If you are seeing this, it is a (nearly) given truth that you read a lot. All I write about or think about are stories and how they are told. It doesn’t really matter if it is a traditional novel, a comic book, a movie, a television show, or even a commercial with a good tale to tell; I spend nearly every waking hour thinking about storytelling and how it can be done well. Black Jack, my current project, is an adventure story told in a fantastical setting. When I talk with people about it, some perk right up and want to hear the broad strokes, but I am amazed how many times I have heard the same reaction:
“Oh, I don’t read fantasy books.”
When I ask why not, they usually mumble something about “well I’d rather read something that took place, you know, in the real world” and a vague note of dissatisfaction with “stories that aren’t logical”. If pressed further, people will flat-out say, “Well all that stuff is for kids. And I don’t want to read books meant for kids.”
Curiouser and curiouser, thought Alice. We’ll I’d like to introduce just a bit of Vulcan logic for your consideration. The prize for the best-selling fiction novel of all time is tied between two books at 200 million apiece. Those books? A Tale of Two Cities and The Little Prince. Hey what do you know? One is fiction, the other is fantasy.
In third place with 150 million? The Lord of the Rings.
Dream of the Red Chamber
Well wait a second: 3 of the top 4 best-sellers of all time are fantasy novels. Also in the running? The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, The Alchemist, Watership Down, Charlotte’s Web, Johnathan Livingston Seagull, Peter Rabbit, The Wind in the Willows, 1984, The Hunger Games and oh yes, that little heptalogy called Harry Potter.
Fantasy novels represent the best of what we have to offer; stories that exist outside of time and place that blend rules and situations created from whole cloth for one purpose only – to reveal the character that is universal to all mankind. What does it mean to suffer and persevere, what does it mean to face your fear, sacrifice yourself for another, or come of age surrounded by forces too dark and terrible to comprehend? If I tell you the story from the perspective of never-was in never-land, somehow, inexorably, inevitably, it becomes more true.
If you don’t read fantasy novels, may I take a moment to suggest you may want to begin. There are a good number of people over the last several hundred years who have found something worth discovering in places where others fear to tread.
“If I can’t carry it, Mr. Frodo, I’ll carry you.”