On Fantasy – 1

Seeing as my blog to this point has mainly been navel gazing over my random thoughts and gripes, and since I am meant to be in a transition to a fantasy format now, I thought I may as well do some navel gazing about my random thoughts about fantasy.

With this in mind, I would now like to start exploring what the genre of fantasy means to me. This rumination shall, I expect, eventually expand to include my thoughts about the creation of fantasy as a writer. This shall, I hope, dovetail into explorations of my own efforts in fantasy: such as my realm itself, the mechanics of the world, magic, and the kind of societies I have chosen to develop.

Okay, enough preamble. So, what is fantasy to me?

It’s not a mere genre, that’s for sure. Fantasy is an alternative reality I’ve lived much of my life in. It is the internal world I retreated into at the earliest available opportunity.

But what was the opportunity? What external stimulus provided the mechanism to create that inner world? How does one construct the fantasy world they are seeking to escape into?

There is no question that much, if not all, of the inspiration for my fantasy worlds came from external sources. For as far back as I can remember, my worlds were constructed from the imagery of things I had consumed as entertainment.

This is early childhood stuff. Fairytales. Sesame street. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. Cartoons. My mother’s stories.

All providing scraps of imagery that resonated with me. Scraps that were collected like pebbles to be polished through frequent handling. A knight in shining armor. A dragon. A giant robot with laser cannons. Whatever turned my crank, really. This is what kids do. They mix and match. Throw cowboys, indians, and World War Two army men together. Dinosaurs and princesses. Toyboxes dumped out to create original little worlds.

Now, I never had many toys. My dad was cheap; he wasn’t about spending his money on overpriced, plastic shit for our amusement. But we had books, and we were read to. This, over the longer course, I have learned, was the greater gift.

Without an abundance of physical objects to focus on, my sister and I put our creative energies into expanding the roles and the worlds of the objects we did have. Our stuffed toys developed hierarchies; powers; rules and codes. It all got very nuanced and complicated.

I think if we had been given every figure and figurine, playset and accessory we could have desired, then we would not have developed that capacity. There is no need for the imagination to fill in the gaps if some consumer product is always there to do it. I believe this is doubly so with television and video games.

So by the time I started consuming proper fantasy in cartoons and movies, I was well equipped to pick up the imagery it provided for my own use. Star Wars and Transformers were mixed and matched with this, that, and the other. Just as a toybox is dumped out to play, there was no proprietary separation of intellectual property and genre. Whatever turned my crank.

A huge source of this inspiration was Star Wars, episode four, A New Hope. I saw it in a theater when I was about four or five and it scared the shit out of me. But it also inspired me on a level that nothing else had to that point. Before the toys were even around me, I was occupying that world in my own head. As a stormtrooper or Darth Vader, generally (why this is shall be good fodder for a later navel gazing piece, me thinks).

By grade one or two this obsession also helped me bond with fellow children in a way I hadn’t before. We could share this fantasy. Play within it together. What fun!

Fantasy no longer had to be a solitary venture. It was now collaborative. Game changer (or creator, if you will).

I recall how in early elementary school, when the whole, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” bullshit started, I thought about Marc Hammel as Luke Skywalker. I wanted to be an actor, because I thought it was the actors who created these stories that were so enriching my life. What a cool thing to be! It was some smart aleck girl that informed me that it is not the actors that really create the story; they just read what the writer tells them to. Well, thank you miss bossy thing!

If this is the case, then a writer is the thing to be, isn’t it?

read part 2

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