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Author Topic: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?  (Read 2263 times)

Offline NedMarcus

Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« on: June 11, 2018, 01:37:44 PM »
Do you think that fans of fantasy are less sceptical towards the existence of spirit, psychic phenomena, ghosts, astrology, tarot, life after death etc, than readers of other genres? After all, we like reading about magic.

I know that in the fantasy and sci-fi writers group I run, the science fiction writers are more sceptical than the fantasy writers, but that’s just one group.

I’m certainly less sceptical than most—in fact, I believe in all sorts of stuff that some would find strange. What about you?

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2018, 03:23:20 PM »
Although this only relates (so far as I know) to Americans, studies indicate that more people believe that belief in God is important than actually believe in God. I think this "belief in belief" is an important element of the lack of skepticism you're asking about. While I don't seriously entertain a lot of the notions you mentioned, I am quite willing to believe that others do, and I am even more open to the idea that their belief in some things makes them important, even powerful, either indirectly or perhaps through some spooky stuff we don't know about yet.

The placebo effect is an interesting example with both evolutionary and practical utility - we are literally bred through selection to be accepting of totally untrue notions, and survive because of it.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2018, 03:25:10 PM by The Gem Cutter »
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Offline ScarletBea

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Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2018, 03:28:06 PM »
I read loads of fantasy but I'm not a believer in the paranormal, spirits, ghosts, etc....
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Offline JMack

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Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2018, 04:23:32 PM »
I’ve been thinking about this off and on for a while. Fantasy loves gods, but anything that smacks of God is probably not loved by most. RenFairs love their mead, armor, jousts, and turkey legs, but ignore the near-universal religious and superstitious beliefs of the time.

What interests me is trying to understand the sources and ongoing bases of ethics and norms. If there are gods in a fantasy world, are they trapped in a set of ethics, as the Greek gods were; or do they define a set of rules and laws, as Yahweh. Mostly fantasy looks to gods as a source of cool and fun magic/issues, but avoids anything else.

To the OP, are fantasy readers less skeptical? I expect so. I picture many (and by far, not all) as wanting diversions from the “real” world and finding them both in fantasy and crystals, astrology, Wicca, whatever. (Yes, my inclusion of Wicca there betrays a certain prejudice and assumption on my part. Oh well.)
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2018, 04:29:20 PM »
For my part, I am embracing a (probably distorted and inaccurate) Hindu perspective, as it offers the only comprehensible reason for the universe I can accept, as awkward as "entertainment" seems to fit that purpose.
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Offline tebakutis

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Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2018, 06:37:44 PM »
Wow, this is probably going to be the most introspective post from me in awhile. Bear with me. Before I answer the question, I feel I need to expand on my baseline for doing so.

Personally, while I was raised Methodist, I've become agnostic in the last twenty years, believing in an afterlife of sorts but acknowledging I (and no one, for that matter) can know the specifics of either the "creator" or his/her preferences. Many organized religions believe THEY know exactly what we must do to be "saved", which to me is the height of arrogance and pisses me off to no end.

IMO, there's no possible way we, with our limited lifespans, senses, and intellect, could have any idea what will please something powerful enough to create a universe, let alone any reason we should be having wars over it. So as the first part of this answer, yes, I'm a fantasy fan who believes in an afterlife, but with caveats.

The first caveat is that I accept that my belief in an afterlife, correct or not, is a coping mechanism. It's beneficial to believe in life after death because it makes my own mortality less frightening (I won't actually cease to exist) and makes it easier to deal with the grief of losing loved ones (since I can tell myself I'll see them again). So while I believe in an afterlife, I acknowledge how useful deluding myself is to my mental health, which actually explains why religious belief is so common and supports the idea that it's a coping mechanism, not a universal truth.

The second caveat is that I subscribe to the clockmaker theory (clock is made, hands off) and not the directly observing/intervening theater (e.g. you can send prayers and have those prayers answered, altering your existence). This is because I can't accept that any creator would allow the horrific things humans do to each other (and the tremendous amount of suffering involved) to occur if they could stop it. If that creator could intervene and chooses not to, they are a colossal jerkbag and again, something I would never accept.

