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Old 01-04-2003, 04:52 PM   #1
Gorothlammothiel
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Pipe Is Fantasy a dream or an escape?

After reading Daewen's post about either men or women preferring fantasy/sci-fi I was inspired to ask this, and did not want to intrude on the thread...

Do you think Fantasy is more popular amongst children or adults? And why? Is it a dream or an escape?

The reason I ask is that as children, most are brought up in a world of fairy stories with mythical beings, magical creatures and so forth. We are lost in the tales of things we don't expect to find in our own world and are quite happy to except these things are real, but just not with us. As a child it is more of a 'dream' to read or hear about such tales and one we are very willing to believe in.

After a time however, those 'dreams' are somewhat dashed as we are told they are not true, or cannot be real today by those older and 'wiser' than ourselves. To soften the blow there is sometimes the comment, "maybe they did exist a long time ago or still do in another land" which to me seems to be the whole point of fantasy. Either way, when those 'dreams' are dashed we become too busy for them and are pre-occupied with other things.

But, as an adult we may go out to a library or book shop and pick up a book, similar to those we had read as a child. Why do we pick it up? Is it to relive those dreams we once had or is it an escape from the real world that has become so hard, become so normal to you that you have to read this book to escape it all? To live in a land of fantasy with all those odd creatures and mysterious lands, even though you may well be in the belief it doesn't exist. Or does it exist within us? Do we as people have the capacity to keep these lands and tales within us and to keep the belief alive? The dreams we had as children were not dashed, just set aside with something else, something else that can now be put aside for that childhood once more?

[ January 04, 2003: Message edited by: Gorothlammothiel ]
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Old 01-04-2003, 05:58 PM   #2
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Silmaril

I also agree it is mostly favored among children to get away from what's oing on, but adults like it to get away from their heck-tick schedule.
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Old 01-04-2003, 06:12 PM   #3
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1420!

Very interesting topic Gorothlammothiel. You should check out this thread too (if you haven't already) To love, or not to love fantasy. I think you'll like it.

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Do you think Fantasy is more popular amongst children or adults? And why?
Well I think its very popular among both. However, moreso among adults. And then again it all depends.I think children do like certain types of fantasy. Take Harry Potter for example. Many children love that book. Why? Because it deals with character more at their age, and they might relate to them better. Also (I'm just guessing here, I haven't read any of them) I think it's easier for a child to read Harry Potter than it would be for them to read LotR. I think it has to do a lot with the style of writing in the books. If a child is going to have to visit the dictionary five or six times a page, it's most likely they're going to get bored with it. Or they might get into a bad habit that I did. I got sick and tired of having to look up words that I hated reading and when I had to for school, I would just skip the word, or even the sentence, and then the story had a different meaning for me and made absolutely no sense some times. So a simpler book like Harry Potter would be easier for children to read, and it's no surprise why they love it so much.

Then, there are the more complex books, like LotR. Some children might find it too complex for their liking. But adults tend to like it more than children do. Not to say that children don't like it. There are some that do. But through a child's mind usually it's merely good v bad, the ring is destroyed and the day is saved. But the older you get, the more you learn. The more you learn, the more complex it is, and then you love it more. It satisfies your hunger for a well developed fantasy. Something that is so elaborate and intricate, so developed, it makes you feel as though it's real and somehow, somewhere, it existed, even though it didn't. So the more complex it is, the more realistic it seems.

As children can easily relate to characters in Harry Potter, adults can also easily relate to characters in LotR. Adult characters with sophisticated personalities are easier for adults to relate to. So adult readers usually like this in their fantasy.

Quote:
Is it a dream or an escape?
I think it's both, and both for children and adults alike. However, it seems to be more of a dream for children and more of an escape for adults. Children seem to dream, rather than escape, when reading fantasy. For them, it's easier to let their imagination run wild. Their kids, it's ok. THey don't have to worry about a lot of things that adults do. Most kids are happy and carefree, so when reaing fantasy, they might start start to daydream in class or pretend that they are Strider fighting orcs in their backyard. But when you get older, you are taught not to do this. You can't play around like that. You're supposed to act your age and be mature. So while you still want to stay a kid and be carefree, you get older. Time never stands still and it waits for no one. You start to lose this behavior, and as time goes on, you gradually (some faster, some slower) stop doing it. And then you miss it. Life can be very stressful as an adult. You have to worry about many things and very important things. So you start to read fantasy. Why? Because you love it, yes. But a big reason is because you want to escape. Escape from reality. You miss the days when you were young and happy and didn't have to worry about a thing. So you read, and it helps ease the stress and pain of everyday life. It makes you feel like a kid at times. Like when you read and totally forget about the bad day at work you had, and you get lost in the reading and want to dress up as Aragorn and fight some orcs. And sometimes (I think that this is one of the greatest feelings that you can get in reading), you become overwhelmed by everything in the book. Not in a bad way. you feel so small compared to everything, and it all seems so vast and magnificent. Like if you went go see something like the statue of Liberty. As a child, when you see it, it's so large and wonderful. But then as an adult you think that it and anything like it isn't so big or great. It's just that feeling you get when you see something like it for the first time. Just like the members of the fellowship seeing the Argonath for the first time. It's feelings like those that make you feel like a child, happy and carefree. And that's why adults like the escapism in fantasy.

As I have said earlier, it all depends. Looking at all that I just said, things might be a lot different for people. For some children, reading fantasies all thier life will make their views turn out different than someone who just started at 30. And then, both those views will be different than someone who has not read, but been read to. There are many more factors that contribute to this and that's why it varies from person to person. And so some children do read fantasy partly because of the escapism, and some adults can read fantasy and dream. But we don't just read it for those, I like to read it for the enchantment and medieval qualities, and much more, but I have to admit, escapism is a big part of it.

