So, this might shock some of you but my favorite genre is fantasy. I know some of you never saw that coming because I *seem* the type to like fantasy but I think fantasy gets a bad rep.
Interjection: before I even begin discussing fantasy I need to lay down one thing. Fantasy and Science Fiction are not the same thing. They may seem like it it to the non-nerd but they are different genres with different elements that rarely intermingle. You are not going to see a space ship in a fantasy novel. Saturday’s blog is going to be about sci-fi.
So here is the stereotype: some young man goes dashing off on a horse to save some beautiful and helpless dame. Along the way, he finds a few people to help him with his quest. Most often he also finds that he has some magical powers. In essence, this is the basic plot line of almost every fantasy story ever written. It does not mean fantasy is bad.
Anyone who has ever heard me talk about writing at any length knows I hold certain beliefs about writing. One of those beliefs is that there are a limited number of plots in this world. If anyone reads enough books across enough genres they begin to see that in actuality all of the stories they read share core elements with each other. The only difference between books is the details the author puts into the books.
Lemme break it down in a different way. In literature there is the concept of the archetype. Archetypes are sort of a common theme or element that is common in all writing, kind of like universal metaphors. They range from things like the great flood (look at how many cultures have great flood stories) to the journey of the hero. (Joseph Campbell is the king of the hero’s journey but he gets his own paragraph.) I had a professor in college, Dr. Kelley Logan, who was focused on the psychological elements of the works we studied. She also happened to be a Jungian, who named archetypes. Before her class, I had noticed them but I hadn’t fully understood what they were or their importance.
Anyway, one of the most common archetypes is the hero’s journey. Another thing my education introduced to me is Joseph Campbell. He was a mythologist (I am pretty sure I made that word up) that wrote a this fantastic book about the commonality of heroes across cultures. What he outlined is the basic format for every single fantasy novel I have ever read. This does not mean that fantasy is unoriginal but I think it means that it appeals to the same primal part of some of us that enjoy metaphor and the fantastic.One a great side note, George Lucas recorded at Skywalker Ranch many videos of Joseph Campbell talking about his life’s work because it inspired so much of Star Wars. The videos are amazing and made me rethink a lot of my assumptions about my world.
I love fantasy because it allows the same story to be told but with great creative elements. They are all the same coming of age tales that we see in books about any real world decade but they have more metaphor and creativity. I also think it takes a quite a bit of skill to make a character relate able if they can wield magic or are masters of strange arcane things like sword fighting or anything else you would see at a renaissance fair.
Okay time for another interjection. There is this common idea that all fantasy takes place in some medieval setting with horses and swords. This is just high fantasy as I understand it. Some fantasy, known as modern fantasy, take place in more modern settings. They just have to involve some element of magic or of the fantastic. Some of my favorite books and authors are modern fantasy writers. I am not going to go into a lot of specifics because I know I will want to write about them at greater length later in the month but a few stellar examples of fantasy writers are Neil Gaimon, Jim Butcher, or Christopher Moore.
I just reread over this and I think I have rambled enough for today. I promise there shall be more later.