I’ve often pondered over why I enjoy the fantasy genre so much. The reasons I find are numerous, but there is one aspect that stands out: Timelessness. Fantasy, well written, has the potential to last forever.
Before I continue, I’ll add a disclaimer saying that this is a blog based on my particular reading preferences and – in spite of what it may seem like – I am not saying other genres are horrible; I’m merely using them as a basis for comparison.
Books come and go, and part of the reason when a book goes is how well people can understand and relate to it. This means that within sixty or so years of having been written, books based in modern times are out of date – because society and technology changes so incredibly fast. If my parents were to write a book about their teenage years, I would be able to understand it, but everything was so much different by my teens that I wouldn’t relate. Likewise, if a modern day teenager (in a generation where everyone has a smartphone) read a book I wrote based on my teen years (around the time when only about half the teens had cell phones – flip or slide, rather than smart), they would find they had a very different life experience. Most of them wouldn’t have a chance with my parents’ book containing record players, cassette tapes and stuff I don’t even understand.
Science fiction, on the other hand, is based in the future. It teaches people about a possible view of the future and other worlds. It’s fun and awesome, up until we pass the story in time, culture, or technology. Look at Back to the Future – now out of date because we passed the time when we were supposed to have hover boards and flying cars (yes, we have some reasonable facsimiles, but not what we were expecting). On the other hand, there’s the early Star Trek which, while doing very well for when it was made, had a culture that we have advanced beyond.
Fantasy differs from other genres in one major aspect: it is deliberately taking people to another world, and therefore assumes that people need to be taught about that world. A lot of time and effort is put into teaching about the fresh world and cultures, without making any assumptions. As such, it never goes out of date – assuming, of course, that the writer hasn’t allowed too much of their culture to leak into their work.
Historical fiction, of course, comes close to fantasy for timelessness. Once again, it is taking people to a place that it’s assumes they don’t know much about and, as such, it teaches them. Of course, with a subject much closer to home, it is easier to make assumptions that the readers will know certain things, which could cause the story to get out of date.
So, as you can see, fantasy has the best ability to last forever. Will The Hobbit ever go out of date? I think not. That said, it’s still possible for books from other genres to last throughout the ages. Perhaps more of them could do so if they were created with the specific intent to do so; written in a way that taught about the world without making assumptions. However, I believe that fantasy is the only genre to which timelessness comes naturally.
Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.