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Thread: Fantasy: Just that or Legitamate Literature?

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    Seeker of Knowledge Shannanigan's Avatar
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    Question Fantasy: Just that or Legitamate Literature?

    I went to a Sigma Tau Delta (International English Honor Society) convention last month and heard a few papers read about how many people do not consider fantasy to be legitamate literature. The students pointed out how fantasy is often grouped together with science fiction and very seldom considered as its own genre. Many people apparently regard fantasy as useless escapist writing and a waste of time to read because the fantasy world lacks a structured set of rules...

    I disagree, and I know that there are fantasy readers in here who probably disagree as well...but I'm just curious to know if there are any opposers to fantasy, or even people who dislike it, who can explain to me exactly why. I have plenty of examples of how writing fantasy is in some cases harder than writing in many other genres because the authors actually have to set limits on themselves and their characters and the world that their characters are in on order to have a plot...but I just want to know why there are so many who dislike reading fantasy and what there is to dislike about it.

    Any takers?

  2. #2
    still waiting to be found amanda_isabel's Avatar
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    well, shannanigan, i'm not one of those who dislike fantasy but i have to agree with your last statement about it being more difficult to write fantasy. maybe others dont like it because it is too far from reality, in a way maybe being pathetic. that's my take on it...
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    Kat in a Hat kathycf's Avatar
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    Fantasy
    useless escapist writing
    This does seem a commonly held view, yes. Why? because it contains themes relating to magic? So what? So does some of Shakespeare's work. He is just one example I can think of off the top of my head.

    For that matter one can say "pish" to tales of magic such as Mythology and Folklore, gee those have "fantasy" elements. Yes, they are also tales of "primitive" folks making sense of their world, but they also have a very real value as entertainment. What is so wrong with entertainment?

    At a very basic level isn't all literature escapist? We read to enrich ourselves but sometimes it is just nice to curl up with a good book and enjoy the story.

    Story telling in one form or another has been around as long as we humans have been able to verbalize more than words like "ugh" and "grunt". To point to one genre and dismiss it as useless is ...well, dismissive. I am sorry that I was not able to offer an opposing view, but as a fan of the Fantasy genre (and yes, it does get lumped in with SciFi) I felt that I had to respond.
    Last edited by kathycf; 05-06-2006 at 03:08 PM.
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    Just another nerd RobinHood3000's Avatar
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    kwizera mir's Avatar
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    people don't like fantasy becasue it doesn't make you "think". it's like eating popcorn, a lot of the time - no real inherent value, just stimulating empty emotions through fantastical imaginings. but personally, i read books becasue i like the feelings they stimulate, and that they give me something to do, and a lot of the time they're like watching TV for me - i don't want to HAVE to think, i just want to lose myself in another world for a while. but some people think that anything that doesn't involve their brain is bad - like giving up chocolate at Lent, it gives you a feeling of righteousness. though that's probably a bad example. things are a lot easier when you're a nihilist; life is hedonism.
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    Worthless Hack Zippy's Avatar
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    I'm a fan of science fiction, but have to say that I dislike many fantasy books.

    I think it's a lot to do with relating to the characters. I think that many people read fiction to be shown something familiar in a new light - to have a feeling or experience described in an interesting and different way. With a lot of fantasy books (particularly sword and sorcery type fantasy) the characters and experiences are far removed from anything in the real world and as a consequence much harder to relate to. I realise the same could be said about science fiction, but sci-fi seems to operate a lot of the time as a metaphor for the real world and for me the best sci-fi has always been about human characters coping with a usually hostile future or alternative world (Man in the High Castle, Forever War, I Am Legend etc.).