Great topic Gorothlammothiel, and thanks for listening.
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Old 01-04-2003, 06:16 PM   #4
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Yes, I do agree with you both, however, fantasy gives adults and childeren alike one main important thing: hope. To hope for a better world or time. These things teach us the most important value of hope.The very ability to attain hope through these "fairy tales" is extraordinary. Notably it effects childeren more than adults, but it is vastly important to each.
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Old 01-04-2003, 07:04 PM   #5
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Tolkien said in On Faery Stories
(I will not quote at length)
that these tales, ancient and hoary,
for the nursery were never meant,
though to it they were relegated
when so-called enlightened folk,
their imaginations degraded
when in worshiping Science, broke
with the wisdom of the past
and thought dragons and Elves
beneath them and so cast
them as childish, and filled the shelves
of nurseries with so-called
children's fairytales, unaware
that into children's minds they hauled
the stuff of dreams and nightmare.

Hoo! That was a little heavier than usual. And fails to say all that I mean. Have you ever read the real stuff from the Brothers Grimm? It's not for children. However, in our silly culture (yes it still is by and large), fairy tales and myths are still considered to be "for children". Thus, it is children who are free to use their imaginations, until they get to a certain age. Then they're told such stupid things as "oh, it's not real. At least not where we live." Yes, it IS real, because it's all about life and death, hope and despair, good and evil, victory and defeat, and I could go on and on.

Ahem. Sorry. I uh got a little uh seriousish there. Oop. [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]
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Old 01-04-2003, 07:34 PM   #6
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By all means, follow littlemanpoet's reference and read Tolkien's brilliant essay, On Fairy Stories. And then read his poem Mythopoeia which is dedicated "To one who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though 'breathed through silver.' I would not denigrate science per se, only a particular perspective on 'science.'

Faërie is "the Perilous Realm itself", a realm of 'sub-creation' which is not escapist but "a sudden and miraculous grace."
Truly, read The Professor and understand, "the realization, independent of the conceiving mind, of imagined wonder." No escape this, but a higher truth, like Beauty.

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Old 01-05-2003, 03:28 PM   #7
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One interesting thing about Harry Potter, is that it would have never become as popular if so many adults had not started reading it.

For me I read more fantasy when I was younger, (I am only 16, I know this sounds weird) and then during middle school I kind of stopped, and the LOTR movies (yes, I am one who read the books after the movies) and everything have brought me back to it. I have heard many of these articles about, "Is fantasy good for our society", and "Is it too much of an escape". I think it is very cool, that so many people are interested in it. Because that is one of the sad things that you lose as you are growing up, the wonder and imagination of youth.

Yes, it is an escape, but like in books such as LOTR it is not like you are going to a land that has less problems, you are going to one that has major problems. But these authors are talking about that the answers to the problems in LOTR are too simple and in our world they are much more complicated.

I don't know, I know I kind of visited a bunch of topics.
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Old 01-05-2003, 03:50 PM   #8
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I kind of figured I would have to clarify my reference to Science. Note, I capitalized it to imply it as having been allowed to become bigger than it is: a religion. Those who worshipped science as their final truth were those against whom I leveled my accusation.

Bethberry's right (congrats on achieving mod status, B!) [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Please, please, please, don't "outgrow" a vivid imagination! Please don't let our silly culture convince you that it's necessary in order to "suck-ceed (ech!)" (to quote Jethro Tull [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] )

LotR is anything but simple. The complexities in the book are astounding! Life is not nearly as complicated as a lot of people would have you believe, Gorwingel, imho.

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Old 01-05-2003, 04:36 PM   #9
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Quote:
Most kids are happy and carefree, so when reaing fantasy, they might start start to daydream in class or pretend that they are Strider fighting orcs in their backyard. But when you get older, you are taught not to do this. You can't play around like that. You're supposed to act your age and be mature.
**Bill furtively kicks his hickory wasters and Aragorn costume under the coach**

Littlemanpoet,

You are absolutely right! Have we learned nothing from Miracle on Thirty First Street? Are the things that are most real in this world the things we pick up an use? Nope. Things like love, tenderness, mercy, hate, greed, etc… are the things that seem to affect us the most, and you can’t pick up any of them. Aside: thank goodness for the wisdom of Jethro Tull!
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Old 01-05-2003, 04:55 PM   #10
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Good post, Littleman, and I tend to agree with you about the technocracy of rational science [img]smilies/rolleyes.gif[/img].

However, I don't think that dream or escape are inherent qualities OF fantasy, to which either children, adults or other might more readily respond. Rather, they are qualities of our experience of art (or life) - it is OUR choice to make fantasy literature the gateway to this kind of experience. Those people who do not like fantasy literature (and there is plenty in the genre that I don't like) are still able to dream, to find escape. Crime novels etc. are just as much an escape ... or 'escapist', if you prefer.

Perhaps it is literature itself that is imbued with the potential for dream and escape - unlike cinema, where the images, scale and characterisation is imposed upon the audience, in (good) literature we are compelled to create our own pictures and scenes to make sense of the narrative. But, in some ways, that is maybe a little bit harder work [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img].

So the real difference is arguably not between adults or children, but between those who are willing and ready to interact with literature, and those who want it on a plate. The awareness of 'suspending disbelief' or 'switching on the imagination', as a precursor to enjoyment, to dream and escape, is the issue.

