The Geomancer


The Politics of Fantasy and Books You Read Twice

Author James Enge, whose Blood of Ambrosecomes out from Pyr this coming Spring, guest-blogs at Deep Genre.

Here's a sample:
Fantasy is most effective when it acts through symbols that rest pretty deep in the awareness (or beneath the awareness, if you buy into the whole subconscious thing). At the center of every adult’s emotional life is a struggle for autonomy that occurs in adolescence. One may be struggling against well-meaning (or not so well-meaning) caregivers who are reluctant to surrender their authority. One may be raised in perfect environment that encourages autonomy and self-responsibility, but one still has to go out and face the world, make one’s place in it. Somehow, this is part of everyone’s story.

Why do so many fantasies involve young sons of widows who grow up to kill the monster, defeat the king, marry the princess and rule the kingdom happily ever after? Some point out that these stories are very old; this is true, but it’s just begging the question. A story appeals to audiences because it speaks to them emotionally. Why does this story appeal to modern audiences or ancient ones?

It appeals to them because it’s a symbolic representation of the struggle for autonomy that everybody engages in. The kingdom isn’t necessarily a kingdom; it’s just a life where you get to decide what happens. The princess isn’t a princess; she’s the hot checkout lady at the grocery store or maybe the likeable mechanic at the gas station, depending on how you roll. In fact, the hero may be a daughter, more like Atalanta or Camilla, nowadays: the dynamic of the story is essentially unchanged. The story has a wide appeal because its symbols are wired into emotional hot-buttons that are part of everybody’s life.

Meanwhile, Yours Truly is one of several authors to partake of SFSignal's latest Mind Meld. This one asks, "Which speculative fiction books are worth reading twice? Why?" Answers are from Louise Marley, Cheryl Morgan, James E. Gunn, Gardner Dozois, Sarah Langan, Abigail Nussbaum, Anna Genoese, Scott Edelman, Jo Graham, and Dominic Green. Not surprisingly Dune, Lord of the Rings, and Mists of Avalon appear several times across everyone's lists. And Cheryl Morgan sums up the problems of rereading nicely:
I have too many books. Probably more books that I will be able to read in the rest of my allotted span as a living human (though I entertain hopes of being uploaded in some way or another). In order to read a book for a second time, therefore, I have to make a conscious decision not to read a book that I haven't yet read. That's a hard thing to do.

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