My Love Letter to Fantasy

by

Vanessa Di Gregorio

I’ve heard many people talk about how much they admire and love literary fiction. I’ve been in countless classes, studying great literary works – both classic and contemporary. I’m surrounded by many individuals who live and breathe and voraciously read works of literary fiction in my industry. And of course, the biggest and most prestigious of awards tend to lean towards the literary.

Well. That’s all fine and dandy, and I certainly have enjoyed many a literary novel, but… those aren’t usually the books that keep me up until 4 am, reading until I just can’t keep my eyes open anymore. Those aren’t the books that haunt my dreams, that I re-read over and over and over again, that have stuck with me since childhood. Those aren’t the types of stories that float around my own head, waiting to be put to paper.

You know what I’m talking about! I’m talking genre fiction. And more specifically, fantasy. Sure, many people look down on genre and see it as just popular fiction. Some scoff at it, assume there is no literary merit.

And those people are wrong.

Fantasy explores not only fantastical worlds, but the human condition. And war. And history. And relationships. And power, and consequence, and death, and life, and just about anything else you can imagine. And you know what? It’s also able to do that with beautiful prose and haunting imagery.

But even with all the love my favourite genre gets (I know a lot of you are with me on this!), it still is often thought of as fluff by some. I still see fantasy lumped into the category of “genre”, far from the “literary”. I still get the occasional eyebrow raise and uncertain half-smile from those unfortunate enough to not understand the fantastic.  Really, I just pity the people who don’t understand the wonder of fantasy – the people who have lost that bit of their childhood and imagination.

But it still bothers me, just a little bit, when I notice people looking down their nose at my copy of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, or The Hobbit, or Graceling.  Yeah, my book’s cover has a castle, or a sword, or a knight, or a dragon, or flame coming out of an object. Or all of those things. Because fantasy is awesome like that. Deep down, I know those haters are just plain jealous. But just in case they still don’t understand, I thought I’d write a letter to explain how I feel.

So here is my love letter to my #1 genre of choice (you know who you are!):

Dear Fantasy,

You are pure magic. You make my blood sing in my veins every time I look upon you. Your words take my breath away everytime you describe a new place. I dream of you, always. You take me to places I’ve never been before, worlds that I live in and breathe in and sweat in while I hold your books in my hands. You transport me from the dull, mundane world I live in to these fantastical places with miraculous creatures that take me along with them as they soar across the sky. I didn’t always know that I loved you – I even ignored you for many years, thinking you weren’t good for me. But oh, how I longed for you! Your many worlds, your fantastic heroes, your epic battles. I can’t imagine living without the laughs, the sighs, the tears of joy and sorrow.

You make the world more colourful.

You inspire me, and I will never, ever deny myself from having you.

Love forever and always,
Vanessa

To all you fellow genre lovers: write an ode/love letter of your own to your favourite genre. Blog about it. Wear your genre on your sleeve. And if you do blog about it, link to it in the comments so that I can read them!

Vanessa Di Gregorio works in publishing as a sales rep at Ampersand, a book and gift sales agency. She is also a former literary agency intern. When she isn’t out selling books and talking to bookstores, Vanessa can be found over at Something Geeky, GoodreadsTwitter, or writing for Paper Droids.

19 Responses to My Love Letter to Fantasy

  1. Rowenna Aug 17 2012 at 9:55 am #

    Love this post, Vanessa! Though I do enjoy literary fiction and classics, it’s not to the exclusion of genre fiction. It just seems silly to me to write off whole categories of fiction because it doesn’t get the right label. Any book worth its salt explores the same themes as literary fiction does–it just does so in a different way. And sometimes has a better plot…

    Sometimes I wonder if those who look down on genre fiction are afraid to try it in case they like it better than literary fiction 🙂

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio
      Vanessa Di Gregorio Aug 20 2012 at 8:35 am #

      Thanks Rowenna! I’ve met a lot of literary snobs over the years (and, it pains me to admit, I turned into one myself for a little while back in University), and it’s sad. It’s sad that I didn’t want to be seen reading YA or Fantasy on the bus. It’s sad that I was embarrassed. So, I thought I should make up for my horrible behaviour to my fave genre by writing a love letter. 😛

  2. Alexa Love Books Aug 17 2012 at 10:17 am #

    I am absolutely LOVING this love letter to fantasy. It’s always going to be my favorite genre, though contemporary is slowly worming its way into my heart. There’s just something magical about fantasy – all while having an undercurrent or theme that actually mirrors real life issues, situations and emotions. It’s AWESOME.

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio
      Vanessa Di Gregorio Aug 20 2012 at 8:45 am #

      I absolutely, 110% AGREE! 😀 I enjoy other genres, but fantasy just has that little something that I just can’t get enough of!

  3. Krispy Aug 17 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    Oh Vanessa, I totally agree with you. Fantasy is my literary love forever for all the reasons you’ve described, and it does irk me just a little when people look down their nose at it -because fantasy dares to be grand and epic and imaginative while also being introspective and profound. One of my all-time favorite books is The Last Unicorn, and I’m sure people think that sounds ridiculous when I tell them that, but I just want to shake them and say READ IT. It’s beautiful in its prose, its story, and its messages.

