What Is Fantasy, Part 2


I was at the Printers’ Row Lit Fest last Saturday! My first time there as an author. If you are not in Chicago this time of year, this is a very big event. At times it was overwhelming and chaotic, but on the whole, it was just great. Surreal, to be able to do something like that. Finally.

And I got stumped by the question above once again. In a different way this time. No vampires or werewolves or outright magic? My protagonist isn’t a princess?! After my time selling ended, I packed up, loaded the car, and then returned as a visitor. I am in the market for more organizations, more networks and contacts. I walked up to another tent and the author there asked me about my writing. I gave him my plot for RMOS, and again, got ‘How is that fantasy?’.

Fantasy is all in the details.

So I thought I’d start another conversation up, and posted the question in a more relevant group, and the response was not like the first time. What is fantasy? Two people got my point and gave spectacular and short answers, but others got pretty upset. I was overthinking it, it was unfair of me to ask such a thing, a more personal attack, and on. It was a huge shock and dissappointment, that such a simple post got turned around that way.

I was going to try to answer ‘What is Steampunk?’, but now maybe not!

Anyway, I was pretty upset by the tone of the responses. It reached the point of ‘Disengage! Now!’.

It’s not an easy answer. There is no way to explain it. That is what fantasy is. The unexplainable that relies on your unquestioning belief. Fiction, and especially science fiction, require proof and evidence and reasons. ‘Everything happens for a reason’. Except in fantasy, reason doesn’t exist that way. I see fantasy or steampunk and I immediately understand it. It’s a mindset: not needing a concise explanation in order to accept an unrealistic concept. Fantasy is fiction that defies yet doesn’t need logic or explanation to be believable. Magic exists because it does. Creatures and other worlds are as true as other countries and animals. It is the point and the beauty and the lure of it. Just go with the flow.

And it is broad. There are no rules, and maybe labels of ‘type’ are diluting the concept. Trends change like the weather. It’s still fantasy.

I was scrambling to find new marketing material for this event. I didn’t like those signs I’d had printed before, and I was limited to table top displays only. I was flipping through the book in my head trying to find something ‘marketable’, and then actually opened the book. There it was, the first line: For a moment, I believe.

That (you fill this one in).

We have our moments, our things, our routines or rituals that grant us that one thing. For this moment, let me believe that______. It’s super rare, but I like when I am up before the Boogers on a weekend morning, or especially when we’re camping, and can sit down and drink some hot Earl Grey. The tea, and the quiet, and the morning. In this moment, I believe that the day is going to be good. I take a bath at the end of a rough day and, for this moment, I believe that it wasn’t really as bad as it felt. Tomorrow will be better.

We read fantasy to believe in something else, just for a moment.

Have fun, enjoy, believe, escape.


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