Is This Real or Just a Fantasy?

by whereibelongsf

I never read fantasy books until I had my daughter. From the time I was able to read, I’ve loved mysteries. I love the puzzles of mysteries, trying to figure out whodunnit and how. I also love how they explore the seamy side of life. My favorite authors are Raymond Chandler and Ross MacDonald, two men who were experts and cynically exposing the underbelly of L.A. I always thought of fantasy books as the realm of nerds and misfits, people who couldn’t deal with reality. Why would I want to spend so much time and energy in artificial worlds?

My gateway drug was the Harry Potter series. During it’s initial run in the late nineties I studiously avoided any and all things Potterdom, as I usually avoid anything popular. By 2012, the hype around Harry Potter had died down enough that I decided to finally investigate the series. I decided to read the series in Italian, figuring correctly that since it was written for sixth-graders, it would be right about my level of Italian, and since it was translated from English, the tricky Italian idioms that I have trouble understanding wouldn’t be present. I loved the book and quickly went through the whole series, which is available for free to Amazon Prime members via their Kindle Lending Library. 

When my daughter was born in February of this year, I found that I no longer had a taste for reading about the seamy side of modern life. To quote David St. Hubbins, I had too much fucking perspective. I was up in the middle of the night with a little bundle of cartilage that seemed like the most fragile thing in the world. My life changed drastically, which a whole new set of worries and responsibilities, and what I needed was an escape. And thus I turned to fantasy. 

I started slow, with a novel based on Dragon Age, which I was playing at the time. I enjoyed that, as hokey as it was, so I tried Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Mists of Avalon. It was a little dated and slow, so I haven’t finished it, but I did read the first two Song of Fire and Ice books, and am working on the third. Those books are incredibly well-written, but also incredibly grim and complex, so I have to take them in small doses, no easy feat given that they are each 1000 pages long. The series I’ve loved the best so far is Michael J. Sullivan’s Riyria series. He self-published six books, which were later grouped into three long books. I’m towards the end of the second book, and really enjoying it. It’s much lighter and faster moving than George R.R. Martin’s books, which makes up for the occasional clumsy prose or shallow characterization. 

What I love about fantasy books is that they have NO BEARING on my present life. I used to like science fiction, but even that feels a little too close to home, what with technology and dystopias yada yada. But hearing about elves and pirates and swordfights? Bring it on. I get enough reality on a daily basis.