Recently in an interview, J. K. Rowling, a leading fantasy writer, said that she doesn’t read fantasy or sci-fi novels. Another author, Kazuo Ishiguro, wrote The Buried Giant, a novel set in a fantasy realm involving dragons and monsters. The real point of his story is to deal with topics like memory loss and old age. However, Ishiguro was afraid that readers would be scared off by the fantasy “surface elements” and think the book is a fantasy novel. Both Rowling and Ishiguro seem to have a dislike towards the fantasy genre while using it in their own books. So why are the genres of fantasy or science fiction looked down upon by some?
I think there is a misconception that fantasy books either deal with less serious topics or are hard to read. However, fantasy novels can be used as allegories to our lives and can deal with serious topics such as loss or forgiveness. Fantasy and Science Fiction books are not necessarily of lower quality of writing either. There are a lot of classics that are fantasy or science fiction, which are really hard to read. That’s why I couldn’t get all the way through the Lord of the Rings.
This issue of not respecting the fantasy genre has been with us for a while now. J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, once wrote a work entitled On Fairy Stories to defend why he wrote fantasies. In it, Tolkien said that “Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better fantasy will it make.” Fantasy is not a denial of reality or reason. Instead it can bring out real issues in a way that impacts us differently than realistic fiction would.
Fantasy can be a valuable genre to read even though it may appear unrealistic. The dragons and other mythical creatures may fool you, but inside a lot of fantasy there are hidden truths that can be just as valuable as those that are learned through nonfiction or realistic fiction. If you haven’t picked up a fantasy book in a while I would encourage you to read one. It can be really rewarding. If after this you realize that fantasy isn’t your thing, that’s okay too. The important thing is to not judge a book by its genre.