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Author Topic: The stigma toward fantasy  (Read 3700 times)

Offline Wulfr1c

The stigma toward fantasy
« on: April 03, 2017, 09:34:05 PM »
Hi, first of all, sorry if anything in this post isn't how most posts should be (im new here) and sorry if a similar discussion to this already exists at a different place.
I just wanted to discuss with you all your general opinions of the fantasy genre. I know we are all most likely rather fond of the genre given the name of this forum, however, fantasy often receives a poor reputation among those who do not consider themselves fans of the genre? They often think its childish or that its' fanbase has a poor grasp on reality. Why do you think this is? what are your thoughts on the stigma directed towards the genre and what are your feelings toward the genre in general? Whether you are a hardcore fan of fantasy or simply enjoy it from time to time, i would like to hear your thoughts :) Thankyou to all who read and reply.

Online ScarletBea

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Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2017, 10:39:27 PM »
I love Fantasy!
It lets me escape my reality, at the exact same time that it helps me understand my reality better - yes, a paradox!

I don't care (much...) that people turn their noses at fantasy: it's their loss! There are lots of incredible, amazing and fantastic fantasy books 8)
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Offline Eli_Freysson

Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2017, 11:42:35 PM »
Nowadays, my reaction to something being labelled childish is generally "So what? What's wrong with being a little childish?"

Of course, this does not include things like manners or control over one's emotions, but I fail to see what's wrong with enjoying simple entertainment.
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Offline xiagan

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Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #3 on: April 04, 2017, 04:03:58 AM »
Nowadays, my reaction to something being labelled childish is generally "So what? What's wrong with being a little childish?"

Of course, this does not include things like manners or control over one's emotions, but I fail to see what's wrong with enjoying simple entertainment.
Especially when fantasy is not always simple entertainment. ;)

All the first works of literature (Gilgamesh Epos, the Edda, Odyssey, lots of religious texts) are essentially fantasy.
I find the distinction between 'real' literature and fantasy preposterous and silly.
Pratchett's later works for example address the big themes of life and the struggles in and with our civilized world far better than most 'serious' books.

It's especially agonizingly stupid when people think fantasy is childish or silly escapism but love Harry Potter and/or Lord of the Rings (Or any other of the blockbusters, which somehow happen to be mostly movies with fantastic elements.) And yes, this happens a lot.

I met a bookseller a few months ago who was responsible for organizing a Pat Rothfuss signing and she said: "I don't read fantasy but Pat's book are amazing." Seriously? Do those people hear themselves talk?
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Offline The Gem Cutter

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Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #4 on: April 04, 2017, 07:21:56 AM »
Howdy Wulfric, welcome to the forum.

Please don't mistake my passionate response to your question to reflect anything toward you. It's a worthwhile question, I suppose. I do not believe there's any stigma in the eyes of the open-minded, and the eyes of the closed-minded are irrelevant. Contempt is a toxic sentiment, and cannot be cured by argument or influence. Sadly, there's no basis for that contempt. Those claiming authors writing in mainstream dramatic fiction hold a higher ground can pound sand, because they don't. You can quote me on that.

To my eyes, much of the Romance and Mystery genres is pure garbage. But I would never say that they ARE garbage - I just don't enjoy or appreciate their conventions. Nor would I say "anyone can write that." I have a friend who writes what I would call Romance-Smut - but she works very hard to write it, with all the care of any writer - and she's apparently very good at it. Just because it's not something I enjoy doesn't mean I cannot appreciate the work she puts into it. And if people are reading it and being entertained, yay for them, and yay for my friend. More power to 'em.

I admit that to the uninitiated, Fantasy may seem frivolous and even silly. Like any of the broader genres, there are many subcategories, and in addition to the ones that are silly on purpose, there are some that are silly by accident in the eyes of many people, even die-hard fantasy readers and writers like myself. And that's fine. But technically, Fantasy is among the most difficult genres: it can encompass any plot or setting, and in addition to the story-telling burdens all genres face - it must also create fantastic elements and satisfy an incredibly diverse range of reader expectations. And all the while it must comply with or intelligently deviate from a host of conventions other genres can (and should) ignore. No easy task.

