Friday, December 09, 2016

In Praise of Escapist Fantasy

I finished the Magicians trilogy, and now I see why people liked it. The second half of the first book was awfully grim, but the second two books have a real sense of wonder and fun. We got to see those cynical characters from the first book becoming good, strong (but still snarky) people, living up to their potential after everything they'd been through.

Now I'm in the mood for something else that's fun and escapist, and that's been a bit of a challenge. Of all the books I have on my shelf from convention freebies and the Nebula goody bag, most of the ones I haven't read yet sound so bleak and grim. Just reading the plot descriptions on the covers makes me want to crawl in bed and pull the blanket over my head.

And, you know, right now, the world needs some hope and escapism. It's been a rough year, and there's some scary and nasty stuff happening. We don't need to read about dystopias. What we need is hope and joy. It's hard to build a better world when you can't envision what that looks like, when all you're seeing is something dark and grim. That's why I'm glad that I do what I do. The kinds of things I write might not be taken seriously by the kind of people who use "escapist" or "fluff" as a criticism, but I think it can be just as important as all the grim, serious, message-laden stuff (not saying that there's anything wrong with the more serious stuff, just that it's not the only kind of fiction that has merit).

Why is escapism so important? Part of it might get called "self care." It's hard to take on the world all the time. Sometimes you need to take a step back and refresh, and a moment of fun and happiness may be what you need to recharge enough to go back out into the world and make a difference.

Then there's what I mentioned before about needing an image of a better world so you know how to make it happen. Sometimes we need a glimpse of a world where the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad, and the good guys prevail because they're good. We need a reminder that being good can be rewarding when we live in a world where good doesn't always win. That's why I don't really like the grimdark stuff or dystopias. I get enough about that from watching the news.

I get e-mails from people who've read my books while going through chemo, while on bedrest with a difficult pregnancy, who've read them to people recovering from strokes. They wanted something fun and light to take their minds off their current woes. I like to think that reading about good people doing good things and winning might encourage people that it's okay to be good, brave, and kind. And if enough people get that kind of encouragement, maybe they can change the world.

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