Speculative fiction has earned the reputation for being an escape from the harsh reality us adults face every day. Undoubtedly some movies, novels, and TV shows serve the purpose of mindless entertainment. We all have read a book or watched at movie on Netflix and asked ourselves, “Why was this even made? What is the point?” Good Fantasy serves a purpose, has meaning, and leaves a lasting impression.
Now that I set the bar incredibly high for myself let me define “Good fantasy” because that is a subjective term. Good Fantasy addresses real world problems such as war, hatred, segregation, and religious persecution, to name a few, through a fictional lens. Perhaps werewolves symbolize outcasts from a society, perhaps elves are segregated from the world of men, these are real issues but with Fantasy it can be subtler and digestible for an audience if done right.
I believe this sort of fantasy isn’t for those who wish to escape reality, but wish to refine in and mold it for the better. Fantasy leads the reader to consider different perspectives and ideas. I do not feel that quality fantasy should be about shock and awe. Throwing in sexual or torture porn for the sake of “realism” is less realistic and more about pandering to a certain audience. Simply shocking the audience with gore and sensuality is not really a goal that should be pursued. Sadly, these are trends that have occurred more recently and thus I feel adds fuel to the belief that speculative fiction is about escaping reality.
Yes, sex and violence are realities in our world. I do not deny that for a moment. However, heavily lacing a book with such material, I feel potentially harms the other messages and themes the author may try to convey. I write about warfare, and thus violence is inevitable. I write about awful things that happen, but there is a way to do it that doesn’t involve being over the top. Perhaps that standard makes me a prude in some people’s eyes. That is fine. What is important to me are the themes in my books, not going for cheap attention grabs.