Die Drachen kommen (17/11/09)

If it’s weird and wonderful seeing yourself in print, it’s even more weird and wonderful seeing yourself in print in another language, and somehow being in magazine is even even more weird and wonderful. Particularly a german one (we’re a half german family here, y’see).

Also, for anxiously waiting German readers, publication seems to have moved forward to the 8th December. At least, according to Amazon.de anyway. Although if the translation of the reviews are anything to go by, I’d take that with at least a small pinch of salt…

Anyway, the English translation of the aricle follows for anyone who’d prefer not to read the original through a microscope. On why I write fantasy, then, and its enduring appeal…

How did I become a fantasy writer? I’d like to pretend that people ask me this question all the time, but actually they don’t. Mostly what they ask (if they ask anything at all) is why aren’t you a science fiction writer? After all, I have a degree in physics, not in history. I have been a rocket scientist (to be fair, I’ve never made the bit that goes whoosh, but I have helped to make the bits that sit on top the bits that go whoosh, and that, my friends, is the hard part) so why don’t I write stories about rockets? Now I like science fiction almost every bit as much as I like fantasy, but it seems to me that there is a difference, a very fundamental one. Science fiction can be about ideas. Fantasy, in the end, needs to be about people. Fantasy doesn’t have a choice. There’s nowhere else for it to go. So I choose fantasy first, because for me, people are nearly always more interesting than ideas.

Well fine, but still, why fantasy? Why not write about people in the real world? Why not write crime or thrillers or love stories. Better than that, if you like people so much, why spend your time all alone writing at all? What does fantasy offer that the real world does not? I think that is the question. It offers something, that’s for sure, something that matters to a lot of people. Many of the most successful series of books in the world, it seems, are fantasy series. Why? Are fantasy writers so much better than other writers? No, of course not. So it must be the fantasy itself. And if a fantasy story has to be about people to succeed, then what does fantasy tell us about people that other kinds of story can not?

I think it is still the wrong question. Try this one: What can fantasy tell us about ourselves as people that other kinds of story can not? Now we begin to get close to why I write fantasy, why I love to read these stories, and why (in my opinion) fantasy is as successful as it is. The heart of any fantasy story is a world that is simple. It may not always seem it, but compared to the real world, it is. The good people are good, the bad people are bad, there is right and there is wrong. This is one thing. Another is that anyone in a fantasy story can be the hero. Rich or poor, weak or strong, black or white. Why do we like this? Because the real world is so very big and so very complicated, and because in the real world almost nothing is clear; it is all very grey and much harder to tell right and wrong apart. Because the real world is full of things we think could be better. It is full of things we want to change but we can’t. Sometimes we can’t change them because we don’t have the power. More often we can’t change things because we simply don’t know how. Fantasy, and only fantasy, is an escape from this. An escape to a world where we can understand and we can have the power and we can fight for what we believe in and we can be the hero and what’s more we can win! It’s good for us too. It helps us to keep on trying in the much more difficult world of reality, because it gives us belief that if we just try hard enough, if we could overcome just a little more, then we can change this world too. The best fantasy stories can inspire us to be more than think we are, and that is something few other stories can do.

Why do I write fantasy? Because there’s a part of me that’s still sixteen years old and ready to take on the world. Because deep inside I still want to be a hero, no matter how hard a thing that is to be. And because I know I am not alone.


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