With these caveats in mind, my current favorite theory is that our current existence is simply a vastly complex MMORPG created by our higher selves to entertain us. "Life" as we know it is simply one of countless massively multiplayer experiences where we roll characters and see how far we can get before permadeath, at which point we relax a bit before rolling another character, here or in another world. Our current existence is probably only one of countless "life" style games, and next time we "play" we may choose another world entirely, where we're a sentient unicorn or a sentient toaster. Whatever interests us at the time.

Between lives, we (as our higher selves) hang out in paradise comparing high scores and accomplishments after each life completes. Everyone signs a EULA when they roll a new character acknowledging their experience could be wonderful or horrific, and that GMs (gamemasters) will not intervene. Without the chance of failure, there would be no challenge.

So with all that said, are fantasy fans less skeptical? I can only speak for myself, but I'm a fantasy fan who believes in an afterlife (even though I recognize I may be deluding myself) but believes our current life is a framework we opt-into despite its horrors, because without the chance to experience horror and failure, there would be no satisfaction in experiencing success and joy. Paradise without want, while lovely, would also get really boring really quick.

Offline NedMarcus

Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2018, 12:22:59 AM »
The placebo effect is an interesting example with both evolutionary and practical utility - we are literally bred through selection to be accepting of totally untrue notions, and survive because of it.

The placebo effect is fascinating, and is so often dismissed as 'only' the placebo effect in scientific papers I've read, when sometimes it's of more interest than anything else. Establishing what exactly is untrue in this field is probably not going to happen though.


Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #7 on: June 12, 2018, 12:57:50 AM »
The best explanation I've read about the placebo effect is that it is a uniquely useful trait for social animals to turn on healing and auto-immune functions that are biologically/calorically expensive. This explanation explains both sides, the turning on of these functions in the receiver, the tendency for humans to make shit up and toss it out, and the tendency of humans to help support the spewers of nonsense - because in this narrow way, they're useful (overlooking human sacrifice and other recurring hiccups).
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Offline J.R. Darewood

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Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #8 on: June 12, 2018, 01:09:01 AM »
Do you think that fans of fantasy are less sceptical towards the existence of spirit, psychic phenomena, ghosts, astrology, tarot, life after death etc, than readers of other genres? After all, we like reading about magic.

I know that in the fantasy and sci-fi writers group I run, the science fiction writers are more sceptical than the fantasy writers, but that’s just one group.

I’m certainly less sceptical than most—in fact, I believe in all sorts of stuff that some would find strange. What about you?

I think the outlier here might be the sci-fi types moreso than the fantasy writers.  I'd guess that scifi writers at least in the Isaac Asimov vein are more likely to be hard science atheists. Where as fantasy writers, like most of us, have some nagging voice in the back of our heads that secretly believes in magic.

When I was growing up I knew some wiccans at school.  One was schitzophrenic and hallucinated demons everywhere, another liked to wear all black and make runes with wood and her own blood in the light of every full moon. Neither read any fantasy.  I think I read fantasy b/c back in those days fantasy was a white nerd thing to do (things have changed obviously), but at the time I was very much a white nerd.  I stayed at home and read LoTR while other kids played basketball in the summer, and after soccer practice I would go to my friends basement and play D&D or Shadowrun or whatever our current nerd gaming passtime was.  But it definitely didn't prime me to believe magic or gods were real.

Magic, I think, came from Catholicism.  (Is there a correlation between Catholicism and fantasy? that might be our mechanism). I grew up in a church founded by Capuchin monks (think radical Franciscans a la the nuns that throw pigs blood during protests against the School of the Americas... there are rebel-churches scattered throughout the US, my uncle's was exiled to a Unitarian church b/c they used feminist language and invited non-Catholics to take Eucharist). Anyway, Catholicism is very much rooted in ancient traditions, with all sorts of pagan magic. Protection amulets are now scapulars (i often wear a scapular of the Divino Niño for example), the old deities saints. There's a patron saint of sore throats with a whole ceremony to prevent them from happening for example. 

