Here's a speech Kay gave on certain aspects of fantasy: http://www.brightweavings.com/ggkswords/globe.htm
This passage seems quite pertinent to me:
First of all the genre allows the universalizing of a story. It takes incidents out of a very specific time and place and opens up possibilities for the writer - and the reader - to consider the themes, the elements of a story, as applying to a wide range of times and places. It detaches the tale from a narrow context, permits a stripping away, or at least an eroding of prejudices and assumptions. And, paradoxically, because the story is done as a fantasy it might actually be seen to apply more to a reader's own life and world, not less. It cannot be read as being only about something that happened, say, seven hundred years ago in Spain. |
One of the reasons I like fantastic fiction is because it transcends national and cultural boundaries, at its best. I recently had an otherwise excellent SF novel ruined form me by the rather aburd name given to an Indian character. A phrase placed in one character's mouuth, 'all that Hindu Siva ********', while clearly not intended to to reflect the writer's viewpoint, annoyed me as well. In a purely fantastic setting, it is possible to explore ideas without any real world baggage that could cloud perceptions.
Kay also raises several intersting question regarding the fictional treatment of historical characters and epochs - something that I understand relates directly to his own work. There are other interesting thoughts thrown out in passing. Worth a read.