H. A. Byrd

On Fantastic Reality 

Look into these eyes and tell me you don’t see it! Look deeply, what do you notice? Regardless which set of eyes you choose, there is something present in these youthful creatures. It exists just as much in their mamas. You can see it in the US president who taught constitutional law for thirteen years. And, if you look, you can see it in the eyes of the homeless drug addict camped in the park across the street.

What is this that you can see, which gives the gaze power, and the soul depth? Why, stories, of course! Every creature carries in its DNA the stories of those relations who came before. Many years ago, humans began to write some of these stories down. And do you know what? Fantasy was among the earliest genres to exist and to have importance.

Within any genre there is a wide variation, but fantasy is a genre capable of far more than silly fluff. Since the dawn of human language, fantasy stories have been shared and handed down orally in order to entertain and to share knowledge. Vitally important to human survival, these teachings instructed the people in their day-to-day lives through the times in which there was no distinction between ordinary and spiritual.

These stories involved magic and the impossible. That doesn't make them completely untrue and it certainly doesn’t make them valueless. Fantasy, when it sticks, becomes mythology. Myths often have shadowy origins due to the centuries of retelling, but even if the story came from the star people, one of the star people had originally told it. Over time archetypes and beliefs incorporated into these tales developed into mythologies which help define a culture. One of the important teachings these stories have always offered is the idea of multiple perspectives.

In modern times fantasy writing has value because it helps train our brain to see the world from various directions. A wonderful vehicle for escape from reality for a while, fantasy fiction even so is one of the most instructive genres regarding the ordinary reality in which we live.

Literary style fantasy, stories which are not plot-driven, but focus more on the writing itself, is usually more demanding of its readers. There is no spoon-feeding going on in this type of writing. The reader must engage, and be on the alert for subtle erudition.

A great example of this sort of writing, in my opinion, is the satire of Terry Pratchett, the author of the Discworld series. I’ve only discovered him recently, but that’s a story for another day. Here is my review of The Color of Magic, the first written in this forty-odd book series.

In order to appreciate the fantasy genre, it helps to understand that non-reality is as important and forthcoming as the reality in front of one’s nose. Good fantasy has as much to do with ordinary reality as any book does. Most fantasy authors have a great deal to say about the world in which we live.

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