlin.’
Earlier this week was National Aviation Day, which celebrates aviation and the birthday of Orville Wright. Inspired by this The Week decided to explore some common words and idioms that have their roots in flying.
Flying words
Quotes on writing from Elmore Leonard
Mysteries never have been my thing, but Elmore Leonard was a writer who truly knew his craft. And craft is essential to every writer.
He told Writer’s Digest, for example, that: “The main thing I set out to do is tell the point of view of the antagonist as much as the good guy….”
And that is something I always strive to do while writing fantasy.
Other Elmore Leonard quotes
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