There’s a reason fantasy as a genre exists and it comes down to one simple idea: escape.
When I think of Tolkein returning home from war and the world and story of The Lord of the Rings, I am not surprised by his decision to dive headfirst into a mystical and magical realm, where everyone can be a hero and anything is possible.
TLotR is about war and greed and power and grief and all of that glorious stuff. In a modern setting, it would be like most other war books. But chuck all of that into a fantastical setting, and suddenly the story of a ring that latches onto the worst parts of any creature makes for an incredible tale of loss, hope and courage. Fantasy as a genre creates a space where all of the terror of reality can be looked at through a different lens, one that doesn’t inspire too much fear or despair because… well it’s all made up anyway, right?
Writing fantasy is simultaneously the hardest and easiest thing. For me anyway. Creating a world from scratch is fun and exciting. Creating rules in which my world exists around is tricky. Creating a meaningful story that resonates with readers, but also allows them the escapism they desire is Difficult, with a capital D.
But I still do it.
And I’ll continue to do it.
Because no one can convince me that sitting on a bus and reading news headlines about civil war and terrorism is more fun and exciting than disappearing into a magical world about rivalling kingdoms fighting for the same throne, with a backdrop of unicorns, love and wish-granting fairies.
It’s the same at its core, but I know which one I prefer.
There will always be a need for escapism. The world around us can be scary and awful and exhausting. I think the thing I hope to remember as an author and a reader is that whilst I can find a safe haven between the pages of a book, I should do my best to learn to exist in our crazy world too.