Friday, November 05, 2004

Fantasy is suddenly ... cool?

The Tacoma, Wash., News Tribune contends these are "heady times" for fantasy fans: The Lord of the Rings took the box office by storm; Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is a runaway hit; and Ursula K. Le Guin's A Wizard of Earthsea has been transformed into a TV miniseries. In short, fantasy fiction has become "cool." How'd that happen?
“It seems that Harry Potter, a kids’ book, kind of broke down their prejudices,” Le Guin said recently. “People are willing to take fantasy seriously, instead of saying, ‘I don’t read that kind of thing.’”

And that’s important, she believes, because fantasy works can take real problems and put them in a different setting to come up with imaginative solutions.

“Fantasy is a literature particularly useful for embodying and examining the real difference between good and evil,” Le Guin said last summer in a speech at the BookExpo America convention in Chicago. “In an America where our reality may seem degraded to posturing patriotism and self-righteous brutality, imaginative literature continues to question what heroism is, to examine the roots of power and to offer moral alternatives.”

The article also contains Clarke's fantasy recommendations: The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkein; A Wizard of Earthsea, by Le Guin; The Golden Compass, by Philip Pullman; Little, Big, by John Crowley; American Gods, by Neil Gaiman; and Promethea and Top Ten, by Alan Moore.