Why is Fantasy Important?

"We don't create a fantasy world to escape reality. We create it to be able to stay."
Lynda Barry
We hear it all the time, whenever we bury ourselves in a book of fantasy, whether someone else wrote it or we're writing one of our own. There you go again, escaping reality in a fantasy world.

And maybe part of that's true, but I don't think it's the whole story. Yes, sometimes we do turn to books with magic in them when we're having a hard time of it in the so-called real world. But they can also help us understand that real world better. All good fantasy books have elements of reality woven throughout. Even the most out-there, bizarre, there's no way that could happen books teach us things, make us feel, make us think. But perhaps most importantly, they let us have fun along the way.

A lot of us take our lives way too seriously these days. I know I'm one of those people. But when I read or write fantasy, I'm forced to throw away that serious outlook, and for a time I believe in vampires and elemental abilities and an assortment of things we don't see or hear of in reality. And what's not fun about that? Even if the vampire is ripping out a human's throat, I'm enjoying myself because it channels my imagination and creativity, which I firmly believe is the blood, the water of life that makes this world worth living in.

But the best works of fantasy blend fun and imagination with cold reality. Works of fantasy touch on discrimination, on revenge, on a multitude of real world problems, but at the same time, there's a girl who can fly, a boy who's discovering for the first time that he can make ice out of nothing. This makes the not so fun aspects seem more tolerable, gives us a break from the harsh, the devastating. Those fairies and dragons and magical artifacts and alternate dimensions make everything else worth it.

To discuss real world problems while still having fun along the way is just one major reason why fantasy is important, of course, so I ask you: Why do you love fantasy? What makes you cling to it as I do?

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