The Lures & Dangers of Escapism in Fantasy

Posted May 25, 2020 by Amber in Bookish Things / 0 Comments

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I have always loved fantasy.  A few years ago, I actually wrote an… enthusiastic post on the fantasy genre and why it appeals to me, but to briefly review, fantasy has this aspect of being “larger than life”.  While it requires a great deal of suspension of disbelief from the reader, the fantasy genre offers opportunities to exist in a place of impossible things.

For that, most than anything, I adore fantasy.  I love the feel of impossibility, of magic and dragons and being able to do something to change the world through great acts of heroism.

And yes you can argue that our world allows for great acts of heroism, but honestly, it’s not the same.  I’m not a necromancer or sorceress in real life and it is not nearly as cool.  We can do a thousand small, kind things that may change the world, but probably not, and while we should do those things… it’s just… not… fantasy.

Fantasy is great because it has some of the most intricate, impressive world building you’ll find in any genre.  Period.  The care taken to build these worlds, when managed successfully, means it is very easy to step into them, and out of your own.

Sometimes, that it necessary.

When the world is a lot, I often find myself revisiting old favorite fantasy novels for the luxury of the world building alone.  When real life is more than I want to handle, pirates and faeries and adventure is more comforting than anything else.  Fantasy can feel so far removed from our own lives, and even though the plots may be treacherous, they are also noble, and we trust the authors never to let us falter.

Of course, there is the other side of the coin.

While other genres may remind us of our daily lives and responsibilities, I have also found that it is very easy to lose ourselves in fantasy in a bad way.  Science fiction touts warnings of a world in ruin, and contemporary takes on social issues.  While some fantasies do this as well, when they do, it is often so much more subtle.  And it gives us false expectations for reality.  Whether it’s naively expecting villains to turn to good or that prince charming will come and whisk us a way, there’s a danger in loving fantastical worlds so much that they influence us.

Because in fantasy, we can hide the troubles of our world.  Hide from the troubles of our world.  And waking up can be unpleasant.

Whether it’s heartbreak, or just the damage of hiding behind a wall of ignorance for so long, eventually, we must face up to the evils of this world.  No longer can we delve into that suspension of disbelief, into a place where magic solves problems and good conquers evil.

Real life has a lot of bad in it.  All you need to do it watch the news to know it, but you can see it in people when you are out and about as well.

So while fantasy may be nice, we need to make sure we all draw the line, and are socially responsible human beings ourselves.  We have to fight for what’s right in the real world.

And maybe in that, we can take a lesson from our virtuous heroes and heroines.

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Is there a particular genre you like to escape to?  Does it present the same challenges as fantasy?  I’d love to hear about your challenges comparing reading to the real world – let me know in the comments!

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