Only in scifi, fantasy, and speculative fiction can certain themes be explored without the burdens and bias of the real world. And to those who do not respect the power and special demands of fantasy, I have only this to say: that Fantasy is not about elves and dragons and rings of power, any more than the Old Man and the Sea was about fishing, Watership Down about rabbits, or Animal Farm about husbandry. The bizarre ending of Of Mice and Men is no less bizarre than wizard-detectives solving supernatural crimes, and the departure from reality required to portray dragons is no greater than the departure required to believe Helen's face launched a thousand ships.

Some will disagree. And if I was writing in the easier genres, I would, too. Who wants to admit that there are storytellers telling stories as entertaining as mine, while also crafting whole worlds with workable languages and topographically-correct maps, and plausible magical methodologies? That's like a pilot who's not only flying the plane, she's also building it - and the unique physics that keep it aloft. I might do what the outdone often do - ridicule and undermine, and claim the real world is harder to work with. And that, ironically enough, is a fantasy.
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Offline Peat

Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #5 on: April 04, 2017, 11:59:24 AM »
Welcome.

I don't really find much stigma attached to fantasy these days. I've talked about Eddings on rugby forums and about Abercrombie on ice hockey forums. My work place has spawned one guy doing well on SP sci-fi, another guy doing YA with an agent, and there's a guy doing football stories but who loves Stephen King. The two biggest British authors of my lifetime (Pratchett and Rowling) are both fantasy authors. Two of the bigger movie franchises of recent times were Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and the real big ones now are comic superheroes and Star Wars, which aren't a million miles away. Game of Thrones is big, Doctor Who is always big... like, geek stuff, including fantasy, is big and mainstream these days. At least that's my middle class Londoner internet addict experience. I've barely experienced the people going "This is so childish but Harry Potter is great" like xiagan has.

If I did come across people who were being loud and "Its so childish"... I dunno, I'd probably just ignore them. Or say what Eli did if they're making that point in a reasonable way. Really, I just don't care. Life's too short. Maybe if they're advancing some utterly illogical point of view - like Rowling's "I'm not fantasy", or the "Its so childish but HP is great" - I'd get angry, but I'm getting angry at the fact they're a wilful cretin, not that they dislike fantasy. Although I've got no problem with the example xiagan provided of "I don't read fantasy but Rothfuss is amazing". Nothing wrong with not having much time for a genre but loving one piece of it. I don't like hip-hop much, but I love Outkast. 


While I'm nitpicking at xiagan's words, I have to disagree with the idea of ancient Epics/religious texts being essentially fantasy. I guess the stories themselves are, but everything surrounding them isn't. Not that this isall that relevant to the thread, I just think there's a significant dividing line there that should be respected. Retellings of significant cultural heritage aren't making up your own world... although, to be fair, sometimes making up your own world is a retelling of significant cultural heritage. Like Sir Pterry & Shakespeare.


Offline JMack

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Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2017, 12:16:15 PM »
Since we're taking a little side trip from the OP (and welcome, @Wulfr1c!), I think @Peat that we might use a broader term of "the fantastic" to capture what goes on in many ancient legends and myths. "Fantasy" as a genre is not those things, as you say. But maybe "The Fantastic" (registered mark by jmack 2017 in his dreams) is the rectangle of which Fantasy is a square that fits in the shape. If anyone is following me at this point.  :P

But I think @xiagan' point is useful here. For those snobs who turn up their noses at Fantasy, pointing them Odyssey, the Iliad, Beowulf, etc. might be a useful approach. "Oh, but there's a long downhill slope from those works of great literature to the elves and princess pablum of the modern so-called fantasy novel." Yeah, well, I'll bet there were hundreds of Beowulfs and Iliads out there that are no longer remembered. The great works of the past loom large because they survived and were (let's assume) the best. The same happens with modern novels, movies, tv shows, etc. all the time. Much fun and middling stuff - a few long term keepers.

Of course, we also know that the subtext of the snob is the priesthood of the enlightened against the low taste of the rube. And there's no arguing with someone's desire for tenure. Just move on.
« Last Edit: April 04, 2017, 12:19:36 PM by Jmack »
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Offline Peat

Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2017, 01:03:23 PM »
Yeah; a catch all for things containing the fantastic without implying that everything within is a deliberate fantasy would be useful.