A good story is a good story, whether it involves Salty Loincloth and the Quest for the Flying Pelican or not. But it only works if we listen with open minds (is that a bit zen? [img]smilies/wink.gif[/img])

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

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Old 01-05-2003, 07:01 PM   #11
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Sting

Good posts everyone. The first time I read LotR was in 4th grade and I liked it. It was my favorite book. As time went on I found that I began to love it more and more. I began to love it so much that whenever something went wrong in life I went back to that book. When I was depressed I could dream of those lands, far away, that Tolkien created. When I cried, I could relive those moments and feel glad again. It is truly amazing what this book can do.

This is the only book that really makes me cry. I cry when Sam is invited to go with Frodo on his quest, (Me! Go and see Elves and all! And he burst into tears). I cry because its so familiar, like a second world to me, its an escape for me now. A wonderful wonderful escape.
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Old 01-05-2003, 09:52 PM   #12
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Sting

I totally agree that fantasy serves mainly to give people hope. But more than that, it teaches us lessons that can be hard to see in other places.

A major theme is LotR, and most other fantasy stories is good vs. evil, with good winning in the end. As children we are always taught to play nicely and share with our friends, even if your friends don't share with us. Fantasy stories go beyond teaching us the sometime frustrating rules, but they show why they are there.

For example, the Ring is evil. We cannot hold on to evil and expect to be uneffected. The Ringwraiths, Gollum, Boromir and even Frodo show that only too clearly. But what's more, we can't just avoid evil, as Galadriel tries to, because it will come to us. We must fight it, and if need be, die fighting.

Therefore, fantasy is hardly an escape from reality, and I wish it were only a dream. Fantasy is a lesson for people. Good vs. evil. And it gives us the hope that good will triumph, even when all odds are against it.
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Old 01-06-2003, 02:39 PM   #13
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What a great topic!

I would go so far as to say that we need this element of the "fantastic" in our lives. Especially in today's world where one does not need to imagine anything. I long sometimes for the days of my youth - growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and only having one tv station. My brother and I were constantly outside, creating our own battles and worlds.

As it's been said, we do need, in a way, the role models that these stories bring. I would love my children to want to have the character and integrity of such "people" as Aragorn and Faramir.

As to escapism, I believe these stories do provide that and more. Please excuse the personal side here, but I struggled with depression for many years...and unbelievably the story of Lord of the Rings gave voice and image to a personal experience I couldn't explain to others. For example, How could I describe to people that I both loved and hated my depression? In speaking about it, I would often describe it as a ring that I had to carry...and destroy. My husband became my Samwise by walking the long road with me...does this make sense?

A resounding "yes" to the fact that we need fantasy, we need that which engages our hearts and our imaginations...
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Old 01-06-2003, 03:05 PM   #14
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I believe it can appeal to any type of person. There are times when everyone wishes to escape from reality, times when they need to forget the kind of life they lead. People also dream, it is healthy, and can help you escape. I find many times that after I read a fantasy novel I try to incorporate myself into the story. That helps me escape in the same way as reading fantasy, and it's fun! I can not say that any age group prefers it. I think that a person any age can enjoy fantasy, they just have to have the right mind or personality for it. I'm sure I'll think of more later. Interesting topic! [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
It's Miracle on 34th Street. That is an excellent movie, teaches a good lesson! I couldn't believe it when my friend said she hadn't seen it! I felt like saying "You swine! How could you not have!" But I controlled myself! [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img] I'm sorry but I'm not a little kid anymore and I probably daydream more than when I was little, call me wierd but it's true! Who wouldn't want to dress up as Strider? [img]smilies/tongue.gif[/img]

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Old 01-06-2003, 07:50 PM   #15
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When I was a little girl I remember being read fairy tales like Cinderella and all of the classics. I knew them all, but I didn't believe in them. Adults would read me the stories and leave it at that. That's all. A story. About a place that dosn't really exist and about people who never really lived. And for me, that was okay. I went on through school to read realistic fiction. Most of it was sad, people died, people were abused, but I found it to be terribly uninteresting. The people in those books were just like the people I met. Ugly and judgemental. It was terribly depressing, and fantasy was forgotten.

It wasn't until junior high that I discovered just how disgusting the human race can be. People were terrible thoughtless drones, yet they were accepted as part of the school and of the community and I was not allowed to yell at them even as they screamed at me and that made me mad. Can you tell that I was a frustrated child? [img]smilies/mad.gif[/img] Anyway, as I neared high school I read Tolkien. It was like a breath of fresh air, a beautiful place where wonderful and intelligent people banded together to end evil and ignorance.

Fantasy was like an escape then, it let me take part in the characters lives and share their joy as well as their greif. It took me away from the woes of the evil that we now call middle school, and then it gave me something to think about. I thought of scenes between characters from my favorite novels and I created new characters of my own. Eventually that gave way to my own land, where even now all of my most frustrating battles are fought. For me, fantasy is both an escape and a dream, for are they not both one in the same?
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Old 01-06-2003, 08:36 PM   #16
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Fantasy does give us hope.
It affirms in young readers
a sense of wonder
and awakens it in those who are grown.
Fantasy provides an environment
for our noble intentions.
Fantasy provides flesh
for our skeletal dreams.
Fantasy provides an escape
to truth
not away from it.

[ January 06, 2003: Message edited by: greyhavener ]
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Old 01-07-2003, 03:12 AM   #17
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Silmaril

"an escape
to truth
not away from it"

- very well-said, greyhavener! When asked whether I would like to put myself into Middle-Earth, I have answered that I would rather put Middle-Earth into me. I think that the most important thing is to let fantasy touch my real life, to search for ways to make my dreams come true, to find myself in the characters and then to find their courage and strength in myself.
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Old 01-07-2003, 07:19 AM   #18
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Sting

I'm still not entirely clear about what constitutes "fantasy" literature. Would Gormenghast or Dracula, for example be counted among fantasy? Are Kadath and Ulthar part of the same genre as Tirion and Minas Tirith? People seem to make a distinction between some writers of fantastic fiction and others, classing Tolkien as Fantasy and Lovecraft as horror but granting others, such as Sir Thomas More, William Shakespeare and Jonathan Swift the honorific "Literature".

