I don’t like fantasy – really?!

Whenever someone asks me what kind of ‘stuff’ I write, I usually hesitate for a moment before fessing up that they’re fantasy novels.
It seems that in my circle of friends and acquaintances that fantasy isn’t a preferred genre.
Most people are polite enough to nod and smile. Others are upfront enough to state bluntly: “I don’t like fantasy”.
I’m not sure why fantasy gets such a mixed reaction, especially when you consider that the same people who say they don’t like fantasy, will happily sit down to watch Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, True Blood or Game of Thrones.
I wonder if the reason people say they don’t like fantasy is because they think it’s outlandish or unrealistic.
I have to admit even I’m guilty of judging a book, not by its cover, but by its genre.
Over the last few years I have had several friends (at different times) implore me to read the Cross Stitch series by Diana Gabaldon.
Knowing I liked historical fiction as well as fantasy they were convinced I would love the story of a 20th century nurse who time travels to 18th century Scotland and finds adventure and romance with a dashing highlander.
Featuring elements of historical fiction, romance, adventure, science fiction and fantasy, it seemed a no-brainer, but I couldn’t accept that time travel was a good fit with historical fiction.
To my detriment I never sought out the book, until it was brought to life as a TV series under the ‘Outlander’ name.
I was hooked by the first episode and went straight to the shops to buy the book, and guess what…I loved it.
Yes, it’s a little outlandish and unrealistic…which is exactly why I love it.
People like me love fantasy for the same reason others hate it. It’s about escapism, adventure, possibility, magic, what ifs, why nots and it’s just a lot of fun.
I put to most avid readers out there that they actually don’t mind fantasy as much as they think they do.
For anyone of my vintage, a favourite childhood book may have been Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree series, about a magical tree, magical lands and magical creatures. You can’t tell me that’s not fantasy.
What about traditional fairytales where geese lay golden eggs and beanstalks reach the heavens.
Now if you want to split hairs, fantasy is an enormous genre and I’m not a devoted follower of all of its variants. If I had to pinpoint my favourite sub-genre and the style I prefer to write, it’s heroic fantasy.
According to Wikipedia, “heroic fantasy often chronicles the tales of heroes in imaginary lands. Frequently, the protagonist is reluctant to be a champion, and/or is of low or humble origin, may have royal ancestors or parents but does not know it. Though events are usually beyond their control, they are thrust into positions of great responsibility where their mettle is tested in a number of spiritual and physical challenges”.
I accept that not everyone likes heroic fantasy, or any fantasy fiction for that matter, but I’m convinced that many more people do, and just don’t know it, or are unwilling to admit it.
So next time someone says: “I don’t like fantasy”, I’ll just smile and resist the urge to say “Really?!”. After all it’s their loss if they don’t want to live in a magical world where anything can happen…and it does.
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Kylie Fennell
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