Once you have it, you don't just have the great epics within, but also Shakespeare, the great medieval poets like de Troyes and Malory, great Victorian poets like Tennyson and Browning, countless romantics and numerous others who have written works that can be described as fantastical.  Is there not an element of fantasy to A Christmas Carol, or The Picture of Dorian Grey? Use of the fantastic lies within literature like the filling of a pie; not the whole thing, but impossible and depressing to imagine it without.

If Fantasy is to be accused of a sin, it is for going so long letting itself and others believe that Tolkien is the great source, rather than just one more tributary joining the greater flow.
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Offline Foehammer

Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2017, 06:46:46 PM »
Just my own little bit here  :)

My introduction to fantasy was a simplified version of Beowulf being read to us by a big bear of a teacher named Mr Hocking. We must have been no more than eight or nine years old. Anyways, he'd be up in front of the class acting out all the scenes, supplying effects and voices and I remember it had us utterly enthralled. For me, it was a game changer. I asked my teacher and mother to point me to other similar books. I was introduced to Tolkien, Eddings, Jordan and Feist. Shown armies of Dragonlance paperbacks,  fighting fantasy novels where I determined my own adventures and laughing myself silly with Terry Pratchett. With a smile and a sneeze I swept the dust off of old skinny Robert E Howard conan's and Moorcock's Elric novels from my parents attic and devoured my mother's Spellsinger series. It went on and on and on and my fascination and love for the genre grew and grew...

Obviously the older I got the more aware I was of people, ignorant people, who are uninterested and unfamiliar with Fantasy who wished to set upon those who were. The older and more confident I got the quicker these people became less of a problem. Now it doesn't even occur to me that I might be reading something misconstrued as childish. My love for the genre has never faded, in fact the early encounters might have strengthened it. I read broadly now; Crime, thriller, lots of history, science fiction etc. But fantasy is always a safe place that I regularly return to to escape the everyday :D

I like this quote from a certain well known dude...

"“The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real ... for a moment at least ... that long magic moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I'd sooner go to middle Earth.”

- George R R Martin :)

« Last Edit: April 04, 2017, 06:50:09 PM by Foehammer »

Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2017, 07:05:16 PM »
Most children's stories have fantastic elements. Many of them are about animals that can talk or otherwise reason. Or fairies, or witches and wizards, or what have you. Stories for actual young children that involve nothing but the real world are pretty rare, I think (although I'm not a parent so I'm going from my own memories only, and the snippets I've seen for the children of my friends).

So... we all start out with fantasy. It's just some people decide to move away. But fantasy is the baseline for most people in our society, so really it's the departure from it that should be marked as notable and/or strange.
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Offline xiagan

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Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2017, 08:04:56 PM »
I don't really find much stigma attached to fantasy these days.
Maybe not stigma, but literary snobs exist and they make me angry.

Although I've got no problem with the example xiagan provided of "I don't read fantasy but Rothfuss is amazing". Nothing wrong with not having much time for a genre but loving one piece of it.
Usually yes, but it was meant in a snobbish, maybe derogatory way.

Quote
While I'm nitpicking at xiagan's words, I have to disagree with the idea of ancient Epics/religious texts being essentially fantasy.
No problem. :) And yes, it was meant more in the way Jmack wrote. I'm not the best at being articulate at 5 AM on my phone. ;)
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Offline Peat

Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #11 on: April 05, 2017, 10:26:28 AM »
I don't really find much stigma attached to fantasy these days.
Maybe not stigma, but literary snobs exist and they make me angry.

Although I've got no problem with the example xiagan provided of "I don't read fantasy but Rothfuss is amazing". Nothing wrong with not having much time for a genre but loving one piece of it.
Usually yes, but it was meant in a snobbish, maybe derogatory way.

Quote
While I'm nitpicking at xiagan's words, I have to disagree with the idea of ancient Epics/religious texts being essentially fantasy.
No problem. :) And yes, it was meant more in the way Jmack wrote. I'm not the best at being articulate at 5 AM on my phone. ;)

See I haven't even really encountered the snobs either, that's why I read that bit the way I did. Just never occurred to me that someone would voice it that way!

Really not sure whether that's because I'm very good at tuning people out, or dumb luck, or cultural differences, or what. Still that's my experience, even if it isn't universal. Possibly far from universal.

