An article appeared over the weekend titled “Wanted: Respect For Wizards, Orcs”.
It’s about a fantasy writer who takes a little slack for being a fantasy writer. The way people look at him, etc. – and I thought it was interesting.
When we say we are writers, people look and tend to have the raised eyebrow of “Wow, a writer.” They maybe imagine us digging through books, finding the greatest unfound fact of life. Or perhaps they see us hovered of a desk, writing by hand with a candle, penning what will be the greatest piece of literature in the world… something that will change the world. Something that will win awards. Something that will touch lives.
But what about us who then tell our genre and that raised eyebrow turns into a casual smile, head nod, and an excuse to terminate the conversation?
For me, it’s horror. When I tell people I’m a horror writer, the responses range from “Ew! I hate to be scared” to “Oh, like that one writer… King or something, right?”
I nod and try to move forward. But usually I get hit with more questions. “What do you write about?” “Why horror?” “You should write mysteries, I like those.” “Is anything else still scary?”
I usually try to explain the reason for horror and why it’s a viable, scary genre. I explain how it’s about taking someone’s innocence and freedom and messing with it. The man comes back from the grave… the ghost in the house… the murderer coming… these are all things that take our innocence and freedom and scare us.
I will always go back to Pet Sematary because it changed my life… look at that book. It was scary, yes, but the underlying message was “Dead is better”. It was about learning to let go… in the midst of horror.
Now, why do I write horror?
Because I always have. I love it. I’ve written literary fiction in the past, mostly for myself… more of a journal in a way. I like it, I read it, but I want something to take me away. Take me away from the normal of my life… mess with it. And if it gets too messy I can just close the book!
Same for fantasy, sci-fi, etc.
These stories and books have purpose and meaning within their words. Sure, maybe fantasy is about overcoming something bigger then yourself, but then again, isn’t that life? Isn’t that why we watch certain TV shows? We want to see the cops catch the murderer. We want House to save the dying patient. We, as readers and people, need to read stories that remind us that WE can overcome things in our life. Sure, maybe in the book, the man is killing a dragon… but what does that mean to you?
I was lucky enough to reach out to a good friend and fantasy writer, Maria Kelly who wrote up a quick piece for this post… take away Maria:
Is fantasy “escapist literature?” Absolutely. When you think about it, all fiction is escapist literature. Why would we read anything, if not to get away from the mundane world for awhile? To me, fantasy literature transports us like no other literature can. I often dreamed I was adventuring alongside the hobbits when I was a little girl. And I still do! As for writing, I’m proud to be a fantasist. There’s nothing more exhilarating than creating a whole new world with heroes, villains, creatures, and magic. I sit back and think, “Wow, that came out of MY head.” Also, I believe fantasy fiction is about hope. Fantasy for the most part deals with dangerous and seemingly impossible situations. Then the main character of the tale becomes the hero or heroine because he or she is willing to think beyond what is possible and dare to achieve the impossible. And we need that in our troubled world today. We need fantasy now more than ever.
I love her last couple lines. This troubled world, more than ever. It’s true. We need fiction. We need books. We need horror. We need fantasy. And we do need the change-the-world books like To Kill a Mockingbird, etc.
But for those who are genre writers, they are just as important. To pen a zombie novel, for example, you can take the gore route, sure. But if you do it right, and you explore the notion of bringing the dead to life, to messing up people’s everyday lives, to taking their innocence and freedom away, you can really touch people. If you can represent the rising dead things in their life – you can relate them to the story. Take them away for a little while. Show them how to overcome problems.
I’ll post the link to the article below, it was a smiling kind of article. To me, all writers and all books serve a purpose. Some may just be for entertainment. Some may dig deep into the world, life, the human soul. Some may be lined with a bigger message. And some may be someone hacking heads off of zombies. Is there anything wrong with that? To me… I say… NOPE.
The words count. The words make pages. And pages make a story. And one thing’s for damn sure, readers… well, they like stories.