I keep coming across this question in book groups and it’s one of those questions that just knocks around my head. “Why do you read about things that aren’t real? Why read science fiction or fantasy? (Those are separate genres, for the record… a rant for another day.)
And I just keep coming back to “Why not?”
Non-fiction and general or historical fiction are all well and fine, but they’re planted firmly in reality, which is honestly pretty mundane. Don’t get me wrong, the right memoir or the right historical fiction story might spark something for me, but in general, I’m not drawn to stories about real life.
Simply put, I read for escape. I’m perfectly happy with my normal, drama-free life but I love to live vicariously through the eyes of characters experiencing what is impossible for me to experience. No matter how exciting my life might turn out to be, I’ll never be chased by a dragon or launched into space. I’m never going to dine with fairies or participate in epic battles with magic trees and elves.
Not only that, but there’s an extra layer of imagination from the author to craft a good science fiction or fantasy novel. Not to knock writers of general fiction, but there’s less imagination required to describe how a middle-class neighborhood and social circle functions than there is to create a functional system of magic or define a new society ruled by technology.
There’s something special about cracking open a book and discovering a new take on elven society or a system of magic that’s unlike anything I’ve read before. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve finished and simply marveled at the amount of imagination it takes to create something like what I just read (Max Gladstone’s Craft Sequence comes to mind.)
I’m not drawn to the fictional tales of people’s sad, broken lives. There are only so many stories of brokenhearted wives discovering their husband cheating on them that I can stand. I lead my own mundane life and while I’m happily married and leading a drama-free life, I find it somewhat voyeuristic to consume the stories of others’ run of the mill unhappiness.
You’ll find the occasional non-fiction or general fiction novel featured on this blog, which will hopefully signal when I’ve found something that does catch my fairly narrow fancy.
That’s why I read science fiction and fantasy – but what about you, Reader? Do you read scifi or fantasy? If so, why? If not, why not?