I make no such distinctions. To me, an aspect of great writing is that it should tell us something of the human condition; strike a chord with something more fundamental than an amorphous notion of normality or propriety, or the imperative to "succeed", whatever that means. "Fantasy", "Science Fiction" and "Thriller", to name but three, are convenient classifications that are intended to distinguish different flavours of fiction that are not seen to be worthy of the blanket definition "classic"; which seems to be applied by critics to guide the chattering classes in their choice of books to display on their coffee tables.

I read for many reasons: better to understand people and life; because the title looked interesting when I saw the book; as something to do on the train, or while I'm waiting for the washing machine to complete its cycle; but mainly I read because I just enjoy it. Nobody ever spends time agonising over why they watch television, or why they go out with their friends, or why they listen to music: they simply do those things because they're pleasurable, and that's why I read. Frankly, the genre isn't important: good reading is where you find it in my opinion.

As should be obvious from my presence in this discussion, I find Tolkien's work to be rather an enjoyable read: his command of language is absolute; his characters are engaging and well-defined; his locations are awesome and yet believable, and his plots are intriguing. And there are maps. And swords. And prophecies. Wise sages, venerable kings, mighty warriors, beautiful princesses, epic battles and quests, and all the fun of the Faërie fair. What is there not to enjoy? But Tolkien goes one further: he juxtaposes this against everyday pettiness in such a way that it becomes obviously petty and pathetic; he also portrays the various gradations of good and evil, wisdom and foolishness, and so forth. He tackles difficult issues such as suicide, premature senility and schizophrenia with delicacy and taste. He shows us passion without vulgarity, war in all its guises: spectacle, tragedy, necessary evil and the fruit of greedy self-interest. He shows us friendship crossing barriers of class and race; love in its purest form; heroism, cowardice and, sometimes, utter depravity. One might say that he has it all.

Now, to my mind Tolkien could have set a story anywhere that had all of those qualities. The fact that he invented a set of locations, languages and cultures is to me merely a reflection of how fertile was his imagination; and although this adds a great deal to his work, it is not fundamental to the basic themes that he addresses. This means that, far from being escapist, he simply redecorates and renames the world we know, changing the superficial things, such as language and social convention as though reality had come under new management and was being refurbished without any change to its basic services. This enables him to show us the most basic elements of humanity, and like all mythology, to guide us in making the right decisions.

Since I really should be doing something else at the moment, I shall leave you now with a thought from Thomas Bulfinch. Some of you may remember it from a long-deceased signature:

Quote:
If no other knowledge deserves to be called useful but that which helps to enlarge our possessions or to raise our station in society, then Mythology has no claim to the appellation. But if that which tends to make us happier and better can be called useful, then we claim that epithet for our subject. For Mythology is the handmaid of literature; and literature is one of the best allies of virtue and promoters of happiness.
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Old 01-07-2003, 06:20 PM   #19
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Excellent post, Squatter [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Of course the genre definitions crumble under any critical evaluation. And as I posted earlier, I think any elitism arising from an sword-and-sorcey fetish is misplaced. It is we, the reader, that exercise our imaginations upon the words of any author.

In fact I tend to baulk at the 'fantasy' genre as such. Surely many of the great triumphs of imaginative, fantastic and inspiring literature actually fall outside the boundaries placed by niche-marketing labels ... Borges, Oscar Wilde, Allende, etc. etc. along with all the examples of Squatter.

The labels are perhaps there to make life easier for people who do NOT wish to be challenged or inspired, but who wish to be comforted by what they find familiar and unthreatening (for whatever reason).

On the other hand, when in a bookshop I admit I ALWAYS steer clear of the Romance section [img]smilies/biggrin.gif[/img].

Peace [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

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Old 01-07-2003, 07:42 PM   #20
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You know, there are seemingly plenty of philisophical reasons to find an escape from reality, some are quite lengthy and quite well thought, but I have to say that I myself do not read fantasy for an escape or to relive lost dreams. I read fantasy because good fantasy is some of the most well thought and best written literature of all. This holds especially true in the case of the Lord of the Rings.

And lets not forget the main reason we all truly read fantasy; it lets us put our own imaginations to use. Fantasy is cool like that, very, very, very cool.
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Old 01-07-2003, 09:55 PM   #21
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Estel Edain: A most moving account. I can see it, the depression as your Ring. I'm glad for you that you found this.
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Old 01-08-2003, 08:50 AM   #22
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Kalessin:
Quote:
I don't think that dream or escape are inherent qualities OF fantasy, to which either children, adults or other might more readily respond. Rather, they are qualities of our experience of art (or life) - it is OUR choice to make fantasy literature the gateway to this kind of experience.
I'm not sure I quite agree, and am having a difficult time pinning down why. The following quote from Tolkien's On Faerie Stories may obtain:
Quote:
Now "Faerien Drama" - those plays which according to abundant records the elves have often presented - can produce Fantasy with a realism and immediacy beyond the compass of any human mechanism...If you are present at a Faerian Drama you yourself are, or think you are, bodily inside its Secondary World. The experience may be very similar to Dreaming and has (it would seem) sometimes (by men) been confounded with it... This is for them a form of Art, and distinct from Wizardry or Magic, properly so called.
Tolkien is presenting a fiction to make a point, which to my poor understanding seems to be that written Fantasy is the closest humans may come to the Ideal Art, which Tolkien playfully names "elvish". (For this I am indebted to Christopher Garbowski's article, "It's a Wonderful Life" as Faerian Drama, from Mythlore Magazine, issue 90, Fall-Winter 2002.

