Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why Fantasy?

For a long time now I've been wondering if there isn't something a little wrong with me.  Why am I writing medieval fantasy?  And why would it be relevant to modern readers, if at all?

Is there something inherently "off" about a grown-up, middle-class, professional woman living in one of the most technologically advanced parts of the world and of human history, who spends her free time writing stories about maidens in distress, magical gryphons, and heros with swords and magical abilities?

(You know, just in case on or the other fails.  No sword? Use magic. No magic?  Use sword.)

It amazes me how popular the "The Lord of the Rings" books and movies still are, sixty years after their publication.  And Harry Potter.  And all the vampire, werewolf, etc. movies.  Why did the "Percy Jackson and the Olympians" series take off the way it did?  And oh, my goodness, did we really need another Robin Hood movie last year?  Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed it but I kept asking myself "Why?"

Why is a modern, socially and intellectually enlightened audience so fascinated with tales we associate with the Dark Ages- a time steeped in poverty, violence, disease and ignorance?  Particularly the paranormal or magical aspect.  Shouldn't we be past this?  Haven't we grown up yet?  What does this say about us?

Is there something unacknowledged in modern life which we are trying to find or to escape from?  Or is it just a general love of adventure stories, well-told or well-acted, that keeps drawing us in?


  1. Why do I write Regency romances? Why do I read them? Purely escapism. I think that's the key. That's what has to keep us striving for the goal. To be published. So someone else can escape to the world we "live" in.

  2. why are there so many medieval and/or Renaissance faires all over the country? for some reason, we're fascinated with that period of history, yet who of us would really want to live there with all the disease, short life expectancy, etc? i don't know.

    as far as your medieval fantasy story speaking to readers... first, as Anne said, readers like to get lost in a world for a while and medieval fantasy is perfect for that, and second, no matter what era or place your characters live in, people are still people and we want to see the hero/heroine overcome great odds and come out shining in the end.

  3. Hi,

    I don't think we ever truly escape the child within no matter how old we become. After all, has it not always been throughout time the elders who spun stories based on truth and thereby created myths and legends!?

    If you have time, pop over to my blog and see if some of the pics featured inspire your creative mind, for I live in the land of dragons, Merlin & Athurial legends!

    I write historicals, and have thought of writing a fantasy epic: you'll see why from the pics.


  4. Christine, So glad you found me so I could find this blog. I love it. I read your last post about that nagging feeling and can relate-- try having that nagging feeling for decades of your life before you at long last settle down and take care of business. I write literary women's fiction, not fantasy but people need all kinds of genres. Books serve so many purposes, they need to be of all kinds. Good luck with yours!


  5. To escape to something we don't know. That's why I get extremely frustrated if the fantasy books I'm reading don't follow their own rules, or if a historical fiction book has something slightly wrong. It throws me out back into my own world.

  6. Anne: I have wondered at times if anyone would ever want to "escape" to our time. I find it rather hard to believe, since we don't have much romance. Our clothing is ugly and utilitarian, at least compared to Regency standards. We have very few manners, and live as slaves to technology, no matter how much we might choose to believe the opposite. We are shockingly disconnected from nature. But I suppose the future could be worse, in which case this *might* seem like a golden era.

    Michelle: I think it's the clothes!!! I know when I went to my first Renaissance Faire this summer I wished I could have been dressed up.

    Regarding the living conditions, I will never forget, when I was in high school and doing some research on medieval life, one description of how the fleas would fly out of a scoundrels pants when he was beaten. That always stuck with me! of course later I learned what was *really* in those moats.

    Francine: I will definitely check out your photos. I'm always looking for inspiration!

    Karen: :o)

    Amie: I absolutely agree, which is why I have struggled so hard to make my imaginary world consistent. The hardest thing for me is the dialogue. At the moment I find I'm eliminating contractions from the language, but I'm not sure if it sounds too stilted.

  7. Why grow up? Life just becomes murkier and you see far more of the misery of the world rather than the magic. Give me the magic anytime.


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