Why Do We Read Fantasy Novels?

The Reality of Escapism

Photo by Ricardo Cruz on Unsplash

Why are we drawn to the fantastical imagination of stories?

Reading is the ultimate escape. By reading you can tune out the world. I have been known to not even hear what is happening in the same room that I am sitting in when I read.

Escapism allows a reprieve or a distraction from everyday circumstances. If you like to watch television or movies, listen to music, play games, and daydream, you have participated in escapism. Fantasy stories take just simple distraction to another level by giving the reader a completely different world to focus their mind.

Escapist fiction provides a psychological escape from thoughts of everyday life by immersing the reader in exotic situations or seemingly impossible activities. Fantasy feeds our sense of wonder. The phrase “escapist fiction” is often said with condescension. Some readers, academics and authors hold a belief that serious literature is on one side of the gumat. On the opposite side is all the other fiction. “Other” meaning fantasy novels, romance, erotica, science fiction…you get the idea….and sadly, included in that are books written by a woman or LGBT authors….The implication is that if you are reading these books to escape the realities of your everyday life, you must not be a serious reader or an educated one.

I say who gives “them” the right to be a genre bigot?

This bigotry has subsided some over the past couple of decades with the mainstream popularity of some prominent stories. Well-written fantasy will fascinate and excite the reader enough to take them out of the nice safe box of reality and into their imaginations. If a story is successful in that task, it will permeate the normal rhetoric of society.

The reality of escapism is that it is a good thing for you to do. Studies have proven that daydreaming can improve goal setting. Reading can reduce stress. Fantasizing can save a marriage.

I write and read fantasy all the time. Why? To experience life in new ways not limited by rules and impossibilities. Escapism is for me a way to tap into the deepest parts of who I am as a reader and an author. When reading something about a strange world with a character in the midst of a pariless event, it makes me think about what I would do in the same situation as the character.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” 
― Michael Scott, The Warlock

So, here’s to the fantasy readers!

Read and escape! Live many lives in the fantasy world of your choosing. Only when you have fought the beast, found the gold and explored the alien planet…only then come back to the real world in it’s drab ordinary existence, see past the humdrum of it all to the potential magic reality holds. After you have experienced the fantastic you can embrace real life and kick ass while you’re at it.

It is all a matter of perspective.

~Lori O’Gara

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