I have much more to explain of my thought on this, but my break is over, so I post this and will return.

[ January 08, 2003: Message edited by: littlemanpoet ]
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Old 01-08-2003, 02:59 PM   #23
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Whereas it is the reader’s choice to make fantasy literature the gateway to dream or escape, the limits of the genre limit choices, unless the reader insists on a perverse tyranny over the written work, insisting on reading-in allegory, for example, where there is none, or literalness where the text is metaphorical, or worse. I don't think this is what you mean; rather, an interaction between reader and written work.

Still, it seems to me that fantasy literature in particular lends itself to Escape and Dream, unlike the mimetic novel. And this, to answer Squatter of Amon Rudh, is the difference I see between Fantasy and other Fiction: it is the difference between poesis and mimesis. Mimesis, which obtains to a large degree in the modern novel, presents reality in terms of accurate description. Poesis, the realm of myth and fantasy, by contrast, “captures the essence of reality”. (for this I am indebted to Sara Upstone in “Applicability and Truth in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion: Readers, Fantasy, and Canonicity (Mythlore Magazine issue 90)

This capturing of the essence of reality is what I see so beautifully described in this and other threads when we describe the effect LotR has had on us, and what it means to us.

Secondary Belief is necessary to fully appreciate one’s reading of LotR and any fantasy, as Tolkien says. The mere Willing Suspension of Disbelief will not do, because more is being asked of the reader in poeic Fantasy than in mimetic Fiction.
Dreaming is like this in that when we dream, we believe what is happening is real. Just so, while we read the fantasy, we participate in Secondary Belief, not merely the willing suspension of disbelief, but living the reality within the pages. Thus, reading Fantasy is very much akin to Dreaming.

Why is this not so in Mimetic fiction? Because in reading such works, our critical apparatus is active. If our critical apparatus remains active while reading Fantasy, we will not fully appreciate the fantasy because we refuse to live it as Dream while we read.

The kind of Escape readers practice, and Tolkien intended in the Lord of the Rings, could stand some clarification. In On Faerie Stories he said that Escape in Faerie Stories is not the flight of the deserter, but the escape of the prisoner. What is the prison? I think someone has said it already: flattened perception. Therefore we Escape to Fantasy in order to Recover a clear view, using Tolkien's own words. To quote Sara Upstone again, "As psychologist David Myers epigrammatically puts it, one of the keys to happiness 'isn't getting what we want, it's wanting what you have'." The Recovered clear view aids us to see what we do have, and to rediscover that it is indeed good, even a blessing.
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Old 01-08-2003, 04:10 PM   #24
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Littlemanpoet [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

I am sympathetic to your (and Tolkien's) evocation of faerie as an archetype of the surreal, super-real, unreal, quintessential beauty of art.

And again, in your subsequent more technical analysis, I think there is some resonance, certainly in my own personal preferences.

But it seems to me there are two key points relating to this -

Firstly, that bad writing is not rescued, lifted or illuminated simply by being "in the genre" or by encompassing the thematic elements of faerie or myth. It is the quality of writing, the inspiration, imagination and craft in the narrative that actually elevate a work of fantasy to the heights you describe.

I would argue this validates my assertion that the individual work and the mindset of the reader are more significant in that sublime experience of art and its potential for depth and meaning. Just because, say, Of Mice And Men is not a work of fantasy (although it is arguably a work of allegory [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]), it certainly operates on a higher plane of art than, say, Dragonsearch Chronicles III : The Mountains of Nagrath (Episode 2), featuring Muscly Argoth and Pneumatic Rhiannon (for want of a true-life example ... I'm sure you can provide a few [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]).

The second (somewhat related) key point is that precisely the sense of myth and dream that can resonate with such poetic truth is definitively achieved by much literature that is clearly not "in the genre". I would cite the magic realism of Latin America along with Borges, Joyce's Ulysses, Ray Bradbury, JG Ballard etc. etc. ad infinitum. And there are many examples within the genre of Science Fiction that I could name too - having just read the very moving Flowers for Algernon as an example.

The technical quality of poesis is not intrinsically or necessarily linked to the fantasy genre. Now, it may be that some writers with a creative will to produce works that can be described in that way may themselves feel that fantasy themes offer them a fertile ground for such creations. And equally, it may be that many readers feel that fantasy readily resonates with them on that level.

But this preference is a double-edged sword. In our postmodern world, the conception of fairy tale and fantasy is as familiar and banal as any other literary context. It is not what it was in Tolkien's day, when his own work was such a groundbreaking example. It is not mysterious, a return to essential truths - it is simply another backdrop for any modern author. Which is why the quality of the work and attributes of the reader are so crucial.

Personally, I am both attracted and repelled by the label fantasy. I know I can find in there works of sublime beauty and depth, little gems off the beaten track, and great masterpieces like LotR and Earthsea - and despite my irreverence I do indeed have a sneaking predisposition towards swords and loincloths. But that doesn't make the genre itself any better, or me somehow more deep and meaningful as a person. And, fortunately, the dire spinoffs and endless chronicles provide a regular dose of sobering mediocrity [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]

Peace

Kalessin

[ January 08, 2003: Message edited by: Kalessin ]
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Old 01-13-2003, 11:08 AM   #25
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Kalessin:
Quote:
Firstly, that bad writing is not rescued, lifted or illuminated simply by being "in the genre" or by encompassing the thematic elements of faerie or myth. It is the quality of writing, the inspiration, imagination and craft in the narrative that actually elevate a work of fantasy to the heights you describe.
I couldn’t agree more.

