Tor.com has a post titled “Fantasy, Reading, and Escapism.” Fiction reading, particularly fantasy and science fiction, are sometimes derided as “escapist” and somehow less worthwhile than other forms of literature.
Escapism isn’t a bad thing. How else am I going to be an amazing swordsman, a slave, a Roman soldier, or an aristocrat? Much less all in the same day?
But I think there’s more to fantasy than just escapism. Sure, there’s plenty of bad fantasy out there (perhaps more than some other genres). But fantasy is also a, pardon the word, fantastic way of exploring the full range of human experiences, real or imagined. Drama, emotion, love, politics, prejudice, forgiveness, terror, and joy… you can experience them all in fantasy. Isn’t that part of what reading is about? Not just exploring a fantastic world, but exploring human emotion.
The best fantasy writing is like the best of any other writing – you gasp at the end like you’re coming up for air. You wish the characters could come back to delight you again (or you’re glad they’re dead! Or at least glad they’re fictional.). You’ve experienced a world that is like your own in some ways, but very different in others… and you’ve grown a little because of that experience. It’s like traveling to a foreign country, except less expensive and uses less vacation time.
What do you think? Why do you read fantasy? Why do you read? Do you think fantasy has value beyond entertainment?