Saturday, February 23, 2008

Allegory from an Unknown Age

I love science fiction and fantasy even though I’m selective in the types I read. I think all readers of this conglomerate genre, which includes space opera, steampunk, urban fantasy, horror, Dystopian worlds, fairytales, and more, are. For instance, horror has never interested me. I’ve found enough of that in real life. There are millions of devotees, though. My preference is for space opera and otherworld fantasy. Lately, I’ve also enjoyed some urban fantasy and paranormal selections. The thing is, the genre must constantly change. You can only read Lord of the Rings retold a finite number of times.

Why have these themes been packed into this genre? Probably because they all exist in a time and place that never was, whether the setting is the past, the present or the unknown future. They are based on the ‘Once upon a time’ premise, the world of the folktale.
Now you and I both know that all fiction is, well, fiction – made up, a fantasy of the author’s mind, so in fact, all fiction is fantasy. However, most fiction is placed in the world we know, the real-time and place of our earthly reality.

Study of mythology, folk tales, and fairytales has given new insights into these often scary stories passed on by oral tradition to the next generation since the earliest know times. By consensus, it is fairly well established that these forms are allegories or life lessons presented as entertainment.

An allegory is a story in which the characters and events represent abstract ideas allowing two stories to be told: one of the literal words on the page, and the second a parallel story deep with symbolic meaning.
From my reading, I know the best stories often offer a deeper message, one of hope or warning, or one that deals with controversial issues in a less threatening make-believe world. Isn't that truly what scifi/fantasy is? A genre of allegories from an unknown age for readers of every age. Surely that works better than some critics who believe scifi/fantasy to be the blathering of someone's too wild imagination? Don't all stories come from the collective consciousness of mankind?

So here, I think, is the attraction of scifi/fantasy: the once upon a world that might have been or has yet to be.

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