Quote:
The second (somewhat related) key point is that precisely the sense of myth and dream that can resonate with such poetic truth is definitively achieved by much literature that is clearly not "in the genre". I would cite the magic realism of Latin America along with Borges, Joyce's Ulysses, Ray Bradbury, JG Ballard etc. etc. ad infinitum. And there are many examples within the genre of Science Fiction that I could name too - having just read the very moving Flowers for Algernon as an example….The technical quality of poesis is not intrinsically or necessarily linked to the fantasy genre.
I had a hunch that you might bring this up. Yes, I agree that many great “non-fantasy” writings have that quality such that one may virtually live the story being read. There is, however, an additional aspect to poesis that I failed to mention in my last post, which, I’m glad I did since it gave you the opportunity to state the point so well. Using Tolkien’s words from On Faerie Stories again,

Quote:
To you, a tree is simply a vegetable organism, and a star is simply a ball of inanimate matter moving along a mathematical course. But, the first men to talk of “trees and stars” saw things very differently. To them, the world was alive with mythological beings…To them the whole of creation was “myth-woven and elf-patterned”.
This is not mere personification, treating inanimate objects as if they were animate or sentient. Rather, it is breathing life into so-called inanimate objects, evoking that ancient sense of everything is alive.

Quote:
Personally, I am both attracted and repelled by the label fantasy.
I’m intrigued. Please explain.
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Old 01-14-2003, 02:38 PM   #26
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Personally I don't think it is either. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
I believe fantasy is a state of mind.
The way things and situations are perceived. I often find myself applying mythology and fantasy to my every day life. I know these things so well that at times these are the only vassels for me to explain or better describe my current situations or personal battles or defeats. Have you ever tried this? I'm interested to hear your response. [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img]
Hullo Lmp [img]smilies/smile.gif[/img] Thankyou for your time.
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Old 02-13-2005, 01:59 AM   #27
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I remember this thread from a few years ago and, although I didn't reply, it really intrigued me.

I don't think it's one or the other - it seems like such a larger issue to me. I think it's a combination of:
  • An escape from reality
  • An expansion of reality
  • An alternate reality
But this also leads to the question of where fantasy comes from - from the inside (psychological) or from the outside world. Do we expand upon ideas we see in our world, such as war, mythology, good vs. evil, etc. or is it much more imaginative and whimsical? Or both? Seems to me that there are many categories of fantasy and different possible explanations may apply to only certain categories.

Another thought of mine is that fantasy is so obviously a genre that isn't very well-defined. Fantasy and Sci-fi are so often packaged together in one form or another. The two types of books are always positioned next to each other in bookstores. However, I love fantasy but loathe sci-fi. In addition to this, horror doesn't seem like a genre in itself to me. It's more fantasy than anything else. True, it's very dark fantasy.

So, because of the fact that fantasy is so hard to define, would fantasy lose its appeal to us if it were definable? All the themes in fantasy are so out of the box, so what are we saying by trying to put a box around the definition? I myself prefer to stop trying to figure it out, but I can't help but be curious.
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Old 02-28-2005, 02:13 PM   #28
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This topic reminds me of what I read in one of Carlos Castaneda's books (I don't recall which one...) when Don Juan, The Nagual, states that all children are naturally born "wizards", full of extraordinary senses and skills, but it is the modern society who takes the wizardry away from us, especially our parents, when they start to say NO! to everything cool we do, and, therefore, the wizard within us just fades away and we are stuck in this real harsh world lacking of magic and fantasy.

I am happy to say that my parents did not put too many barriers, they let me grow in a world full of fantasy, providing me with all the fantasy material (stories, books, etc) they could afford, even inciting me to write my own stuff; but when I grew up, the school, friends, dates and everything else (no Santa Claus, no Easter bunny...) had put me in the supposedly "right track" and now my life, as yours, is full of responsibilities and seriousness, as I have to deal with many important things on my everyday job (I am a lawyer after all...).

Notwithstanding, I try to separate my "job life" from my "real life" and when I close my office I become a child again and go home to enjoy my PC games, movies, books, music, and I live this fantasy life and really believe it is real (thanks God I found a wife that copes with it all).

But sometimes, people can't deal with the transition between childhood and adulthood and they tend to take the drug way to escape from reality, and that, we all know is very dangerous... I prefer my books!

Considering the above, I got to say that fantasy is, after all, an escape from reality and an alternate reality as well, because if you imagine, you feel and if you feel, it's real!
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Old 02-28-2005, 03:56 PM   #29
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Excellent points, Mumak. Sometimes I wonder why we need fantasy and escapism in general. I have heard that the age group which is the biggest consumer of games (of the Playstation variety, not Ludo) is adults. This is why so many certificate 18 games are released; while the media are up in arms about peddling sex and violence to children they are choosing not to notice that it is grown ups who clamour for this kind of 'escapism'. To me, themes such as car theft aren't such great escapism as I can see that going on in the city around me, but its the essential difference to our mundane lives which attracts people to games as much as it does to horror, or to fantasy itself. A game can give a person the opportunity to pretend they are a little purple dragon or a criminal mastermind or a skateboarding champion for a few hours. A book can also do this, but we would not (always) deride a book or claim it to be dangerous.

So, I think it is in some respects the escape which fantasy can provide which attracts us.

But there is more to it. Something links the seemingly grisly world of games and the dreamlike fantasy such as Tolkien and that is that both do have some grounding in reality. In games we see a hyper-reality; in Tolkien we see a reflection or a mirror of reality. We see characters we can recognise, dilemmas, and landscapes which though fantastic and awesome in scope, are still real. We have mountains covered in white snow, not in purple snow, and we have fantastic creatures which seem just to be bigger versions of our own creatures. I think that recognition is the key. In both, there is to be found a reflection of what we already know.

