“Our truest response to the irrationality of the world is to paint or sing or write, for only in such response do we find truth.”
“Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”
“All that writers can do is keep trying to say what is deepest in their hearts. ”
― Lloyd Alexander
“The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds the most discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but ‘That’s funny…”
“I write for the same reason I breathe – because if I didn’t, I would die.”
I thought I’d start off with two quotes each from three authors who I’ve always had a great love for. Madeleine L’Engle author of A Wrinkle in Time. Lloyd Alexander author of The Book of Three. Isaac Asimov author of Foundation.
Why two quotes each? We’ll get to that.
I chose these authors because their books are primarily science fiction and fantasy. (Though at one time, Asimov’s works could be found in nearly every section of the library).
I chose these particular authors for another reason. Their genres. Science Fiction and Fantasy. Sci-fi and fantasy have a bit of a bad rap.
On the surface, these genres are viewed as not having any real depth. Even by some authors who write books in those genres. They’re just books that are about swords and sorcery, or aliens and space.
I’m being a bit simplistic, but you get the point.
The reality behind these books is a bit deeper.
Yeah, the setting might be in space, or deal with aliens. It might have elements of sorcery and swordplay. However the stories deal with elements that are very familiar.
Pick up any sci-fi or fantasy book and you will find these and other themes running throughout.
“Why would they put themes like these in settings like these?” You might ask. “Why not write a book about normal people interacting with each other?”
Well, let’s get into this.
Normal is relative to the individual. Normal to me isn’t normal to you, and vice versa.
Also what I enjoy reading, you may not enjoy. Not a lot of people will want to sit down and read Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, or Charles Dickens. On the other paw, not a lot of people will want to read Patrick Rothfuss, James A. Owen, or Ursula LeGuinn.
Why am I bringing this up?
Reading is important.
It’s the transfer of ideas via a medium that engages our brains in ways that television and social media do not. Reading turns on centers in the brain that get lulled to sleep by tv and dulled by the drone of social media.
Says the man who spends an inordinate amount of time on both.
Hey, I ain’t perfect.
Preaching to the gorram choir here.
Don’t you have something better to do?
I’m doing it!
Where was I?
Reading turns your mind on. For some it helps them to see the story in a better movie than Hollywood could ever create.
I think that’s why no one is ever really satisfied with book-to-movie adaptations.
“How is that relevant?” You might ask.
They’re themes that need to be examined. Bit by bit. Understood slowly, even if it takes multiple rereads. Which any book lover will tell you, happens frequently.
“Alright, so people are reading. That’s good. I still don’t understand why these authors couldn’t couch their stories in a real setting.”
The setting of a story functions like the setting of a stage production. It serves as a backdrop to the main action of the story. The story itself is what matters. Whether the setting is in Bath, Chicago, or Altair IV.
“Then why do these authors write like this? Not everyone wants to read Fantasy or Science Fiction!”
Okey Doke. Let’s look at why these authors wrote the books they wrote.
Madeleine L’Engle loved reading, science, and the questions that the two spawned. Her writing assumed that people knew how to use their imaginations, and taught them to differentiate between light and dark.
Lloyd Alexander wanted to write about the mythology of King Arthur and the Welsh countryside he grew up in. His writing transported people to those places and introduced them to those characters.
Isaac Asimov possessed a passion for writing and science. His writing passed on those passions. Inspiring future generations to study both.
So why read fantasy? Why read science fiction?
In every story there are themes we know are true.
Reading rewards you more than a movie will. It’s cheaper too.
The writers write about the things they love. We discover what we love through them.
We also have the wonderful benefit of exercising our imaginations and visiting places like Krynn, Prydain, Dark and Coogan’s Pandemonium, Camazotz, the World of Two Moons, ad infinitum.
That’s why we read.