me getting slighly pompous
So, recently I’ve been reading Mervyn Peake’s “Titus Groan,” the first of his Gormenghast, and it’s simply phenomenal. About half way in there is still no real sense of narrative structure but everything else is simply wonderful and the book pulls you along with the power of its wonderful eruption of prose, wit, and erudition. Never before have I been confronted with so many wonderful visions presented with such lucidity and clarity. His writing is incredible. And what’s more, for all it’s gothic trappings, it’s written with a sense of humour.
Read it, read it now.
However, I didn’t really want to talk about how great Mervyn Peake is, but rather about one of the quotes on the back, which comes courtesy of Mr C. S. Lewis. And it is this:
“[Peake’s books] are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of possible experience.”
Now, obviously there is the usual sense of book-blurb-hyperbole here, but I think the quote really strikes at the heart of what I believe fantastic fiction should be. By throwing of the trappings of the quotidian, or at least by throwing up a point of contrast against which the quotidian can be compared, fantasy doesn’t just transport the reader to other lands but transports there minds to new emotions, new perspectives, new attitudes.
It comes back to the whole escapism/engaging in the world thing.
Speculative fiction has the ability to batter the reader with more weird, crazed shit than any other genre can. It can throw up more contrast to the everyday than any other genre. And unless we are limited by the perceived limits of the genre, then its limits are those of the writer’s imagination.
If fantasy engages with the world, rather than simply offering a route out of it, it can broaden a readers mind more than any other type of fiction out there.
And it’s legal too, kids.
This is not simply a platitude though, this is a call for action. If anyone who writes speculative fiction reads this, don’t just pat yourself on the back and say “Whoop-dee-doo now I can feel good about what I write,” go away with the knowledge of the power of what you can do with your fiction and let that fuel you. Work to confront your readers with scene-scapes they have never even conceived of the possibility of occurring before. Broaden their perspectives. Make them see things differently.
Because that’s the way to change the world. And if it didn’t need changing, why would be pursuing such an escapist pastime as reading fantasy?