oEPISTLES FROM A GOBLIN PRINCESSo
Cynicism, Realism, Sensationalism — and Where DID I Misplace that Sense of Wonder? 2
Posted 8th September 2011 at 10:33 PM by Teresa Edgerton
Now I don’t believe that any one work of fiction, all by itself, ever did or ever would drastically alter the way that readers think. What I do believe is that a book can reinforce and encourage ideas that we already have or already feel inclined to adopt. When somebody reads a book, they are most likely to take away something very similar to what they brought with them.
But do we read fantasy to confirm what we think we already know? Or is the best fantasy transformative, showing us more than one way of seeing the world, and in that way broadening our perspectives? Should fantasy not only show us the human experience, in all its variety, but also what could be, what might be?
No book, no series, no writer, will radically change the way we see our world, but many books by many writers, all saying essentially the same thing, may in time shape our thinking, either by appealing to what is strong and whole in us, or to what is weak and broken. I believe that we can already see this at work, as more and more people equate "reality" solely with what is ugly, hopeless, and cruel.
I am reminded of something else Tolkien said, which was that he found it very strange that anyone regarded factories as more “real” than horses. Yet even today, the creature is not quite mythical — and I have known many people of undeniable veracity who attest to the existence of horses. Could somebody please explain to me how things that do exist, that are done, that have been experienced, could possibly be less real than others? We don’t read about rape, floggings, and torture because they are realistic. (I mean, seriously, do we pick up a fantasy novel the size of a brick, in order to better acquaint ourselves with reality?) We read about these things because they are thrilling, because we may be briefly shocked or saddened, but it’s all at a safe remove and our comfort, or discomfort, with the real world remains unimpaired. Let us at least be honest about that. If we want reality, there are newspapers and works of nonfiction readily available We can read the biographies of people who have lived through horrific experiences, books that describe those experiences honestly and accurately in minute detail. But an honest and accurate account rarely produces the same thrill ... and can be decidedly uncomfortable.
Yes, human history is a long record of war and hardship — but how could we have survived so long as a species if that were all there ever was, if there were no people helping each other, standing by their principles, or making such sacrifices that they left behind something of worth that endured? How could we have survived without poets, novelists, painters, and musicians capable of seeing and communicating their own poignant and heart-lifting perceptions of beauty? Wouldn’t any genuinely realistic depiction of the human experience tell of these things, too?
And what about that sense of wonder we used to hear so much about? In reading the latest fantasy novel have you seen the world painted in fresher colors? When was the last time you picked up a book and walked right into a “luminous setting?” Because I tell you quite frankly that such experiences are becoming less and less frequent for me. Have we replaced our taste for the fabulous, the extraordinary, with one for mere sensationalism, which more often than not leaves us afterward with a sense that the world is an even duller place than it was before? Are we seeding our imaginary gardens solely with weeds,and already forgetting the taste of strawberries, the brilliance of sunflowers, the fragrance of orange blossom?
If writers like Tolkien and LeGuin could tell stories of pain and loss, and still write passages that make our hearts soar, then why can’t we? Are our minds so closed, our hearts squeezed down so small, that we are no longer capable of receiving fresh impressions, or imagining wider perspectives?
Above all, are we forgetting how to grow into true adults, at the same time we are losing our childhood curiosity and capacity for wonder? Are we stuck in a perpetual sullen adolescence, meeting all the ills of the world with, “It’s not fair.” “It’s too hard.” “It’s not my fault.” I sincerely hope not.
As always, I welcome your thoughts.
Total Comments 11
Posted 8th September 2011 at 11:46 PM by Hex
Posted 9th September 2011 at 12:12 AM by HareBrain
Posted 9th September 2011 at 04:57 AM by J-WO
Posted 9th September 2011 at 06:07 AM by Teresa Edgerton
Posted 9th September 2011 at 07:20 AM by pyan
Posted 9th September 2011 at 07:39 AM by j. d. worthington
Posted 9th September 2011 at 08:20 AM by Teresa Edgerton
Posted 9th September 2011 at 08:28 AM by Hex
Updated 9th September 2011 at 08:53 AM by Hex (misplaced apostrophe)
Posted 9th September 2011 at 10:34 AM by J-WO
Posted 9th September 2011 at 11:24 AM by HareBrain
Updated 9th September 2011 at 11:36 AM by HareBrain
Posted 9th September 2011 at 11:40 AM by Teresa Edgerton