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The lovely deep of the fantastic

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.


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