The Importance of the Impossible
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Imagination Adaptation

Posted by A.E. Marling in Why Fantasy

A paradox is when truth does a back flip, and the contortionist fact at issue here is that fantasy stories are memorable and resonate with the human experience, despite containing impossibilities that we have never encountered and never will be on this earth. I asked this week’s panel of experts why that might be.

“Limitless possibilities. Fantasy is not constrained by Wall St, or any of the crap we deal with daily. Also, magic. People want magic.”

“I think people see fantasy elements all around them every day in a glowing sunrise, flying in an airplane, sent on a quest, but fantasy books heighten everything. That appeals to me. Another reason is because we all want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves (magic).”

“I don’t think fantasy is any different from any other type of fiction in terms of the human experience. For me, fantasy is about living out something that would likely never happen in real life. It’s like all the stories you were told as a kid now coming to life. Monsters, etc
Fantasy is an escape from what can be the boring day-to-day. Imagining the impossible. Adventure, romance, mystery – fantasy has it all.”

Our Senior Fantasy Experts have hit upon some important points. Fantasy unhinges confining reality, manifesting age-old human dreams and desires. The early Homo sapiens might have paused in crushing each other’s skulls (30% of adults died of homicide back then OUCH!) and seen birds flying and imagined taking wing themselves, and this desire to fantasize, to daydream impossibilities may be written in our DNA. I suggest this tendency to entertain the absurd is our greatest adaptation. Without it, I do not for a moment believe we would have achieved air flight, learned how to restart a stopped heart, or cooked the Oreo pizza. (The last one proves fantasy can be used for evil…delicious, delicious evil.)

Magic, escapism, and true-to-life characters were also cited by the Senior Fantasy Experts. Fear not, savage readers, these topics and more will be covered, like syrup over pancakes, either by you now in the comments section or by me at a later date.

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6 Responses

  • EllieAnn says:

    Wow, Alan! Great post! Makes me love fantasy even more, and makes me thankful I was not born in early Homo Sapien times, lol.

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  • Korios says:

    But what about time paradoxes? And, more specifically, predestination paradox? I know that time traveling is mostly a sci-fi element, yet there are works like that of Murkok that combine both genres. Fantasy also has prophecies – which are, by definition, self-fulfilled – and invariably involve a number of paradoxes.

    The problem with time related paradoxes is that they are logical paradoxes.
    A talking bird or a talkning dog are not a logical paradox. A magic wand like that of Harry Potter, unless it messes with time, does not create logical paradoxes. Potter-style invisibility cloak is already a work in progress in the labs (google “metamaterials”). Even a flying carpet is not a logical paradox (see antigravity, baryons etc). All these could be already happening in an alternative universe or could happen in various forms in the future. But not so with time paradoxes. I avoid them like plague in my stories (I mostly write sci-fi). They are totally impossible, now or ever, even with radically different natural laws, e.g. in an alternative universe.

    They totally break the link between cause and effect or reverse them.
    The story or script becomes a total mess very fast, very badly; unless the reader completely stops thinking and reads passively like he being lobotomized. And yet they have been used since the ancient Greek days (Sophocles’ “Oedipus the King” ).

    Lack of imagination, tradition, old-fashionism, lack of fresh ideas, a Jungean archetype… all of these?

    • A.E. Marling says:

      To me, too, time travel seems the pinnacle of impossibility. Indeed, that spice is a little too strong for my tastes. However, many people do like time travel because it forces them to do mental contortions. At its heart, time travel is mental play.

      If carpets did fly, and cloaks did turn things larger than a pinhead invisible, then they would lose some of their enchantment. Fantasy writers are ever searching for the farthest horizon. My current fantasy? EBook novels that format themselves.

      Hate to burst your five-dimensional bubble, but current science theory predicts that alternate universes would be no bigger than a few nanometers. Just little cubbyholes of space that diffuse some of the energy of gravity, or something like that.

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