This may or may not sound familiar:
“So! I hear that you are a writer.”
“Ah, well…yes, I suppose.”
“What do you write?”
“Oh, you know…this and that.”
“Do you write books?”
“What sort of books? What are they about?”
“Well, it’s fiction, mostly. It would be hard to explain.”
“What sort of fiction?”
Cue the slide whistle.
While it is true that fantasy is gaining a better name for itself with such popular series coming out left and right, there are still many who will look upon an aspiring writer with well-meaning pity when they decree that their focus is in the fantasy genre. I happen to be one of those silly aspiring writers.
The main thing to remember, as I keep telling myself, is that this is not a shameful thing at all. Fantasy is an escape, a way to take what we know of the real world and mold it into something completely new.
“But that’s just a fancy way of saying that you don’t like facing the real world.”
In my case, I suppose this is true to a small degree, but I always strive to take the histories and cultures of this world and gain some knowledge of what already is into what could feasibly be. Besides, who wants to be mired in the real world all the time? That’s a pretty scary place. Isn’t fantasy like a vacation for the imagination?
I am constantly having to redeem myself by saying that my work does not contain dragons, Elves, or powerful wizards. I am not belittling the people who do feature these elements in their fantasy, because I am quite keen on them as a reader, but as a writer, I simply float in a different direction. And I happen to know that many people approach the genre with disdain.
“What’s this about a magical ring? For goodness sake, put that down and grow up. If you need me, I’ll be over here reading The Great Gatsby and straightening my cravat whenever I feel particularly debonair.”
Don’t get me wrong—I’m quite fond of such books as The Great Gatsby as well. And perhaps it’s my eclectic reading background that makes me cringe a little whenever I have to subject others to my particular tastes. Fantasy is not for everyone, but for those who know what to look for, it’s enthralling and just as engaging/poignant/meaningful as literary fiction. You just have to find the right book or series for you.
I believe what others take for granted is how difficult it is not only to find, but to create good fantasy. Anyone can slap together a few bits of magical phenomena and call it fantasy, but it takes careful planning, a strong heart, and many, many groans of despair to get through just the basics of setting up a fantasy story. When it comes to actually writing the damn thing…well, that’s another post. Or several.
What it all boils down to is that you should not throw up your nose or get your cravat in a ruffle because of someone’s preferred genre. Christian fiction, chick lit, teenage romance, you name it: they are all someone’s idea of great reading, and you should not demean the reader for that. So when I tell you I write fantasy, I am proud to say that it is a genre that demands respect, for not everyone can fulfill its demands and simultaneously take abuse for it.
Then again, we can’t be too surprised, what with the infamous standard for fantasy book covers…but that is also a different post.
Have you ever been snubbed for your tastes? How would you react, or how have you reacted?