Col Buchanan, author of Farlander (Canada, USA, Europe), wrote an interesting article on escapism for tor.com. As you know, I disagree with M. John Harrison's opinion of this particular facet of any SFF work, so I'm with Buchanan regarding this issue. Here's an extract:
Escapism is bad for you. It’s unhealthy and immature and leads to a lack of bathing.
I’m fairly certain you’ve come across this particular sentiment before, maybe not the bathing part, but the rest of it. Hell, maybe even the bathing part too. People who hold this viewpoint tend to look poorly upon the imagined realms of fantasy and SF—and even more so in regards to their fans. Yes—because we’d rather poke a stick at the human condition from the vantage of Mars or Westeros than from the kitchen sink, because we like to cast our imaginations as far as we can, because we like to go wow along the way, we’re all somehow squandering our precious time on this Earth.
My response to this is usually to acknowledge the most obvious point first—that it’s a lot of fun losing yourself for a while in a fantasy setting. Yet escapism, for me, means a great deal more than this. In truth, we don’t always find ourselves in circumstances of our own making. And trying to escape from bad circumstances, whether inwardly or outwardly, is a perfectly human reaction.
And he concludes with a great quote from J. R. R. Tolkien:
“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisoned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape? … If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!”
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