The difference is that to play a game we don't have to invest much effort (now anyone who is a keen gamer may disagree and point out how many hours they spent on Final Fantasy or something ), but the effort I am talking about is in terms of engaging the imagination. In a game (and in film) it is laid out for us and we only have to switch on the machine to engage in that alternate world. With a book we have to dig deeper and create that world for ourselves. This is one thing which surprises me about fantasy fiction and why Tolkien is so popular;the amount of sheer effort a reader must put into creating this world within themselves is quite awesome. Think about it too much and the almost instinctive act of reading can become a daunting thought.

But this is true of all fiction. If I read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, then I have to enter the mind of a boy with Asperger's, something which is an alternate reality to me, yet it is in no way a work of fantasy. So perhaps all acts of reading fiction are escapes in some way. Certainly, any novel which includes situations I am not familiar with is in some ways an escape, no matter how 'realistic' the subject matter.

So, I think that both children and adults make full use of escapism, whether it be through reading, games or films, and in ways we might not consider to be escapist. An adult who incessantly reads Sharpe novels is escaping just as much as a child who reads Harry Potter.
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Old 03-12-2005, 12:45 AM   #30
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An imagined event or sequence of mental images, such as a daydream, usually fulfilling a wish or psychological need.

Fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements.

I'm going with escape on this one. Fantasy is sort of like the "cuddle blanket" of the mind. Like a toddler, we'll find it, invent our intensions concerning it, and eventually carry it around with us.

And then, sometimes, we'll find others with similar blankies, then to sit down and have a brainstorming tea party of sorts...

Not to say it's a bad thing, it should just be used like every great thing and not to a great extent. Or, better put, matter over mind.

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Old 03-12-2005, 02:13 AM   #31
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Tolkien A dream, an escape, a truth?

To me, despite what Tolkien said, Fantasy is neither a dream nor an escape. If it is good Fantasy, it is truth. Fantasy opens the door to a clear perception of reality. For example, evil is clearly identified, clearly described (eg, orcs, Saruon, Saruman, etc).

I am beginning to meld both Fantasy and Story together...I am not sure if that is a correct idea or not. But there are True Stories, as some have mentioned, that do not fall under the modern perception of Fantasy. But I digress....

To me, when we read, we are peering darkly into a mirror so that we may see things as they truly are...we see reality more truly. I do not consider Fantasy/Story an escape from reality....rather an entering into reality and truth.

Maybe that could be considered an escape from the illussions that so often seems to cloud reality in this world...I don't know.

As LMP quoting Tolkien mentioned, fairy is an escape of a prisoner...
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Old 03-12-2005, 10:38 PM   #32
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It's the real thing

Mythic fantasy is story that contains the stuff of myth, legend, and fairy tale; it works like waking dream and nightmare; in it, concrete and abstract, previously distinguished, have been reintegrated; it is apprehended by the reader as a unity of meaning and being; the signal of this apprehension is a sense of wonder or a thrill of horror, or both.

In other words, fantasy in general can be either high or low, or both. The best kind is mythic, and it's about reality, real reality, not the stuff we make up to make ourselves feel safe in our own little made up worlds that we call "real life".

Actually, Imladris, Tolkien said that "fairy story" is about reality .... which means truth. So "yes" to everything you said.
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Old 07-14-2005, 03:41 AM   #33
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I've been reading this article about Harry Potter. I'm not ashamed to say I'm eagerly awaiting Saturday so I can get hold of the latest installment. I laughed when the author of the piece described HP as "diet-Lord of the Rings", but his article is overall quite dismissive of the idea of fantasy and the need to escape.

Quote:
The series paints an unrealistic picture of Britain in 2005.
Quote:
My Harry Potter would certainly not be a part of this world. He'd be more of an urban Harry for 2005.

He might hang round bus-stops late at night wearing a baseball cap and drinking cider.

He might harass the neighbours with his magic powers and end up with an Asbo.

My Harry Potter would probably sell about three copies, though.
What I wanted to ask here is why do people somehow value the gritty, the realistic, over fantasy? As we know, LotR includes many incredibly 'gritty' moments; just because Theoden rides into battle on horseback does not make his death any less 'gritty'. And why would a Harry Potter with an ASBO be more realistic? Despite what the Daily Mail would have us thinking, 99.9% of kids are decent people. And I have to say that for me, a novel about drug users and criminals would be as much 'fantasy' (in it's literal sense) as would a novel about dragons and wizards.

As the writer acknowledges, people want to read fantasy (in the generic sense ). I am disappointed to read AS Byatt's comments (disappointed because I admire her writing) - in my experience people who are obsessed with soaps and so forth are generally not into fantasy at all. These people would probably much rather watch a crime drama than read fantasy fiction; she is just making another cheap dig at the intellectual capabilities of fantasy fans, sadly.

Anyway, anyway, to the point....

As it says in this article, are we all just trying to reclaim our inner child? And if we are, is there anything necessarily wrong with that? Does it demean our intellect?
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Old 07-14-2005, 03:51 AM   #34
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Just to break mold, I'm going to NOT quote from something written by Tolkien in order to try to approach your question, Lal (don't have much time right now).

It depends on what one means by "realistic", doesn't it? If by that one wishes to bring in all the typical stuff of the modern day world, which includes a tendency to NOT let the imagination have its play, then realistic is what this article's author is talking about. If, by that word, one is referring to deep, inner reality that looks past the confines of everyday, mundane existence, seeking Meaning, then one has a completely different idea of what Reality is, and one is going to look to fairy tale and fantasy and myth to find what one is looking for.

