Why I Love Fantasy

I have been trying to write this post for months. I have been stymied in that goal by my mental and physical health, the state of the world around me, and—most acutely—a lack of clarity on the subject.

It was a lot easier to come up with things I hated about Fantasy. The Chosen One trope can kiss my ass, and elves can honestly go fuck themselves. And yet, I love this genre. I’ve been reading it since I was in the first grade, and Fantasy titles dominate the list of my favorite books.

So why was it so hard to zero in on the reasons why?

On this, the morning after the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I found clarity. I was having trouble because I wanted to keep these posts as apolitical as possible. That, it turns out, is a bullshit approach.

The reasons I love and hate Fantasy are rooted in the fundamental principle that drives my personal politics: we’re all human, and we have equal value.

It is mystifying to me that not everyone holds this view. I don’t understand how you can think that one life is more valuable than another.

And yet, when you look at the policies most politicians promote, you can come to no other conclusion than that they value some lives more than others. It is, as you might imagine, frustrating and angerfying. (Spellcheck says I just made up that word, but I don’t care. It fits.)

I Love Fantasy Because it’s Escapist

Quite often, this world sucks. We have people in charge who don’t care if we live or die. We have an entire political apparatus that has never seen a Frank Capra movie. Dignity, compassion, and integrity have been tossed away in a manner that puts our continued existence as a democratic republic at risk.

As a straight white man, I have the privilege to check out of reality for a while and bury myself in a world where those who want power for power’s sake are considered evil, and where integrity, devotion, and personal responsibility are more than vacuous buzzwords.

I have always been accepted for who I am, and I weep for those who haven’t.

It is a privilege. I have never had to worry that heading out to the store might cost me my life. I have never had anyone question the validity of my marriage. I have always been accepted for who I am, and I weep for those who haven’t.

I Love Fantasy Because Evil can be Defeated

I think our current situation—and for the sake of future readers, that’s September of 2020—has clouded our reality. It’s not often that real-life evil presents itself in such an easily identifiable package and sets up a Big Battle at the End where it can be defeated.

The Trump Administration and their absolute contempt for human decency and human lives is just such an evil, and the election of 2020 is that Big Battle at the End.

But evil isn’t often so clear. When Trump is gone, his followers won’t be. They will still be our neighbors, teachers, and the guys we run into at the hardware store. They will always hold their racism, sexism, and disdain for decency close to their hearts.

How do we fight that?

Fantasy fiction is far from universal, and there are certainly novels and series that recognize this kind of evil. Still, the Tolkienic prototype is that while we may have to make considerable sacrifices to do so, we can defeat the great evil.

Fantasy Fiction is a Charging Station for Hope

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that everyone I have yet to piss off in this piece has experienced some hopelessness in the last four years. When both the natural world and our political leadership seem intent on destroying everything we hold dear, it’s hard. How do you maintain hope when you feel helpless?

I have nothing but disdain for the Chosen One trope—we make our own destinies—but I have nothing but love for the trope of the plucky fellowship that fights together against impossible odds.

All we can do is forge ahead.

We cannot see the end of the fight from where we are. We can see what we think is the right direction, and we can imagine what the world will be when we win, but the precise path will take some twists and turns that we do not—can not—anticipate.

All we can do is forge ahead. All we can do is use every tool at our disposal to make clear the distinction between them and us while asking other decent people to join the fight.

We will get discouraged. We will run out of hope. And when we do, I find that spending some time with a small group of dedicated individuals can change the world because it’s the only thing that ever has.

Also, Dragons are Cool

Sure, they’re a crypto-fascist metaphor for the billionaire class, hoarding obscene wealth and straight-up murdering anyone with the temerity to suggest that money might be better spent making people’s lives better. Still, they’re big-ass lizards that can fly and breathe fire. That is, as the scholars say, fuckin’ boss.