OK, I admit it, it’s a bit of a sensationalist heading this week. Whilst I probably could write a few hundred (plus) words on my fantasies, I suspect they wouldn’t be fit for mainstream publication. And it would certainly make my next speeding ticket just plain awkward...
Fantasy is one of those words that comes with a whole bunch of baggage attached, whether it’s finding out more than you wanted to about your friend’s latex fetish, or watching Harry Potter fanatics dressed as witches and wizards queueing around the block for the chance to get their hands on the latest book a fraction of a second before the rest of the world.
And ‘fantasy’ as a genre remains kind of problematic for the mainstream. There is a certain uncomfortable sense that it’s a bit of an extension of childhood games of dress up and make believe, and as such not really an acceptable interest for grown ups. Which is perhaps why books like the Harry Potter franchise come in handily bland bindings for the adult reader who’s just a little bit ashamed of their Hogwartian penchant. Although, let’s face it, there are far better reasons to be ashamed of reading the Harry Potter books than the fact that they’re for kids!
My take on fantasy literature used to be the popular one. I thought writing about dragons and castles and knights was for writers who weren’t clever enough to make ‘real’ life engaging. I cringe utterly at this attitude now, since in lots of ways it’s harder to take settings which are totally removed from every day experiences and still create characters and scenarios that your readers connect to.
The real turning point in my fantasy conversion was the discovery of a series of books called A Song of Ice and Fire. Before them I’d read very little fantasy besides a bit of Tolkien, but in my head that was serious (and at some points so dry I nearly caught on fire) literature so it didn’t really count. There are four volumes in the so far unfinished series and it’s fair to say I was captivated from the first chapter of the first book. Set in a medieval-esque world where dynastic and personal interests play out against a back drop of pacey, take no prisoners brutality, I devoured them relentlessly. Seriously, my copy of A Game of Thrones has bite marks on it. It was the first time that I’d read fantasy that was truly relatable, despite its remote setting, with characters motivated by love and sex and power and greed just like the rest of us.
I knew I was truly hooked when I reached the fourth book in the series and discovered that the rest were as yet unwritten. All of a sudden I was one of those fans willing to shiveringly queue at five O'clock in the morning outside some anonymous bookstore. I scoured the web for news of forthcoming books and exclaimed delightedly when I discovered the board games and the novellas and the forthcoming TV adaptation. Unfortunately, George R. R. Martin is notorious for his literary reticence and unwillingness to be rushed and I found myself united with the rest of his Fire and Ice addicts in a scream of, "Just hurry up and write the rest of the damn thing! (Please Mr Martin sir.)"
Luckily it would be appear that Mr Martin is listening to this swell of frenzied reader anticipation since yesterday, finally, he announced a publication date for the next installment. I’m brushing off my sleeping bag and deciding whether to dress up as Daenarys or Arya as we speak.
Ultimately, I guess these days I believe that a bit of fantasy is good for the soul. Fantasy is imagination, transportation and travel to places beyond the wildest dreams of your average travel brochure. I’ve talked about the all too human search for meaning before and sometimes you have to look in some pretty unlikely places to find it, whether that’s the legendary halls of Camelot, the slopes of Mount Doom, or the furthest Northern reaches of Westeros. So maybe this blog has been about my fantasies after all...
This week, Kate Townshend knows they swapped the sangria!