Once you get into Latin America, where I've lived much of my life, the old traditions are very much alive, altars with the same fruits and plants that were offerings to the local god, painted statues of miraculous virgins in boxes with stories of terrible things that happened when someone stole them, charm bags of various colors meant to bring health or wealth or luck sold alongside candles and crosses outside churches, ancient processions through the mountains where people hurl unlit candles at a miraculous statue once a year in exchange for a wish.  The indigenous of the amazon have their magics as well, found in ayahuasca, floripoño and guanto.  Some of it will make you trip for 3 days, shamans have been know to threaten the lives of loved ones with dark magic.  But also the forest breathes-- there are certain places where it rains to greet you.  Every morning you wake up at 5am to drink a special guyausa tea boiled over a cookfire with your extended family (it makes you vomit, which is supposed to be good for you). As you dip your bowl into the cauldron, you share  your dreams from the night before, since the warn you of dangers to come.  I dreamed of having dinner with a family of skeletons, and they said someone both old and young was going to die soon.  That day and old man died, as did an infant.

In Africa and Indonesia, where I've also lived, Islam has a much more antagonistic relationship with the animist religions that preceded it. In Indonesia, car wrecks are common and it's believed that ghosts of people who died haunt the cars they died in, so magic mechanics are very common, relying on islamic exorcism to free the cars. They also do it for people, pinching you really painfully to free you of the evil spirit that has latched itself to you. TV shows sometimes have the Muslim version of the exorcist, complete with spinning heads and everything.  But still old traditions live on, including spirit possession.  Dukuns are consulted to hex enemies or offer protection.  Unlike Conservative American Christians who treat the bible as a legal document b/c their education system has been cut and they lack the reading comprehension skills to notice the bible was supposedly written by people other than god (the chapter titles weren't enough of a clue?), Islam's conceit is that the book is word-for-word god's to do manual. Since religion is very much a legal system, the Adat or customary law of religious peoples holds an important place... this sometimes ties into magical beliefs as well.

In poor parts of the cities and rural areas people still worship the old gods in West Africa as well.  I saw a seance in Niamey once. It was surreal that people could play their instruments at that pace *all day* while in trance.  It was incredible.  As the mediums whipped, beat and burned themselves with open flame, the ultimately became possessed, convulsing uncontrollably with thick white froth coming from their mouth and nose.  When one got possessed they would sit on another, causing them to convulse and froth as well.  I've never seen anything like it.  Then they would be perfectly calm, dried snot crusted on their lips, and speak the words of colonial French generals or anyone else who had died in the area.  Given my prowess in palm reading, a local soma (witchdoctor of sorts) offered to initiate me into somahood.  He would have had to kill a goat and I felt sort of bad about blood sacrifice so I declined the offer.

Here in Los Angeles, i live close to a Sanctuario de la Santa Muerte. 



The Sanctuary has services every so often.  The Santa Muerte (Holy Death) is believed to be tied to a very old Mexican diety, but she is consulted by an increasing number of Latin American Catholics.  She is sort of the patron saint of those who aren't good enough to be among the "good people" of the world.  Corrupt police, drug dealers, gang members, the LGBT community, people who are in a life that demands doing what the church considers "wrong" who don't feel virtuous enough to be heard by Virgin Mary may come to the Santa Muerte for protection. Offerings might be a small one-dollar bottle of tequila or some cigarettes.  Those in the know say she really likes water.  Some of the "good" Latino Catholics I know regard her with a bit of fear, as if asking her for her help is some sort of black magic that will stain you forever.



In 2011 lit a 7-day candle to the Santissima Muerte around my birthday, which falls close to Halloween and Dia de los Muertos.  I was staying in an enormous artist's loft-- with a theatre and gallery and walls that didn't quite reach the ceiling, it was dark and dusty and rustic-- but everyone else was gone on trips of some sort. I was up all night writing an article for publication, and I heard a hissing noise coming from the kitchen.  When I arrived a pot of water was boiling on the range.  The range was turned off.  I set the pot on the other (cool) burner and walked around searching for the person who must have turned on the range.  No one was there.  A few minutes later, the pot boiled again.  The previous burner was now cool, but the burner under the pot felt piping hot.  Confused, I poured myself tea leaving much of the water in the pot, and it stopped. 

The next night, again around 3am, I was doing dishes in the kitchen and behind me and I heard the pot boiling once again.  I took the pot, set it on the other burner and returned to my dishes.  A few minutes later, the previous burner hand cooled but the pot was now boiling on the second burner.  I poured myself tea and it stopped.  I told my friends and they said I was crazy. My friend Isaac insisted I must have been drinking and just forgot I turned it on.

