Wednesday, March 09, 2011

At the Intersection of Fantasy and Reality

Many of us, myself included, read and write stories for their escapist quality. When work is tedious and stressful, the kids are creating chaos and refusing to go to sleep at a reasonable hour, and the household chores never-ending, who wouldn't want to trade that all in for a couple of hours of excitement, romance, and fun? Unfortunately, the book eventually has to come to an end, and we're returned to our ordinary lives, which may seem even more mundane in comparison. Can fantasy (or fiction in general) help us make our personal lives more meaningful, or as Emily says in Our Town, "Do any human beings realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" I certainly don't; I'm neither a saint nor a poet. But as a scientist and fantasy/science fiction writer, experiencing a sense of wonder and sharing it with others is important to me. It's hard to make this happen when your To Do List is a mile long, but it's still important to stop from time to time and appreciate life.

Sometimes one can also find inspiration in fiction to become more heroic in one's daily life. For example, consider Katherine Blake's The Interior Life. The story starts with Susan, a stay-at-home housewife who has just sent her children off to school and has to clean the house. As she does dishes, she imagines a princess and her servant in a fantastic land and pictures the servant cleaning up the keep, just as Susan is doing in real life. As the princess embarks on a quest, Susan makes changes to improve her own life. It's been several years since I've read the story, even though I still have the book. But I remember enjoying how the parallel stories intertwined, and I enjoyed watching Susan change as much as I did the princess quest plot.

I'd love to discuss this topic further, but the title of this post gave me a story idea, and I should work on it before it slips away.


Sarah McCabe said...

I think I'm going to have to look for The Interior Life. Sounds perfect for housewives like me. :)

I personally think that Fantasy is meant to uplift and inspire. Modern fantasy is the descendant of the ancient mythologies and the stories of heroic ages by way of the fairy tale with its "happily ever after". I think modern fantasy is meant to serve the same purpose as those types of stories and I very much dislike the type of modern fantasy which seems to seek only to tear down rather than build up. My own efforts are trying to return to the traditions of myth and hero tales. I wish I could find more like it out there!

For some reason people have come to think that indulging in "escapist" literature makes you the type of person who is always daydreaming and can't get a grip on reality. I rather think that such stories help you to appreciate the real world more, not less, as they have throughout history. Ancient peoples didn't stop working their farms or their jobs just because at night they sat around and told stories of the gods. I would say it was that very habit that made them more human and less like the depressingly "realistic" people who condemn fantasy today.

Liz said...

Sounds like an interesting book. I'll have to add it to my reading list.

Michael Offutt said...

Interesting blog post. Good luck with your writing as I see your muse is calling to you.

Donna Hole said...

Awesome when you can inspire yourself :)

I'll have to put The Interior Life on my TBR list. I never clean house without entering a fantasy realm . .


Sandra Ulbrich Almazan said...

I'm glad people are interested in The Interior Life.

Site Meter