and next

Just when I’d nearly given up hope.

I found this–Randy Henderson’s compendium of what would happen if three contrastive dimensions collided in a movie studio.  All your favorite classics are back at Fantasy Magazine.  Sort of.

I tip my hat to Henderson for demonstrating what I’ve vaguely felt has been missing from too much fantasy literature.  On the one hand, it’s struck me more than once during the holidays that there aren’t enough good fantasy stories centered around these holidays.

A quick look at George MacDonald’s Christmas stories, for instance, shows a surprising lack of Christmas fairytales.  ‘The Gifts of the Child Christ’ (1882), perhaps his most haunting seasonal story, happens entirely in a realistically styled world, with logical explanations of all the apparent wonders that happen.  ‘Port in a Storm’ (1882), the more whimsical companion to the previous story, offers a tenuous venture into surreality–the associative power of place and the intrusion of the dream-self into waking.  But it’s firmly ensconced in a Dickensian family storytelling session.

Neither of these stories are among the fairytales.

Dickens himself, of course, did somewhat better.  ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843) is  the classic Christmas collision of real and unreal on the borders of dreaming and waking.  Less known, equally eerie, and showing perhaps some of MacDonald’s influence, is  ‘The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain’ (1848).  The ghost in question, however, isn’t the triptych of Past, Present, Future, but a double of the man himself.

Still, these could both be posited under the heading of magic realism, if you’ll pardon my anachronism.  What about true fantasy, true fairytale, true speculative?  Aliens and enchantments and epic battles and lots of things blowing up?

Weave that together with the magic of Christmas, and where can you go wrong?  That’s what the much maligned character of Father Christmas is, really–a visitor from the Perilous Realm who has the courtesy to return at the same time each year.

On the other hand, there’s an awful lot of angst in the SF and fantasy worlds these days.  The trend for dark fantasy, the gothic and the horrifying, continues.  Dark is in.  Word crises and nightmares are inner.  Graveyards are the innest.  Even just reading recent titles is depressing.  It seems that today’s market wants scary.  Adams, Jacques, and Pratchett have too few imitators.

More depressing still–there are far fewer original comic fantasy writers.

Henderson demonstrates that it doesn’t have to be this way.

We write fantasy.  We can afford to laugh at ourselves.  We can even laugh during the holidays.

May I humbly suggest that the screaming need in the fantasy market are these two unlikely comrades–the hysterical and the sacred?  We need more humor, we need more wonder, we need more of both at the same time.   We need, in short, stories that take our woes sympathetically, but not seriously, and that can have the upside down gall to laugh our way to wonder.

After all, the topsy-turvy road leads the  surest to where we need to be.

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