Real Fantasy

It’s officially Spring Break at Kansas State University, but because of my lack of funds and work schedule, I’m stuck in Manhattan (not the New York one) instead of sitting on the beach drinking Corona and getting my tan on. That wouldn’t be so depressing if the weather in Kansas hadn’t decided it was going to rain all week for the first time in months, negating my chances of enjoying some of the (surprisingly) abundant outdoorsy areas in the Manhattan area.

Unfortunately, not here.

Or here.

However, with classes on hiatus this week, there is one upside to not being able to venture outside…lots of time to write. This gives me not only some much needed time to work on my novel, but also allows me to elaborate a bit on that project while simultaneously populating the currently empty literature section of this blog. Optimistic efficiency at its finest!

Alright, so I actually have two projects underway at the moment. The first of those is of a more personal nature and a story for another time. The second, however, is the one I will detail in this post. One thing you need to know about my literature history before I write this post is that I love science fiction and fantasy. There’s nothing better than being transported to a different place and time. The good fantasy writers know how to make you care for characters that are doing things that are impossible to relate to in places that you won’t ever visit. They can paint such vivid landscapes or develop characters with such universal personalities and flaws that you can’t help but become entranced by the worlds and people these writers create.

This post, however, is going to make it sound like I hate them all.

Recently, I’ve noticed a disturbing trend in the fantasy/sci-fi arena — everything coming out is either focused on the Teen/Young Adult fanbase or the super-complex epic fantasy market where the hardcore fans of the genre reside. The trending toward teen and YA novels is understandable. With the humongous success of franchises such as Harry Potter or The Hunger Games there is an insatiable market for that kind of book. Don’t get me wrong, I love those series and their cross-market appeal is undeniable, but as a young twenty-something, I find it hard to relate to characters who get embarrassed by snogging or are young geniuses a la Artemis Fowl…or are 100-year-old vampires lusting after 17-year-old girls for that matter.

No.

Problems abound in the epic fantasy department as well. I’ll admit, I’m a huge nerd and love series such as Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time, Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth, and Steven Erickson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, but the things I love about those novels, the rich, complex worlds and compelling, impossible characters, are also their downfall. After awhile, you realize what’s happening in those novels will never happen in real life, and again, relatability becomes a glaring issue. There’s always some deus ex machina, an ancient prophecy, or a magic that only the main protagonist can use to overcome impossible odds and beat some overarching evil in the end. Most of these novel’s worlds are naive and old-school. If I have to hear Rand, Perrin, or Mat complain about their lack of woman skills one more time when they have women crawling at their feet, I might strangle something. Or read any more chapters where all the characters are doing is traveling by horse, boat, ancient wagon, etc. for 40 pages. Or read about the protagonists’ angst as the survival of their impossible worlds comes crashing down on their shoulders. Or…well, the point I’m trying to make is that a lot of those epic fantasies turn to the same tropes and plot holes that have burdened the genre since its inception into the mainstream (think Lord of the Rings).

Good luck relating to this guy.

This brings me to my final point — there’s a glaring void in the genre for realistic fantasy targeted at my age group, the young twenty-something who’s trying to figure out what they want to do with their life while simultaneously attempting to juggle all of the emotion and turmoil that comes with that responsibility. One of my favorite novels of the last couple years is Lev Grossman’s The Magicians for the simple fact that he tries to fill this void by combining the magic of fantasy classics like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia with the emotions and choices my age group faces in novels like Bret Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero. I don’t think Mr. Grossman went far enough, though. His portrayal of several characters felt hollow and distant, possibly because it’s been awhile since he’s experienced what his college-aged characters are going through. I want to go further. I want to write something where a college freshman could step out of their dorm after reading my novel and think that what I wrote could actually happen on their way to class. I want to develop characters from my college experiences that any adult my age could relate to, adults older than me could look back on and reminisce about, and high schoolers could strive to be. I want to describe the college experience — the pain, the joy, the stress, the growing, and everything in between — while still capturing the magic of the fantasy genre. That’s what I hope to accomplish with my first novel.  I want to create real, relatable fantasy.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Real Fantasy”
  1. Aly Hughes says:

    YES! I’m not the only college-aged person who yearns for characters to relate to! I too feel like the characters I read about are either below or above me in age and experience. Which is probably why I write within my age group as well. Good luck on both of your projects!

  2. Jeyna Grace says:

    LOL! I love your caption for the twilight picture. haha!

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