You Say Escapism Like It’s A Bad Thing

Posted: August 8, 2013 in Uncategorized
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Science fiction and fantasy gets it in the neck for being shallow. Critics have it the wrong way round. The lack of depth is not a bug, it’s a feature. What is the point of escaping to somewhere if it looks just like the place you left?

In SF/F-land, the teams are obvious. The guy in the black armor who sounds like an asthmatic vacuum? He’s bad news. Avoid him. You are completely justified in taking him down. You are morally obliged to interfere with his plans as much as possible. Oh, sure he gets Redeemed, but he does so by turning his hat from black to white. The Dark Side doesn’t suddenly become sympathetic.

In the real world, your team depends on where you are standing. Fighting the government is illegal. Unless you win and establish your own country. They you are called a Patriot and have a day named after you.

In SF/F-land, choices are clear. Not necessarily fun. Not necessarily easy. But clear. There is a nod toward providing texture. Elves are self-involved. Hobbits are excessively bucolic. They may ignore the politics of the world at large to focus on the latest gossip from at the Green Dragon. Frodo feels he is not strong enough to carry the One Ring. But Sauron is always evil. No one wants to go marching into Mordor. But everyone knows which way Mordor lies.

In the real world, choices are complicated. Skating quickly past the philosophically dense subject of good versus evil, we don’t even know the import of a choice. Your college major or who you marry might not matter in five years. Choosing to turn down one street versus the other might rearrange your universe. I once ended up as a working student at a horse farm after a chance encounter on an airplane.

In SF/F-land, archetypes are dependable. A literary friend of mine doesn’t like Doctor Who. She finds the show unsympathetic because the main character has no chance for growth. That’s the point. The Doctor remains constant. Companions change. Decades change. Even faces change. Yet, when you hear that whooshy sound, you know you will be getting the mad man in a box.

In the real world, archetypes don’t exist. People are not characters created for our entertainment. Even one’s nearest and dearest callously insist on having interests and areas of their lives that have nothing to do with one. No matter how hard I try to be perceptive, people are not equivalent to the image of them I carry in my head. When I am close, harmony ensues. When I am not, the world gets weird.

This is why we introduce the SF/F world into our real world. For a few minutes, we allow our minds to rest in a place where we can be sure of the rules. If I want moral ambiguity and gray areas, I’ll watch the news.

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Comments
  1. Joan says:

    This applies to most of my reading, not just the fiction. Sword fishing off the Grand Banks, I’m there. Climb Mt. Everest, I’m there. Makes housework seem relaxing.

    Good job. More?

  2. Amy says:

    Interesting. I never really thought of it quite that way. It’s probably one reason that I like it so much

  3. debandtoby says:

    Bravo! I couldn’t have said it better myself. But…the Doctor does sometimes change and grow, and not just between but within incarnations. My real world is a little too real sometimes. A meal at the Green Dragon sounds just the thing. But I’ll take the mad man with the box any day.

  4. ridexc says:

    Reblogged this on Writing From the Right Side of the Stall and commented:
    Like my friend Katherine Walcott, I’m a science fiction junkie. I like her take on the appeal of dependable SF archetypes, even if I don’t completely agree (Farscape, for example, is one series which liked to take two-dimensional villains and turn them inside out, even make them sympathetic or change sides on occasion).
    Also, Ben Browder is exceedingly easy on the eyes. But I digress.

  5. Pete says:

    I would love to have a time machine to go back to the days when it was just SF not SF/f

  6. […] Confession Two. Major SPOILER. (Seriously, does anyone not know the plot of this book/movie?) I have not read National Velvet, nor am I likely to. Hearing about a person denied their dream due to gender? No, thank you. Not an appealing way to spend an afternoon. As I have said elsewhere, if I want harsh truth, I’ll watch the news [You Say Escapism Like It’s A Bad Thing]. […]

  7. […] Off Topic A secondary blog I had for a while. 2014 [My Origin Story] [Two Sentence Genre Stories] [Two Sentence Horror Story] 2013 [You Say Escapism Like It’s A Bad Thing] […]

  8. […] Off Topic A secondary blog I had for a while. 2014 [My Origin Story] [Two Sentence Genre Stories] [Two Sentence Horror Story] 2013 [You Say Escapism Like It’s A Bad Thing] […]

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