I have written before that the fantasy genre is not just an escape from reality, but in truth, if it is done well, it addresses real world issues in a down-to-earth manner. I fully stand by the idea that this is one of the primary reasons people read fantasy. There are many reasons why people my lean toward that genre, including nastaglia and personal preference. However, I think the mysteries of the real world are a huge draw to fantasy.
Often, the fantasy genre includes real world things that are mysterious and unknown, such as ghosts and other spiritual beings. There are mysterious objects that invoke the imagination such as the Baghdad battery and the Book of Soyga that are so strange they look like they belong in a fantasy novel instead of the real world. Now I’m not saying readers should take everything at face value and assume all mysteries are real or do not have alternative explanations. Some things will forever remain mysteries. Some cannot be tested in the lab and will never have empirical evidence to support their existence, and that is what makes them so fascinating. The unknown is what fuels speculative fiction. The human imagination fills in the gaps with “what ifs” and begins constructing entirely new worlds.
Humanity has a desire for knowledge and growth and for information about the unknown so that it becomes familiar. This is the heart and soul of fantasy because there are unlimited ways to explore these possibilities through human imagination. The best fiction has a grain of truth in it, and this makes the genre more relatable. Would ghosts, angels, and demons interest as many people if millions hadn’t claimed to encounter them? I personally doubt it. If everything happened in the world as people expected it to, would fantasy then be as relatable? Probably not. It is because life has unexplained mysteries that we are open to looking at life through a different lens to try to explain what we experience, and this can draw people to fantasy.