I used to write a lot of non-fiction. I would write about my world travels, my love affairs, moments in time that felt significant. But it always fell short for me. It felt laborious and although I tried to infuse my non-fiction with the magic I feel lives in the world, I could never quite make it…magical enough.
So I turned to fantasy. The more I write the more I fall in love with the genre. I am mostly interested in urban fantasy, magic realism, myth, fairytale and more subtle types of magic. No high fantasy with elves and orcs. No sci-fi with spaceships and lasers. It’s not that I have a problem with high fantasy or sci-fi, it’s just not quite right for me.
What I love about the more subtle tones of fantasy is that it allows for vivid and vibrant metaphor. I get to play with magical creatures and concepts and use them to represent things that are typically more mundane. It gives me an opportunity to build the world I always used to imagine (and still do), where there are mysteries just beyond our reach and you can catch glimmers of magic in the corner of your eye.
A speculative approach also allows us to examine hard questions, challenges, bias’ and conflict within a unique and sometimes safer context. When it is just beyond reality, it is easier to hold tough issues up to the light and take a good hard look. Through the metaphor of magic we can find ways to express things that might otherwise be too crude or dull.
I want my stories to mean something and for the most part I’m succeeding at having them do just that. You certainly don’t need to write non-fiction or mundane fiction (I don’t know what else to call regular fiction) in order to delve deep into the psyche of the world.
I’ve read a couple of articles suggesting that the world of speculative fiction is taken less seriously as an art form or a form of literature. I’m not sure if that is entirely true, but to those who think that magic can’t have meaning I say, why not? Sure there’s loads of speculative fiction out there that may not strive to do much more than tell a cool story that involves vampires or witches or spaceships. But the same could be said of any genre. What matters most is that there are loads of stories out there in the speculative fiction world that strive for meaning and purpose.
I love speculative fiction because it allows me to imagine a world just below the surface of our own, where magic is metaphor and everything means something.
Why do you love speculative fiction?
Or if you don’t, why not?