Arent’ there enough stories to be told in the real world? We have thousands of years of recorded history, a population of billions, and a world as big as … well, exactly the size of Earth. Every person has their own story, and every possible combination of people can make a new one. Why invent make-believe worlds populated with imaginary creatures and races, beset by magic, and garbled with fictitious history? It’s characters that matter, not the window dressing you put around them. There are still stories to be told, right in our own back yards, and with seven billion people on Earth, that’s a lot of back yard.
But then you have the people who say there are no new stories, that everything is just an older story, rehashed. You hear that Hollywood is out of ideas. You can go on TV Tropes and find books, movies, and television shows broken down into their component parts, each used somewhere else before. Are we just putting a fresh coat of paint on someone else’s ideas?
To some extent, all creative endeavors are built upon their predecessors. But I see fantasy (and speculative fiction in general) as the way to break free of the constraints of our world. I live on Earth. It’s nice to be able to take my mind somewhere else for a break from all the reality I’m surrounded by. All those old tropes were started somewhere, and science fiction and fantasy are full of trope originators. From mad scientist brain-swapping, to Chosen One prophecies, to doors leading to other dimensions, someone dreamed it up first. For me, fantasy is a place where there is still new ground to be broken, new paths to blaze, and new ideas to put in other people’s heads.
And why limit ourselves? Think about all the reality there is. Here, let me make a picture for you. That circle contains the universe as we know it: Earth, the cosmos, the laws of physics and the mysteries of the human mind … all inside that little red circle. Now outside of that, there’s everything else. That’s everything that isn’t, that can’t be, the plausible and the beyond all plausibility. It’s a place that only our imaginations can go. It’s a place I like to explore. It’s a place I want to guide others. “Hey everyone, look at this neat new corner of unexplored infinity I discovered!”
It’s escapist. It lets you outside that little red circle where there are bills to pay, doctors to visit, and meals to cook. All the politicians, vapid celebrities, and wars are in there, too. You can bring those outside the circle with you, but you can just as easily not bring them. Instead of seeing the same old things you know from your everyday life, you get to learn new and wonderful things. Sometimes fantasy will recast the world in a new light, adding layers of mystery and magic where our rational (i.e. boring) minds tell us there really aren’t any. Other times it will invent entirely new worlds to explore, and as a reader you are drawn along to not only explore this new world, but to find out how it ticks, what makes it special and unique.
My favorite quote from Terry Pratchett reads: “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.”
As both a reader and a writer, I know that imagination itself resides inside the red circle of reality. However, it is also the means to see beyond it. It’s where I can go to find new ideas, or a new way to look at old ones. I can bring those ideas back inside, to where books can deliver that same experience to someone else.
That’s why I write fantasy.
February 28, 2014
The world told her No. She didn’t listen.
Madlin Errol is heiress to the greatest fortune in Tellurak. Her father, the Mad Tinker, has built an empire by crafting devices that no one else in the world could match. Madlin grew up spoiled, given everything she could wish for: the finest tools, all the raw metals she could ask for, and a workshop of her very own. Yet in her sleep, she lives another life, in another world.
Korr…a world where humans are subjugated, working menial jobs or even enslaved. The ruling kuduks treat them like talking animals. In that world, Madlin is known as Rynn, a girl who grew up without her parents, mired in the depths of an underground city, sleeping in a boiler room. But unlike so many of her fellow humans, she has seen a world where there are no limits. She, and a growing number of human rebels, have begun to fight back.