Can fantasy ever tell the truth?

Thanks to Mark Charan Newton for linking this in his Fantasy, Truth-telling, Escapism post.

From the Guardian:

There is nothing wrong with escaping reality now and again. Like a well brewed ale, or a good malt whisky, a finely crafted escapist fantasy can be a thing of joy and beauty. But while the occasional tipple can be a good thing, most of us recognise that a bottle of Jameson's a night is unhealthy for body, mind and soul.

An unfiltered diet of escapist fantasy blockbusters can be similarly unhealthy. As master anti-fantasist M John Harrison expresses it in his essay The Profession of Science Fiction while discussing the appeal of fantasy to young children terrified by adult life, "Many fantasy and SF readers are living out a prolonged childhood in which they retain that terror and erect – in collusion with professional writers who themselves often began as teenage daydreamers – powerful defences against it."

For many literary readers it is this suspicion of escapism that deters them from fantasy. Literary fiction is rooted in the idea of engaging with reality as it is, of facing all the pains and pleasures of life and examining them in detail. Iris Murdoch described great writing as having "a conception of truth, a lack of illusion, an ability to overcome selfish obsessions" and as being the work of a "free, unfettered, uncorrupted imagination." Bad writing for Murdoch, and for the generation of literary writers surrounding her, could be defined as "the soft, messy, self-indulgent work of an enslaved fantasy".


As an escapist experience, fantasy has fallen in to disregard with writers and readers who seek to understand the often difficult and painful truths of real life. But writers such as Brockmeier, Miéville and Valente are returning to fantasy for the many ways it can unlock truth. Perhaps it is a consequence of living in an era of such radical change, but the fantastic seems once again to play a part in expressing the truth of our time.

Follow this link for the full article.

3 commentaires:

Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

Sometimes fantasy can be used to show us uncomfortable truths about ourselves, such as in Gulliver's Travels. Fantasy and science fiction have also been used to get around censorship in totalitarian countries.

axe said...

Daniel Abraham says it best (as usual) -

" It seems to me that the problem here is the false equating of fantastic elements in fiction with a different kind of fantasy. Sex and the City does not, so far as I know, involve elves and orcs, but I can't imagine a serious person denying that its appeal is escapist and the world it inhabits psychologically and emotionally unreal.

Can fantasy (meaning a story set in a wholly imagined world) make you cry? Of course it can. Why wouldn't it? "

naugem said...

I came across this essay today from Stephen Donaldson from 1986. I found it interesting and it's somewhat related to this post.