That's my take.
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Old 07-14-2005, 02:52 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lmp
It depends on what one means by "realistic", doesn't it? If by that one wishes to bring in all the typical stuff of the modern day world, which includes a tendency to NOT let the imagination have its play, then realistic is what this article's author is talking about.
I think that what they mean by 'realistic', certainly in terms of children's books, is to focus on the 'everyday', to have tales of family strife, divorce, crime and so forth. There are a lot of books written for children which are like this, and while I do not say that this is wrong, it is wrong to assume that only books like that are 'worthy'.

The article criticises Harry Potter for having a boarding school as it's location, and while most children do not go to boarding school, what the writer has missed is that this provides a focussed environment for the story to happen within. It is also a school and most children go to school, and it has all the features of an everyday school, with the added element of magic. So while it is not set in 'the real world', it certainly does feature a lot of the things children will find in the real world. Hogwarts has bullies, swots, prefects, rebellious older kids, the teachers everyone fears, all those things which are in a normal school.

So in my opinion, it is a book which does have one hand in 'reality' and another in 'fantasy'. I find it quite disheartening that an adult should deride a children's book for having fantasy in it; all children need to be able to use their imaginations and not merely have to read that which only reflects the world around them.
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Old 07-14-2005, 06:58 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lalwendë
The article criticises Harry Potter for having a boarding school as it's location, and while most children do not go to boarding school, what the writer has missed is that this provides a focussed environment for the story to happen within.
Quite right! Which brought to my mind that the article is written by a critic; someone who had chosen to be critical from the get-go. He refused to accept the milieu Rowling was creating. Is it any wonder the enchantment, shy of being broken, never got started for him?
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Old 07-15-2005, 05:34 AM   #37
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This makes me wonder...One of the music magazines I regularly read features lots of reviews. They seem to give new albums from a certain 'genre' to a reviewer who is an expert in that genre, rather than to just anybody. Does the same thing happen with books? Or do certain editors purposely seek out someone who will be as sceptical as possible in order to get some controversial copy? I tend to think it is the latter, which is why I rarely if ever take any notice of literary critics these days, sadly. It also makes it very difficult to find any new writers, as it gives the impression that reviewers are rarely impartial. Maybe it is that too many of the reviewers are also writers with vested interests? I prefer to go along with what fellow readers think.
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Old 07-15-2005, 07:56 AM   #38
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Ferny
**Bill furtively kicks his hickory wasters and Aragorn costume under the coach**
(Not me, man. I'm a summer elf, winter hobbit. Those who don't liike my hobbitish and elvish clothes, can look at the wall instead.)
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Old 07-15-2005, 11:10 AM   #39
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The Closing of the Human Mind

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I kind of figured I would have to clarify my reference to Science. Note, I capitalized it to imply it as having been allowed to become bigger than it is: a religion. Those who worshipped science as their final truth were those against whom I leveled my accusation.
I think you've hit upon the nature of disenchantment here, lmp. Once a defined set of rules is created for what used to be a process, it becomes rigid, over-structured and pedantic. On a side note, there have been a number of 'outings' of scientists in recent times. These scientists, anonymous and not, have admitted to falsifying data in order to obtain grant money or to fall into line with a pet theory, or just to make a name for him or herself. One Japanese archaeologist was discovered to have planted his own personal artifacts at a dig site and claimed they were ancient relics. His actions negated years of research of his colleagues and threw mountains of data and results into question. This is an artifact of the degradation of the "Search for Truth," which was my ideal view of science in my youth (yes, I was a Star Trek baby!). "To seek out new life and new civilizations" was my mantra, but like the monolithic ship in "Rendezvous with Rama," it didn't have to be concerned with human affairs, and was all the more interesting if it had its own agenda, unconcerned with us. It affirmed the diversity and wonder of the universe. Tolkien affirms this in a sort of "inner space," as opposed to the "outer space" ideal of my youth. If Science was my religion as a younger person, then I would say that this closing of the discipline, this narrowing of what constitutes "science" has thrown me into apostasy. (Always wanted to use that word in a sentence!)

Anyway, this also pertains closely to the reason I would lean towards the #4 option in Fordim's controversial poll... ( see Canonicity Slapdown
(not to say I've committed myself...)

Well, I've rattled on long enough!
Cheers!
Lyta
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Old 06-03-2006, 11:34 AM   #40
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those who can't stand an idea of 'escape' are...

I've been reading Lewis' essays the other day, and lo! Here's what Tolkien once said to Lewis:

Quote:
Stories of the sort I'm describing* are like that visit to the deck**. They cool us... Hence the uneasiness which they arouse in those who, for whatever reason, wish to keep us wholly imprisoned in the immediate conflict. That perhaps is why people are so ready with the charge of 'escape'. I never fully understood it till my friend Professor Tolkien asked me the very simple question, 'What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?' and gave the obvious answer: jailers... those who brood much on the remote past or future, or stare long at the night sky, are less likely than others to be ardent or orthodox partisans
* i.e. Fantasy
** some pages prior to this sentence, Lewis gives an analogy of the quarrel of ship's stewards in the saloon, which occupies all minds to the extent all forget that besides puny politics adn management there is the sea and the sky outside and what is outside the ship matters much more than petty quarrels within her.


This particular passage comes from an essay On Science Fiction from the book named Of Other Worlds, my copy being reprint of Harvest Books 1975 edition, ISBN 0-15-602767-4. This collection deals with fairy tales/fantasy/criticism mainly and Lewis mentions Tolkein a lot, even quoting from On Fairy Stories to illustrate some points. But this instance of direct quoting I thought worthy of sharing here.
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