The third night I went out to some warehouse parties with friends for my birthday. Around 2:30 me and a friend dropped by my house to get a bottle of liquor for an afterparty.  I don't know how I knew it was going to happen right then, but I did. I said "Isaac, wait I want to show you something.  Look at this pot." We looked at it for a moment, and he looked at me confused.  "What?" The pot started hissing.  Isaac checked the burner.  It was turned off.  He started freaking out and jumping around. "Now watch this." I took the pot off the burner and set it on the other one.  I had Isaac feel the old burner.  It was cool.  And the pot started boiling on the new burner. "No way!" Isaac kept gripping his hair.  I poured myself tea and it stopped.

After my birthday, it never did it again.

I also saw a super heavy table move on it's own in a haunted ranch in Montana once.

So I guess, believing in stuff... idk what to believe.  If god is real, I can't help but think he'd be pretty upset that people have the audacity to speak for him, so organized religion, being inherently political, almost seems to stand in the way of god as opposed to being some sort of ticket to heaven. That said, I'm glad the Nazi Pope is gone.  Do I believe in the afterlife? Tarot cards? Heaven and Hell? I really don't know. Fantasy has always been an escape from reality, not something that would make me believe in magic.  But I can say that I've seen some seriously weird shit, and that makes me seriously wonder.

This year I lit a candle to the Santa Muerte for Dia de los Muertos and placed a bowl of water and an ivy that I got at Food For Less.  I'd killed 7 English ivy plants and I really wanted this one to live.  That thing is frigging enormous now, tendrils spanning 6 feet.  None of the ivy I bought before or after lived. Was it the Santa Muerte?  I really couldn't say.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2018, 01:16:25 AM by Bradley Darewood »

Offline tebakutis

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Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #9 on: June 12, 2018, 01:48:25 AM »
I was up all night writing an article for publication, and I heard a hissing noise coming from the kitchen.  When I arrived a pot of water was boiling on the range.  The range was turned off.  I set the pot on the other (cool) burner and walked around searching for the person who must have turned on the range.  No one was there.  A few minutes later, the pot boiled again.  The previous burner was now cool, but the burner under the pot felt piping hot.  Confused, I poured myself tea leaving much of the water in the pot, and it stopped. 

The next night, again around 3am, I was doing dishes in the kitchen and behind me and I heard the pot boiling once again.  I took the pot, set it on the other burner and returned to my dishes.  A few minutes later, the previous burner hand cooled but the pot was now boiling on the second burner.  I poured myself tea and it stopped.  I told my friends and they said I was crazy. My friend Isaac insisted I must have been drinking and just forgot I turned it on.

The third night I went out to some warehouse parties with friends for my birthday. Around 2:30 me and a friend dropped by my house to get a bottle of liquor for an afterparty.  I don't know how I knew it was going to happen right then, but I did. I said "Isaac, wait I want to show you something.  Look at this pot." We looked at it for a moment, and he looked at me confused.  "What?" The pot started hissing.  Isaac checked the burner.  It was turned off.  He started freaking out and jumping around. "Now watch this." I took the pot off the burner and set it on the other one.  I had Isaac feel the old burner.  It was cool.  And the pot started boiling on the new burner. "No way!" Isaac kept gripping his hair.  I poured myself tea and it stopped.

After my birthday, it never did it again.

I also saw a super heavy table move on it's own in a haunted ranch in Montana once.

See, this is the type of stuff that SUPPORTS my "life is just a giant MMORPG" thesis. This is exactly how game designers think, and I should know, because I am one.

If *I* was one of the game designers for "Life on Earth", I would *totally* put in scripted events like what you experienced, both to screw with players and as Easter Eggs. Essentially .... Hey, when you played "Life on Earth", did you light the candle by the shrine that makes a ghost boil tea for you? It gives you the achievement "Spooky Tea"!

Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #10 on: June 12, 2018, 03:05:35 AM »
If we're going to swap stories of the inexplicable, here's my ESP story.
Before I deployed to Iraq, I made a point to have a lot of social events with families. As the senior guy I wanted to collect images of my men with their families so I wouldn't forget who I worked for - their families. Months later, we were riding slow through a bad town, but things had been calm in that area for the most part. I was driving. Eddy was in the turret, above me. For no reason, the image of Eddy's adorable daughter, perhaps 7 years old with big blue eyes and dark hair came to my mind. I looked around and there was no sign of a threat. But I was spooked.

