Fanning the Flame

"World View" by Rob Alexander

Why do I love fantasy? Probably because ever since I was able to read on my own, I have read novels for escapism. While any type of leisure reading can offer us a break from reality, I particularly enjoy fantasy’s ability to transport us to entirely different worlds altogether.

Some people dislike fantasy because they feel that they can’t relate to such “unbelievable” stories; others decry it as a genre for nerds, along with its sibling sci-fi; and still others find themselves jaded by the recent rash of commercialism the genre has experienced with the likes of such blockbuster series as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia. Each person is entitled to his own opinion, of course, but I’d like to make a defense of my favorite type of literature against all the nay-sayers.

Firstly, while most fantasy novels may not be “literary” in the sense of the type of reading required in high school, it is certainly a real form of literature in its own right. Despite the usually impossible events that occur in fantasy stories, the author must have a real grasp of reality, as well, in order to render his narrative to the reader in an immediate and believable fashion. The characters, setting, and plot must all be as fully developed as those of any literary novel, and often (in my opinion, anyway), they appear more vividly in my mind than the more symbolic characters you might find in say, Hemingway or Shakespeare. Perhaps that’s why the genre seems to lend itself so well to film adaptations.

"Abandoned Temple" by Rob Alexander

Speaking of worldbuilding, plotting, and characterisation, when you consider the casts of thousands and the sheer amount of detail realised in the worlds of such authors as J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, and George R.R. Martin, the execution of such a colossal feat of mental organisation is astonishing. There is a certain limitlessness to fantasy that lets the imagination run wild, yet at the same time, working within the constraints of an entirely imaginary world with its own laws of physics and culture is no easy task.

However, it is precisely this seeming boundlessness that I love so much, since it allows me to form entire new worlds from nothing but dreams. Writing is inherently a creative process, but when you realise an alternate universe entirely from scratch, I think you discover an even deeper connection with that creative spark that dwells within all artists.

There is value in portraying events within our own world, but what I find really beautiful about fantasy is how it allows us to see reflections of ourselves and our own experience of “reality” through the lense of a different one. Though the events be wholly imagined, they carry the same universal messages that we know and experience in our own lives, and we can still recognize and learn from these themes in the exploration of what could be and what might have been.

So, to conclude this week’s theme of dreaming and new beginnings, I’d say that all writers are dreamers. And we need writers of all kinds to continue to keep dreaming beyond what is to what ought to be, to continue to guard the soul of our civilisation and keep fanning that little flame against the darkness that overshadows our existence. In a world where there is so much despair and where things can seem rather mundane at times, who wouldn’t want to live in a world touched by a bit of magic?

Fantasy has allowed me to do just that.

7 thoughts on “Fanning the Flame”

  1. Written very nicely. I don’t watch fantasy movies very often. But occasionally I watch a few and I love them. I can remember watching How to train your dragon, Ice Age (may not be fantasy), Avatar (can be said Fantasy, of course). However, I do feel that it needs a lot more creativity to come up with your own dreamy world to write a fantasy story. Because in that case, you not only have to write the story with a nice plot but also have to build the entire world from scratch in a different way.

    I hope your novel will be a huge success in your novel writing career. 🙂 I wish to write English stories. But it’s my second language and I’m not yet good enough in English; therefore i cannot start. 😦

    1. Your English seems excellent to me. If you hadn’t said it wasn’t your first language, I wouldn’t have known.

      Don’t let that stop you from writing, though! It’s through writing that you gain experience and become better. And what’s to stop you from writing a novel in your own language? English is a wonderfully flexible, rich language that suits itself well to writing fiction, but there is plenty of English literature out there.

      Why not take what you have learned through English and apply it to a work of fiction in your native tongue?

      1. That’s totally a point I’m deeply in confusion. I mean, my native language is Bangla and I’ve written a lot of stories in Bangla language. I have written two long stories in Bangla language then published them as ebook. Responses were good. But I didn’t continue because I have no intention to develop my fiction writing skill in Bangla as it limits down my audience to a certain language.

        On the other hand, if I can write in English, I’m getting two benefits. One, I can reach international audience including those who don’t really speak English but understand it. Two, I love English and I can work on the language that I love.

        But I’m seriously confused whether I should keep writing stories in Bangla while improving my skill in English or I should just wait till my English language knowledge reaches a minimum level to start writing fiction.

        Your advice will be helpful for me in this problem/confusion. 🙂

        1. I say there is no time like the present to begin something new. I understand your hesitation to write fiction in English until you reach a “minimum” level, but honestly, even we native speakers of English have this same fear. True, we may have a better command of our vocabulary, but we are still stymied by things like plotting, characterisation, and structure. All of these things are common to writing, no matter what language you use.

          So, go ahead and write fiction in English! I can assure you that it will only help your English; when you don’t know a word, do what we do and look it up in a dictionary or thesaurus.

          Best wishes as you begin this endeavour!

          1. So I guess that’s inspiring me to write stories in English right away instead of Bangla. Thank you. 🙂 I’m off to my work (well, it’s not work actually, you know 😀 ).

            I appreciate your responses. You must be having a busy schedule everyday. Still you manage to reply. Thanks for that. 🙂

  2. Excellent defense of what I agree is a very necessary and extremely influencial genre. I’m also a big fan of Robert Jordan’s for the same reason you stated above, the escapism. It’s a way to temporarily set aside the issues of my life for a short moment, or several hours if I’m lucky. I’ve read the first three in his WoT series multiple times and it’s funny but I seem to relate more to a different character each time.

    I admire your courage and wish you the best of luck as you continue your writing career.

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