To Those Who Dismiss Fantasy as “Escapist”

Cover of "Nourishment"; Cover art "Birds Killer Creature" copyright © 2016 Schastlivaya Alexandra
Cover of “Nourishment”; Cover art “Birds Killer Creature” copyright © 2016 Schastlivaya Alexandra

To Those Who Dismiss Fantasy as “Escapist,”

Fantasy is not escapist, except in the very narrow sense that all fiction is escapist. Fantasy is the least escapist of the genres, because in no genre is it more clear that the world is not our own. Readers of fantasy know that they don’t live on Middle Earth. They don’t confuse the world of fiction with their own.

The real escapist literature convinces readers of its truth. This title belongs to the morning news, the panel commentary, the stock market projections. Consumers of this sort of media are convinced they’ve gained a better understanding of the world because they’ve been steeped in facts—albeit a narrow subset carefully curated to confirm their worldview. The economy, the stock market, the talking heads, the GDP, the “fair and balanced” and “most trusted”—this is the real escapism, and its danger is that many people have escaped into the fantasy.

Fantasy does not posture as real. It presents itself as it is. And the readers of fantasy are not escaping, are not convincing themselves of an untruth, but are walking in a world of imagination that coheres because of deeper truths that readers are invited to vicariously witness and consider. And it is these deeper truths, the ground of all effective fantasy, that is completely absent in the pernicious escapist literature of commercial news media. It is the truth of human emotion, experience, and what it means to be.

These anti-fantasy types consider themselves “serious people”. What need do they have for reading about ghosts and goblins? After all, they just made a killing on the stock market, got that promotion they were gunning for, and bought that cottage and second Lexus. Good for them, if acquisition of material goods is the height of their aspirations, but they should know that there is infinitely more interest, inspiration, and value in any child’s drawing stuck on the refrigerator.

Castrating childhood creativity is not growing up—it is giving up. Growing up does not mean perversely sacrificing imagination on the altar of maturity; it means making imagination consistent with adulthood. Giving up imagination is not mature—it’s the opposite: stunted. All the “serious people” who throw accusations of “escapism” need to grow up and read some fantasy.

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