    But I’m preaching to the choir here, so I’ll just leave this quote from G.K. Chesterton about fairy tales (a kind of fantasy): “Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio
      Vanessa Di Gregorio Aug 20 2012 at 8:49 am #

      AHHH! That quote is one of my all-time faves! It pretty much sums up the reason why fantasy is awesome in such a perfect way.

      And you have NO idea how many times I just wanted to shake someone! HIS DARK MATERIALS and the ABHORSEN trilogy are my faves, and it bothered me how many people would just give me a funny look when I told them.

      Hurrah for fellow fantasy lovers!

      • Krispy Aug 20 2012 at 12:10 pm #

        Ah! I LOVE the Abhorsen trilogy. What a great world, right? I was totally enchanted by the idea of the Bells and their use in necromancy. Sabriel is my favorite and I adore Mogget & the Disreputable Dog! 🙂

        I need to revisit HIS DARK MATERIALS. I’ve only ever read The Golden Compass, and I remember enjoying it but I guess it didn’t feel urgent for me to read the sequels at the time. Must do that!

        • Vanessa Di Gregorio
          Vanessa Di Gregorio Aug 20 2012 at 4:19 pm #

          I read HIS DARK MATERIALS when I was… 12? And seriously, I think that was the first time I wished SO MUCH that I could live in that world and have those characters be my friends in real life. It was also the first time a book was able to break my heart, but in a way that didn’t leave me bitter. Oh, what I wouldn’t do for a daemon!

          And honestly, Garth Nix is a genius for using bells and necromancy together. Quite possible one of my favourite fantasy worlds, EVER. And Mogget! <3 And the Disreputable Dog! <3

          Oh, and did you know they did a comic version of THE LAST UNICORN? It's STUNNING. And it kinda made me ridiculously happy :p

  4. Stephanie Allen Aug 17 2012 at 12:39 pm #

    As much as I love the literary stuff (Wuthering Heights is my favorite book aside from Harry Potter), I agree with you about how awesome fantasy is! Obviously, the people who frown on it just don’t know how much work really goes into it 🙂

  5. Alyssa Aug 17 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    I love this post! I always say that The Hobbit was the first book I ever fell in love with, and while that may not be entirely accurate, it was definitely the book that began my love affair with fantasy.

    I think too many people write fantasy off as kids’ stuff, but the awesome thing about genre fiction is that it still presents ideas and explores society in the same way that literary fiction does; however, it does it in a way that’s so interesting and involving that you don’t always immediately realize what you’re getting out of it. Then you look back on it and think, “Oh! This relates to that, and this was a great commentary on…” Sometimes literary fiction can be too obvious when it comes to the message it’s trying to convey, but I think genre fiction runs much less risk of that.

    Plus, I think a lot of genre fiction explores themes that are extremely relevant to today’s society, sometimes even more than classics and literary fiction do. The Hunger Games, for example, has some extremely important things to say about reality TV and the way we entertain ourselves, and about government and politics as well.

  6. JQ Trotter Aug 17 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    I love this post! Your letter is just too amusing. I adore fantasy, always have and always will. Genre fiction is popular because that’s what people want to read. Literary fiction, while still very good, just doesn’t hold the everyday person, in my opinion, like genre (particularly fantasy) fiction does. I feel sorry for those who don’t understand. It’s their dull imagination’s loss if they can’t grasp why fantasy is so great, not mine.

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio
      Vanessa Di Gregorio Aug 20 2012 at 9:27 am #

      Yes! And just because genre fiction is popular doesn’t mean it isn’t well written or literary.

      And to each their own. Some people just can’t get into fantasy – which is sad, but so long as they don’t think less of the people who read it, that’s fine. Though I have to admit, it also confuses me – because what’s not to love about fantasy?

  7. mclicious Aug 19 2012 at 11:49 am #

    This is so correct! You win. And I think especially today, when people actually go out and decide “I’m writing a literary novel” instead of just writing, those books usually stink of trying too hard to write abstruse sentences. I much prefer writers who just write books that say interesting things in interesting ways, “genre” be damned. Anything that tries to fit too much into a slot, be it crime, fantasy, or literary, is usually a fail, in my book.

    • Vanessa Di Gregorio
      Vanessa Di Gregorio Aug 20 2012 at 9:32 am #

      Awww, thank you! And I totally agree! I could care less what the genre is if it’s a well-written book – though there is that extra something about fantasy that makes it my fave genre. And I certainly don’t think ALL fantasy novels are brilliant – there are some that are bad, some that are good, and some that are brilliant – as with all genres. What matters is the writing first!

      • mclicious Aug 20 2012 at 10:12 am #

        Exactly! And I agree. Speculative fiction was my obsession when I was a kid, and I’m not stopping anytime soon. (And can I just say, bloggers who reply to people’s comments and engage in conversation are my favorite :-))

        • Vanessa Di Gregorio
          Vanessa Di Gregorio Aug 20 2012 at 4:24 pm #

          Ah, I DO love a good speculative fiction! Margaret Atwood always seems to do the trick for me there 😛 If you’ve got any faves, let me know! I’m always down for more book recs!

          (And WOOHOO! I love it when people respond to MY responses in the comments! Those are my fave types of readers ;P)

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