A fellow Deviant shared this poll a few months ago, and it got me thinking about my reading habits. Actually, it got me thinking about my media consumption habits in general. If you ask me what I gravitate toward, I’ll answer fantasy and science fiction without a second thought. If you ask me why, I can’t answer. I grew up with fantasy and science fiction, so I’ve never really thought much about why I’ve stayed. They’ve both just always been a part of my life.
I’m not even locked into one specific subgenre within either genre. I’m just as likely to pick up sword-and-sorcery fantasy as I am urban fantasy; and I’ll sit down to space exploration science fiction as quickly as I’ll sit down to dystopian or cyberpunk science fiction. There’s just something I can get from both genres that I can’t get from other genres. It’s taken me a few months, two new personal projects, and a freelance writing project, but I think I can offer an explanation (that won’t surprise anyone who knows me or my work). And I think the best way to approach that explanation is by talking about one of my favorite fantasy authors: Brandon Sanderson.
Brandon Sanderson is an amazing writer. He has a gift for taking political thrillers, dressing them up with well-designed science-based magic systems, and exploring sociological issues in a way that speaks to both my inner fan girl and my inner anthropologist. He develops these rich, vibrant worlds that you can’t help but be sucked into because there’s something so familiar about them, and they’re populated with characters that feel like real people. Between reading his books and listening to a podcast he participates in, I’ve learned so much about building viable worlds that I’m now putting to use in my own work.
That’s how both science fiction and fantasy work. Both allow authors to hold up a mirror to society in a way that’s less painful than just bluntly pointing fingers. They allow authors to explore or react to things going on around them, and I think that’s just beautiful.
Un Lun Dun is set in the city of Un Lun Dun, which mirrors London. Things are named based on what the Un Lun Dun residents hear London residents say in a manner completely reminiscent of Piers Anthony’s pun-filled Xanth. Through a case of mistaken identity, a Londoner and her friend are chased into Un Lun Dun by an umbrella, only to discover that one girl is expected to rescue Un Lun Dun from the Smog that is becoming a bigger threat to the abcity.
I had been warned when the book was recommended to me that it was strongly reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, but I saw so many fantasy movies and books in it. It was a quick read, entertaining at times, preachy at others. Deeba was a great protagonist, stronger than the characters I could see reflected in her.
For those who enjoy mirror worlds and quests, this a great way to kill an afternoon.
When I was in college, I started planning out a piece about a girl from a simpler time ahead of ours unearthing our lives ten years ago and trying to make sense of what kind of people we were. I’m always weird like that. I often feel that we should be mindful of our actions because written history may be the only thing that shows who we as a race were to the future (if we’re lucky).
I hadn’t really stopped to think about the ramifications of anthropology in fantasy and science fiction until I read this rather interesting, brief article on authors who have expertly woven anthropological topics into their wonderful stories! It’s true. When you engage in the art of worldbuilding, you really have to consider so many aspects of that world. It’s not going to be the backdrop for one small story. It’s going to be a thriving society where people live out normal lives.
The science fiction and fantasy genres allow us to look in on a world different from our own, but they pull us in by encountering the same issues we face, by applying their values to challenging situations, by being not entirely dissimilar from us. It’s something like opening a history book and reading about people who lived a hundred years, except these people don’t exist within our own reality.
It’s certainly food for thought!