What do you do at the end of a long day? Maybe you come home and sit in front of the TV, hit the gym, or spend time playing games with your family. All of these things help you to de-stress and combat the pressures of the day.
For me, the best way to kick back after an intense day is to get lost in the pages of a book. There's nothing I like more than to forget about my problems for a few minutes as I follow the adventures of a warrior, sorcerer, king, thief, assassin, or some other fantasy character.
Until very recently, fantasy (and science fiction) was the "genre for nerds". People who talked about Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or Warhammer 40K were perceived as "dorks" or "geeks". Speculative fiction may be perceived as a "commercial" or "popular" genre, perhaps even lacking the "literary" quality of the deeper genres: women's fiction, creative non-fiction, etc.
But so what? Fantasy is as great an escape as Sherlock Holmes, Atlas Shrugged, or Fahrenheit 451. Just because the books don't deal with the deep, world-changing topics, that doesn't mean they don't have value. Quite the contrary—I'd argue most fantasy books contain some pretty interesting truths that other genres can never quite touch on.
Fantasy gives us a way to step back and examine hot button issues with a sort of "disconnect" that modern fiction doesn't allow. By creating fictional religions, political systems, economical situations, or social issues, we have the freedom to discuss them without our personal beliefs and preferences interfering or making us feel offended. I can showcase how bad my fictional religion is without making Christians, Muslims, or Buddhists feel attacked. I can write about the dangers of an oligarchy of evil without making Democrats or Republicans feel like they're under siege.
And so what if fantasy isn't as deep as other genres? I love how Neil Gaiman put it:
"Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you've never been. Once you've visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.
If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn't you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real."
To me, fantasy offers the ability to step out of all of today's problems and escape into yesterday. The issues around me fade for a short while. I'm free from the prison of my worries, stresses, and anxieties. I'll take that any day!
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