Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Dragons & Holograms: Why Worlds That Can't Exist Are So Popular

People have made up worlds and creatures that can't exist since ancient times.  In fact, one of the earliest surviving works of literature, The Epic of Gilgamesh, is an epic poem with a fantasy setting.  Tolkien and C.S. Lewis are some huge names in literature, and they're considered the fathers of modern fantasy.  Even they were predated by John Ruskin and George MacDonald, who wrote fantasy books in the 19th century.  

And what about science fiction?  It's been around for a long time, too.  H.G. Wells, Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback were among the first who wrote books that we would consider sci-fi.  

Since then, some of the best-selling franchises have been in the fantasy/sci-fi category of speculative fiction.  Harry Potter, Star Wars, Percy Jackson & The Olympians, Final Fantasy, Doctor Who, Star Trek, Dungeons & Dragons, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy, The Lord of the Rings... The list goes on and on.  

The huge successes of these franchises and my own love of them make me wonder: why?  Why is it that we're so attracted to these genres?  What is it about these universes that makes me want to fill my bookshelves, hard drive and closet with them?  What makes me want to fill my mind with them?  

Trust me, there's more where that came from.

Is it some form of escape from reality?  Sometimes, but it's not that I'm unhappy with reality.  In fact, I don't think I would survive long in most of the worlds that I read about.  I have a hard enough time understanding other humans; add any other sentient species in there and the world would be a whole lot more complicated.  And knowing me, if I had any sort of magical talent, I'd probably end up tearing a hole in the fabric of reality.  I'd try to sew it back together, of course, but reality would probably end up with a crooked seam.  Who knows what might happen then?  

Getting back to the point, I think the best thing about speculative fiction is that nothing is impossible.  Giant reptiles that breathe fire?  Sure.  Guns that shoot laser bolts?  You betcha.  Inanimate objects that can talk?  Why not?  Nothing has to be logical because this story has reinvented logic.  

Plus, if something really doesn't make sense, it can usually be explained by the phrase: "It's magic." or, if you're talking about sci-fi: "It's technology."    

When logic gets reinvented, a whole new realm of possibilities open up.  Not only does our hero or heroine have to deal with the problems that the fantastic elements of the world bring, but they often have to deal with many of the same problems that you and I face.  Sometimes these characters have family problems (Just think of the Skywalkers), sometimes they have to make difficult moral choices.  

And when you take applicable themes and wrap them up in cool holographic technology or a really pretty Pegasus (or both!), you make it more interesting to read about.  Maybe that's another reason why speculative fiction is so popular.  

Do you have other theories?  What do you think is the best part about speculative fiction?  Comment below.

1 comment:

  1. You know it is something to think about I like what you said, and for me it's about things that I wish could happen I would fall over dead then come back to life just to hug a talking rabbit. Or I mean being a kick-butt demigod would be so cool! But I can enjoy that cool thrill from me bed, with my tea, and both my parents neither one a temperamental Greek god in the other room.
    I think it's about getting away with out going anywhere, fallowing a Hobbit to a mountain while staying on the couch!
    There is one other thing to it for me and that is as a writer who likes to come up with things like in those books and knowing that there are other people who think that way. *shrugs* at least that is part of it for me.