It has occurred to me that we haven’t gone all meta on fantasy at this blog yet, which is odd, seeings as this entire blog is premised on the role of fantasy, as a branch of speculative fiction, in human society.
I did a quick google of ‘what is fantasy?’ and this is what I came up with:
From wikipedia: Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common. Fantasy is generally distinguished from the genres of science fiction and horror by the expectation that it steers clear of scientific and macabre themes, respectively, though there is a great deal of overlap between the three, all of which are subgenres of speculative fiction.
From about.com: In books, TV, and movies, fantasy refers to fiction that doesn’t assume everything has to be explained by science as we know it. Science fiction accepts the basic structure of our natural universe; but with fantasy nature itself can be different, physical laws can be different (or nonexistent!), and the ordering of the universe is entirely up for grabs. Because fantasy allows for changes to nature itself, fantasy literature is often closer to the ground than some kinds of science fiction.
And if we go to answers.com: (făn’tə-sē, -zē)
n., pl., -sies.
- The creative imagination; unrestrained fancy. See synonyms at imagination.
- Something, such as an invention, that is a creation of the fancy.
- A capricious or fantastic idea; a conceit.
- Fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements.
- An example of such fiction.
- An imagined event or sequence of mental images, such as a daydream, usually fulfilling a wish or psychological need.
- An unrealistic or improbable supposition.
This seems to me, to be enough to start with. Is fantasy simply unbridled imagination? Is it anything set in a make believe world? Is it anything that exists in a world that is not ours, no matter how similar? (so as to potentially include cyberpunk, steam punk and sci fi?) Where does one draw the line? More to the point, do we need to?
I don’t see much point in the distinctions between fantasy, sci fi and other forms of speculative fiction, because for me they all achieve the same goal (not to mention, too often, genres criss cross over). For me, speculative fiction allows one to ponder and communicate with, and about, the human condition in a meaningful way, precisely because of its reliance on symbol, myth, fable, allegory and ‘the unreal.’ In being unbound from the restrictions of certain modern day social, cultural and place bound realities, fantasy and science fiction can reveal deeper “truths” about what it means to be human. In a strange paradox, it is this creativity of the ‘untamed’ imagination that allows us the freedom to discuss, however obliquely, real life issues.