Going back to xiagan's comment though, that sounds like (and correct me if wrong) snobbishness born off of 'literary merit', which is born of many things but one of them is prose style. I can see how Rothfuss would very much appeal to someone who thought a book was good if the prose was ornate and most of modern fantasy wouldn't.

That said:
a) There is a good deal of literary fantasy around these days
b) There's a fair amount of literary darlings writing squarely in spec fiction, whether they admit it or not (Attwood, Murakami, all Magical Realism)

edit:
c) Snobbery's for little souled people anyway, and who cares about them (unless its me doing it in which case its merely regrettable but justifiable judgement held)
« Last Edit: April 05, 2017, 10:32:23 AM by Peat »
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Offline Rostum

Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2017, 11:55:01 AM »
Had a conversation yesterday while I was sat in the canteen reading kindle which went on the lines

"What are you reading"
" The Red Knight by Miles Cameron"
"What's that?"
" It's about an alternate history where all the myths and monsters are true and the rules of courtly love and knights errantry are upheld in an England that is falling back into the faerie realm"
"why would you read that?"
"It's more interesting than real life"

Long disdainful sniff and she went back to reading heat magazine and playing with her phone.


Offline Takoren

Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #13 on: April 27, 2017, 10:46:50 PM »
I love reading fantasy primarily because I love visiting alternate realities dreamed up by someone from whole cloth. This is probably part of why I prefer built worlds to a fantasy version of our own world, but I'm something of a study in contrast, because I also really want those alternate worlds to feel as real as our own.

But, yes, I have encountered people in real life who don't read fantasy, but seem to think they know all about it. My conversations usually go like this:

Them: What's that you're reading?
Me: It's called The Blade Itself.
Them: What kind of story is that?
Me: It's sorta medieval-style fantasy.
Them: (immediately getting a look in their eyes like "you're a grown man and you read THAT?) I see. Yeah, that stuff's not for me.
Me: I agree it's not for everyone.
Them: I guess you're reading that because you need something light-hearted and fun?
Me: "Light-hearted" is not a word I would use to describe this book. If I had to describe it with a single sentence that in no way does it justice, it's basically Game of Thrones on steroids.
Them: Yeah, I don't watch that show. It's for nerds only. I prefer reality.
Me: I see. So what do you read?
Them: I don't really read much. Who's got the time? (spoken by someone who spends most of their off-hours going to clubs or parties, and on top of that goes to the gym at least once a day).

Another example of anti-fantasy snobbery was Troy Patterson's review of Game of Thrones for Slate, or Ginia Belafonte's "review" of the same for the New York Times, where Patterson basically just spent most of his time mocking the show for being fantasy, and Belafonte spent most of hers mocking fantasy readers for liking it.

But what I think pisses me off even more are people who actually do read fantasy, but smear certain aspects of it because they don't personally like it. Like people who smear grimdark as "ruining" fantasy, and likewise those who hate what they think of as "stereotypical" or "cliched", which, from what I can tell, is nearly everything even kinda traditional. I just recently got into an argument on another board because I asked why there seem to be fewer modern books that use elves and dwarves, and other fantasy races. Most of the responses were "yeah, I've noticed that and I kinda would like to see that make a comeback" or "here's some modern-ish books that still use them" but one responder, who quickly got another person on his side, started off saying that elves are "silly and cliche" and things just sorta snowballed out of control from there.
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Offline m3mnoch

Re: The stigma toward fantasy
« Reply #14 on: April 27, 2017, 10:50:58 PM »
Them: What's that you're reading?
Me: It's called The Blade Itself.
Them: What kind of story is that?
Me: It's sorta medieval-style fantasy.
Them: (immediately getting a look in their eyes like "you're a grown man and you read THAT?) I see. Yeah, that stuff's not for me.
Me: I agree it's not for everyone.
Them: I guess you're reading that because you need something light-hearted and fun?
Me: "Light-hearted" is not a word I would use to describe this book. If I had to describe it with a single sentence that in no way does it justice, it's basically Game of Thrones on steroids.
Them: Yeah, I don't watch that show. It's for nerds only. I prefer reality.
Me: I see. So what do you read?
Them: I don't really read much. Who's got the time? (spoken by someone who spends most of their off-hours going to clubs or parties, and on top of that goes to the gym at least once a day).

run -- do not walk -- away from that person as fast as you can.