I’ve loved fantasy literature ever since I started reading it: Harry Potter in high school, Lord of the Rings in college. Even before then, I remember falling in love with a book in fifth grade about a girl who gets transported somehow to a magic land where she has to protect a powerful amulet from an evil woman who wants to use it to do some…. well, some bad stuff. Don’t remember more than that, which is weird, considering how much I enjoyed the story! And Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” was a CLASSIC.
I guess it’s no surprise fantasy became my genre of choice to write. I’ve always loved stories about magic, partly because they’re fun and escapist and my crazy imagination went wild at the thought of imagining myself, say, as a student at Hogwarts or fighting to survive in Middle Earth. Mainly, though, I love fantasy because of its ability to create an insightful allegory, say, about race relations or war, and its ability to teach. Stories with magic and characters like Harry Potter, Gandalf the Gray, Albus Dumbledore, or King Arthur teach the valuable lesson that our talents and abilities are responsibilities and duties. The more powerful we are, the stronger we should feel the call to use that power wisely, to set limits upon it, and to bend it to benefit others as much as, if not more than, ourselves.
Fantasy is such a great medium for this! It’s not the only medium, for sure, but fantasy worlds of knights, kings, and sorcerers make the lesson so crystal clear: those who seek great power are very, very rarely the ones who should ever be trusted with it. Fantasy’s villains are great warnings about the dangers of selfishness, greed, and uninhibited ambition. Ambitions are not bad things, but they must be controlled by the recognition that our actions will always affect more people than just ourselves. We all have great talent within us, whether that’s book smarts, athleticism, the graphic arts, or even being a fantastic listener and counselor. If you’re funny, and able to diffuse tension and help people feel at ease and put their troubles in perspective, that’s a wonderful gift: it’s certainly one I don’t have!
Maybe this is just me, and maybe I’m strange this way, but fantasy literature reminds me like few other genres that I shouldn’t underestimate the ability–and responsibility–I have to make a difference and change the lives of those around me for the better. I’m far too apt to draw into my own little world and wallow in self-pity at the thought of my own insignificant problems. I’m much happier, though, when I throw the spotlight on someone else. Fantasy literature, where the fate of an entire world is so often at play, pulls me out of myself and brings me to focus on others more as soon as I stop to contemplate what’s actually going in the story I’m reading. Kind of crazy to think something as unreal and well, fantastic, as magic serves to ground me, but it does. And that’s why I write about sorcerers.
Fellow writers: what brought you to choose your genre of choice? Do you write multiple genres? Readers: what are your preferred types of book, and why? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please do comment!