As I drove, I gently rocked the steering wheel in a slow rhythm, which introduced a sway. Poor Eddy was up there swaying around, and after a moment he looked down and yelled at me over the engine noise to ask what the hell I was doing.
"I'm keeping your head moving!" I yelled back, and everyone had a giggle at my expense. For I was always the nervous one, worried about everything.
We rolled through the town without incident, beyond me knocking a pickup truck parked too far out into the road out of the way.
An hour or two later, we rolled back through. There were US soldiers everywhere; helicopters overhead and many vehicles. I pulled over near where the 'incident' had occurred, and asked a soldier what the hell was going on. He pointed to where we had been before.
"Sniper blew some guy's head off, Kevlar and all. Headshot."

Eddy dropped down inside and grabbed my shoulder. "Dude, I fucking love you, man."
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline cupiscent

Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #11 on: June 12, 2018, 04:24:45 AM »
I attended our local spec fic convention this weekend just gone, and there was a panel on "secondary worlds sans magic" and there was discussion about what constituted "magic". When defining fantasy in terms of "fantastical elements", I'd traditionally used magic, but also magical creatures, non-human races, and also active presence of gods or other supernatural forces. But various of the panelists pointed out that lots of people in our reality believe in active gods or supernatural forces, and posit evidence thereof. It was a big moment of shifting perspective for me.

Me personally, I believe there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio. But somehow I don't translate that to "active system of magicky stuff". Which is something I will be idly considering for a while, I think.

Offline NedMarcus

Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #12 on: June 12, 2018, 01:42:40 PM »

I think the outlier here might be the sci-fi types moreso than the fantasy writers.  I'd guess that scifi writers at least in the Isaac Asimov vein are more likely to be hard science atheists. Where as fantasy writers, like most of us, have some nagging voice in the back of our heads that secretly believes in magic.

I agree with this. And thanks for the interesting stories, especially about the pot. I've heard of similar types of things before, and tea is the answer, of course  :)

For me fantasy is an escape, too. I never really thought it would make people believe in magic; I just wondered whether fantasy readers already were less skeptical. From most replies, I'd guess not.

Quote
Do I believe in the afterlife? Tarot cards? Heaven and Hell? I really don't know. Fantasy has always been an escape from reality, not something that would make me believe in magic.  But I can say that I've seen some seriously weird shit, and that makes me seriously wonder.

The magic I put in my stories is mostly made up and for fun, but I've seen some weird shit, too, and I've put some of that in. For example, I've sometimes seen images of friends coming to my house in my mind, and then ten minutes later they arrived. Sometimes I just know things that happen with people very far away—I called them later to confirm. I read tarot, and I've known some strange stuff through that, too. So I include bits and pieces, but mostly my fantasy is made up.

Offline NedMarcus

Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #13 on: June 12, 2018, 01:49:16 PM »
But various of the panelists pointed out that lots of people in our reality believe in active gods or supernatural forces, and posit evidence thereof. It was a big moment of shifting perspective for me.

Me personally, I believe there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio. But somehow I don't translate that to "active system of magicky stuff". Which is something I will be idly considering for a while, I think.

From reading a lot of fantasy, I'd guess they're a minority, but I know that people like James Redfield with The Celestine Prophecy, were actually putting forward their psychological and spiritual ideas. As I said above, I mix it, but mostly I make up magic because I think it's cool, but some psychic stuff I think true finds its way in, too.

Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: Are Fantasy Fans Less Sceptical than Fans of Other Genres?
« Reply #14 on: June 12, 2018, 05:16:46 PM »
I don't believe in anything beyond the physical. I would LIKE to, but I can't just choose to believe in something just because it would be nice. I guess it's the autism.

Our thoughts are just chemical reactions. When our bodies shut down, those cease. I can't wrap my head around how memories and awareness would be photocopied into some other existence at that point.

There are scientific theories to explain the things people experience during an NDE. I've been told some odd stories by people whose sincerity I trust, and those can fire something up in me for a little while, before I start thinking of the various tricks our brains can play on us.

Few things in this world anger me more than faith-related issues that get in the way of human happiness, because it is so utterly pointless.

Do I dislike the thought of simply ceasing to be? Yes, of course I do. But at least it isn't unfair. It's the same for everyone.

I'm drawn to fantasy because it offers the wonders, heroics and sense of purpose that the real world lacks.
I'll notify your next of kin... that you sucked!