What is fantasy, and why do we need it?

One of my pet peeves is seeing the words ‘Sci-Fi and Fantasy’ above a bookshelf in a well-known bookstore. I mean, why? These are two wildly different genres, so why on earth (unless you’re reading sci-fi, then it could be mars, or any other planet) do they continue to band the two together? I have a theory… It involves the bookish snobs and their influence on the book industry. Fantasy is still seen as a niche genre, and therefore the assumption is that it has a smaller audience, so they pile it in with another niche genre and hope that more people will visit that particular section of the store. They might still be 'smaller' genres but it still does not appease my cynicism regarding the categorisation of books.

Defining fantasy is not an easy thing to do, after all, there are many different genres and novels that contain fantastical elements – even sci-fi! But that does not mean that they are fantasy stories.

How about this quote from bookcountry.com;

‘Fantasy fiction is defined by the presence of magic and supernatural elements. While fantasy may share many characteristics with science fiction, what ultimately distinguishes fantasy scenarios is that they are not scientifically feasible, even in a distant future.’

I think this is summed up brilliantly. But fantasy is also so much more than this. The world is (quite literally) your oyster. Anything goes in a fantasy world, as long as it isn’t scientifically feasible of course!

The influence of fantasy can now be seen across all media platforms. The biggest show on TV – Game of Thrones - is an adaptation of a fantasy series. The adaptation of Tolkien’s works has now brought in a revenue of over $2 billion dollars. So why is it still so niche?

If you walk into an ordinary, run of the mill bookstore, you will see that most of the shelves are filled with crime and/or romance. Now, I’m not averse to these genres but I do feel that fantasy should be given more of a chance (as should sci-fi). Fantasy is not just for children, it’s for those whose imagination is creative and vivid, and for those who need something extra from their stories.

Fantasy is a world away from your own, it allows you to read about a place that is mystical, thrilling, and often violent. Fantasy is excitement without leaving your chair. Fantasy is rooting for the little guy/girl and watching as they conquer their fears, save their world and sacrifice little pieces of themselves along the way. Fantasy, quite simply, is brilliant.

Do you love fantasy? Let me know in the comments below J