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Silly Fantasies

My first addition to the official Orbit blog page.  This is serious.  This is important.  This is something to think about.  So I’m going to just leap into the fray and admit something.

Fantasy is silly.

It just is.  There’s no way around this, and to think otherwise is an unnecessary strain on your justification cortex.  (I don’t know if there’s such a thing but seems like there should be if there isn’t.)

Science Fiction is (mostly) silly, too.  It’s all absurd, ridiculous, nonsensical stuff.  It’s whimsy.  It’s make-believe.  It’s escapist.  It’s childish.  It’s all these wonderful things and more.

I’m not suggesting that there aren’t many profound, thoughtful, well-conceived fantasy / sci fi stories out there.  There are plenty.  Tons of ’em.  But this doesn’t change the fact that at the heart of all fiction in general and fantasy / sci fi in particular is (forgive the bluntness) silliness.

Vampires are silly.  Werewolves are silly.  Vulcans are silly, and so are faster-than-light spaceships.  Teleportation is silly, but no sillier than psychic powers or magic spells or mole people.  All are ridiculous things.  And that’s why I love writing about them and love reading about them.

I grew up on comic books, Duck Tales, and Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers.  One of my favorite comic book characters is a walking plant (no, not the Swamp Thing, the other one).  I love watching Godzilla piledrive a mutant insect into downtown Tokyo, and Superman is my hero.  Of all the movies I’ve seen recently, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was the most fun, most engaging, and downright heartfelt.  And, yes, I realize that the climax of this film involves our hero having to infiltrate a giant flying meatball to save the world.  And I’m cool with that.

There are no vampires, no ghosts, no alien invaders, or ancient gods sitting on your doorstep.  Most probably, there never will be.  That’s why I write fantasy because when you’re a kid, you get to pretend like maybe those things are real.  (Well, not me.  I was pretty skeptical even as a kid.)  And when I sit down to write a story about mooching gods or Cthulhu with an eating disorder, I get to pretend for just a little while that maybe they’re real again.

We can come up with any pop psychology excuse we want for enjoying stories involving things that we know aren’t real.  We can label zombies as stand-ins for consumer culture or say that Star Trek is all about a hopeful future.  But really, when you get right down to it, zombies are scary monsters that eat your face and Star Trek is all about how cool we wish the future will be.  Though it most probably won’t be 1/10th as interesting, and I’m just going to assume there aren’t any giant space squids or ruthless cyborgs waiting for us out there.

But that won’t stop us from dreaming.  From pretending.  From indulging our need to believe, if only for a little while, that lamps have genies in them, that monsters may indeed be lurking in the backs of our closets, and that, if we could just get bit by a radioactive animal, we could gain powers and abilities related to said animal.

Sure, it’s silly, but that’s what makes it worthwhile.

about the author

A. Lee Martinez

  1. Karin Lowachee

    Karin

    October 5, 2009
    at 12:28 pm

    “I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”

    –Dr. Seuss

  2. Gloria Oliver

    October 5, 2009
    at 1:16 pm

    Long Live the Sillyness! Booyah, Brother!

  3. Kristen Painter

    Kristen Painter

    October 5, 2009
    at 3:42 pm

    Is it wrong that I wish it really would rain meatballs? Or maybe that’s my diet talking.

  4. Topher Knowles

    October 6, 2009
    at 7:29 am

    I wholeheartedly agree with you, but at the same time believe that it is not enough for fantasy to simply be silly, actually on second thoughts maybe it’s ok for lowest-common-denominator fantasy.

    Watching a werewolf fight a vampire will always appeal to my inner-child.

    However it is when an engaging, emotional and expertly executed storyline is attached to these silly things that they become worthwhile.

    Perhaps it is only when writing about the absurd that we can really detach ourselves enough from reality to create a REALLY good story.

  5. Steven Klotz

    October 6, 2009
    at 6:59 pm

    My initial reaction to this was “SFF is also all orange if you look through the right filter.”

    As an individual interacting with reality, I find myself to be silly and find silliness in my surroundings. However, I tend to take my speculative fiction VERY serious. There’s something powerful about dealing with unconstrained ideas.

    Reality is a spectrum of silliness from cute kittens to health-care debates. It’s also possible I’m just being contrary, so as to inject just a bit more silliness into this discussion.

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