The lovely deep of the fantastic

Jemison cover

Cover of a recent favorite fantasy book, N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

When people ask me why I write science fiction and fantasy–or more often, why I don’t write, say, mysteries or mainstream–there is likely a question

lurking underneath: Why would I want to write sf/f?

I’m going to trot out this answer from now on: Mainstream is too restrictive for me.

Or, if I want to sound like a pompous twit (thanks for the great phrase, Don McQuinn) I could say that my mind just slips into metaphor. Because the fantastic is a meta-representation of the story. We’re playing two games at once (because no one can write just about the strange): one level is the mundane and the other is the twist. And both world views have subtext, so then we’ve got quite a juggling act going on.

It’s just too much fun and occasionally lovely deep.

But for an even better answer, Read Dave Wolverton’s terrific article in Tangent , celebrating fantasists and arguing that  mainstream fiction is snobbishly restrictive in permissible subject matter.

He shows that there are unspoken restrictions in literary fiction: 1) tales must lack form; 2) only certain types of characters must be portrayed; 3) certain conflicts and settings are forbidden; 4) political correctness is mandatory; 5) tale must lean toward existentialism rather than a more affirmative world view; 6) it must be hard to understand;  7) heightened language in the service of these vapid qualities is a must.

Favorite quote: “Unable to explore setting, conflict, characters or themes in their fiction, the mainstreamers wrote more and more eloquently about nothing at all.”

Don’t get me wrong. I still read and love literary fiction. The best of mainstream authors do a superb job in their sometimes narrow field of vision. They can drop the snobbishness anytime now, though.

This post is an update of 2007 rant I went on about mainstream vs. science fiction and fantasy. The Tangent article is still accessible. Please read it.

One Response

  1. Hello Kay, I myself read almost nothing but good science fiction/fantasy since I believe not only is it fun and is very stimulating to the imagination but also it can address our personal and political, and philosophic ideas in a way that normal fiction can’t. I have read some great fiction in the past though but most of it doesn’t really capture my imagination. My favorite for that is John Steinbeck, as he has never fit the typical role that conventional literary fiction has taken, and his novels go beyond just raw emotion.

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