I’ve written often, ad nauseam some will probably say, about young adult readers, who they are, and does it matter. For a change, I thought I’d dip into another questionable category that I have trouble with—fantasy. Fiction is opposed to fact. Logically, all made-up writing is fiction, stuff that didn’t happen and, in some cases, never could happen because the situations described are so ludicrous. Yet there exists a category known as fantasy in which things that didn’t happen and possibly never could happen are segregated from other unbelievable, unrealistic fictions.
So, what’s the difference between fiction and fantasy? The notion of acceptable and unacceptable reality has never existed in children’s literature. Not even in the days when there were just children and adults, and young adults hadn’t been invented. In children’s literature it has always been accepted that wardrobes might lead into magical worlds, you could have wrinkles in time, and visitors from parallel worlds are reasonably common. They are all just STORIES.
Probably most adults believe in the supernatural, and I include God and angels in this bracket. They believe in things they haven’t seen, that defy the laws of logic and physics. People gamble on lucky numbers, wear lucky charms, recite lucky incantations. We don’t believe in coincidence. Since forever, human beings have invented and woven, mysteries, legends, impossible stories around rocks, rivers, memorable people and events. That is how stories began.
Something has changed in our perception of reality. As far as literature is concerned, reality is not real unless it is so absolutely familiar as to be on the limit of boring. Literary fiction has to be so founded in what most of us have either experienced or can imagine experiencing in the ordinary run of events, as to be almost predictable. The ‘might have been’, the ‘could be’, the ‘wouldn’t it be wonderful if’ have no place in the new definition of literature. The pure, cold beauty of the language, the way phrases are constructed, replaces the wild flights of fancy of the old storytellers. Introversion and dreary interior monologues on interminable journeys to nowhere have replaced escapes from enemies with incredible superpowers, elopements and betrayals, curses, compromises, battles, wars and adventures in the shape of birds and animals. This ‘realistic’ school of fiction is the one that is equated with ‘literary’. Everything else is ‘genre’ and considerably lower down the food chain.
If you look at the Amazon classification of such flights of magical fantasy as The Earthsea Cycle, you will find that the words ‘literary fiction’ are far more in evidence than the word ‘fantasy’. Same for The Handmaid’s Tale. ‘Dystopian’ doesn’t even figure. They are classics, therefore they cannot be lumbered with the slightly pejorative epithet of ‘fantasy’. I don’t mind admitting that The Green Woman series and The Pathfinders are fantasy since most stories are pure fantasy. It would be nice, though, to think that this admission wasn’t tantamount to agreeing that I write second-rate literature.
What do you think? It ain’t what you write it’s the way that you write it?
This post wouldn’t be complete without a plug for my books, would it?
Why not try The Dark Citadel for starters. It’s only 99c/p and it might change your life 🙂