Monday, October 25, 2010

Can Fantasy Stack up to Other Genres?

Zain Syed's answer:

The fantasy genre often is among the top tier of popular culture and conversation. Perhaps the most internationally recognizable film that has ever been made, Star Wars, is a fantasy story. Certainly the most recognizable children's stories of the past century, Harry Potter, are of the fantasy genre. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, both the original novels and the newer film adaptations, is immensely popular to people of all ages. Now, the Twilight series has over taken young women and has become a staple in popular culture. Just by looking at these examples alone, it is easy to see that fantasy is exceedingly prominent in terms of popularity. And that isn't the only area in which fantasy overcomes other genres.

One of the most disputed topics of discussion when talking about fantasy is its quality. Most people will side with the idea that fantasy is of a lesser quality than nearly all other genres, simply as a rule. However, this is not the case. Because fantasy is such a broad and appealing genre, more people write fantasy. And, since a great number of people write fantasy, there is a greater chance of there being bad fantasy, if only by rule of probability. Though, admittedly, there are plenty of bad fantasy works, there is just as much good fantasy. And luckily, just like those who write it, good fantasy always outshines the bad.

There is a great breadth of different types of fantasy created by many different fantasy authors, all of whom have their own distinct styles and contributions to the genre. Fantasy authors like J.R.R Tolkien lend to betterment of fantasy and literature as a whole. Tolkien, an English professor and philologist who taught at Oxford University, one of the most prestigious schools in the world, used his incredible knowledge of words and language to create several fully developed languages for The Lord of the Rings. He also made a timeline for all of the many different races and people in Middle-Earth as well as a complete history of the world in The Silmarillion. Tolkien's work proved that fantasy can be taken seriously and gave inspiration to future fantasy writers. H.P. Lovecraft also legitimized fantasy by writing horror and, like Tolkien, stories with darker themes. Writers like Piers Anthony have made the genre more appealing to the public by writing comedic fantasy. With Mark Z. Danielewski’s The House of Leaves and Alfred Bester's The Stars My Destination, fantasy has implemented ergodic literature, an innovative writing style that breaks the fourth wall. Through writers like these and many more, the genre of fantasy has kept current and progressed along with, and perhaps even farther than, every other genre of literature.

Most important, fantasy does what other genres don't. That is, fantasy gives readers what they want. It doesn’t matter what a reader might want or how obscure their desire is, you can always find what you want in fantasy. This is because fantasy, unlike other genres, or rather, exponentially more so than other genres, gives back to the reader what the reader puts into a fantasy work. Readers always give their own thoughts and criticisms while reading a story, despite the genre, knowingly or not. However, fantasy is the only genre that actively recognizes this, that actively sells itself to the reader. Take relatability for example. A reader might read about a character and identify with certain traits of that character, such as courage or bravery. The character will certainly have other traits, but since the reader doesn't identify with those specific traits, the reader will ignore those attributes that they don't see in themselves. The same rule applies with the setting or plot of a fantasy story. The reader may relate to how the protagonist, say for example, has run away from his home, much like the reader may have gone away from home for an extended period of time. However, the reader will push away everything else that doesn't coincide with them, like, in this fake instance, the fact that the protagonist is a fish and that, in this hypothetical situation, if it doesn't flee from home, it'll be killed by a fisherman.

Fantasy knows this. Because of this, fantasy does match up to other genres. In fact, it surpasses them.

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