    I'm aware that there are always exceptions, and no doubt there will be plenty of posts about 'great' fantasy books to follow, but for me fantasy just doesn't do it, even (deep breath at possible sacrilege) Tolkien. Sorry folks, but I think he was over-rated.
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  7. #7
    Fantasy, to have the opportunity to live and breathe, to walk and talk as it were in a sub world, a world perhaps almost the same yet somehow different or fantastically different is a very important tool in finding out who one truly is, in working out very hard to work out things because the fantasy distances you from real life enough to see things thru new eyes.
    for instance racism, black or white against one another, tiresome, entrenched ungiving views on both sides. Make them a different species with all the same problems and you can begin to work things out and perhaps come away a different creature after you leave the book than when you began.
    For instance Frodo, I am a Frodo and knowing I am different, that while I do have many friends I dont actually seem to belong to either group and cannot content myself to just live in the shire while the ring is out there hurting others. I have nearly given up in despair many times. But when I read the Unfinished Tales, my favorite most meaningful book and the trilogy it had the same strengthening effect upon me as say Crime and Punishment and it enabled me to let go of some pain and gather strength, knowing that 'happiness' isn't always the most important thing in the world for me. But purpose and the fulfilling it , no matter the cost is.
    I think fantasy is very hard to write and I think it extremely valuable literature.

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    Two Gun Kid Idril's Avatar
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    I don't think it's necessarily true that fantasy doesn't make you think, I think there are fantasy novels out there that tackle some very deep, troubling issues, they just go about it in a different way. As with all fiction, there are those light, airy fantasy novels that are purely for entertainment sake and then there are those that are a little more thought provoking. It's sometimes hard to let your imagination go and take a world with dwarves and dragons and so on seriously, there are some people who simply can't do it but for those of us who can, it opens up a whole new world that is limitless.
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    The Eternal Fool Union Jack's Avatar
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    I agree with Idril, as with any genre of literature, there are well-written, thought provoking reads, and others written purely for entertainment (not that there is anything wrong with books written for entertaining ends.)

    I do not necassarily believe that only fantasy novels allow one to "escape reality" if only for a short while, all kinds of literature do this. In fact, I believe that it is the mark of a well-written piece, when I am completely drawn into the story.

    But, short answer, yes, fantasy can have real literary merit, like any other genre.
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    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    All fiction is fantasy. What's the issue?

  11. #11
    I read mountains of fantasy as a kid. I loved Lord of The Rings and Thomas Covenant (or whatever he was called) and many others, along with Sci Fi. After my mid teens it got really tiresome. I think it's meant for kids really innit?

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    The Eternal Fool Union Jack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bandini
    I read mountains of fantasy as a kid. I loved Lord of The Rings and Thomas Covenant (or whatever he was called) and many others, along with Sci Fi. After my mid teens it got really tiresome. I think it's meant for kids really innit?
    Just because something is meant for kids, does not mean to say that it holds no value or enjoyment for adults.
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  13. #13
    True. But it is generally not as well written as other literature IMHO.

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    Two Gun Kid Idril's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bandini
    True. But it is generally not as well written as other literature IMHO.
    There is a lot of crap fantasy out there and maybe the fantasy genre has more mediocre writers than straight fiction, but I don't think you can make the blanket statement that fantasy isn't as well written as 'regular' fiction. I do truly believe there are some brilliant fantasy writers out there, you maybe just have to search a little harder to find them. But then again, that just my humble opinion.
    the luminous grass of the prairie hides
    feet lovely and still as sleeping doves,
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    Seeker of Knowledge Shannanigan's Avatar
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    I agree that there are some wonderful fantasy writers out there...you just gotta find who works for you. I love fantasy, but like some will say (and some will argue vehemently against me) I can't stick with Tolkien or Robert Jordan for long...I get tired after a few chapters. I value their efforts, skill, and style...but it's not me. I'm more of a Chronicles of Narnia or Christoper Paolini kind of girl, and while I do think the Chronicles are only still on my list because I was so enthralled with them as a kid, Paolini has done a great job of keeping my attention without childish writing.

    PeterL has a point...as long as its fiction...you are making it up, which makes all fiction fantasy to an extent...so what do we label this particular genre? Stories of centuries past usually accentuated with a hint of magic?

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