You guys have noticed that I'm just a little bit obsessive, right? I can feel myself entering some kind o.c. episode as a result of all my reading for the Cybils.
Because I've been reading fantasy and science fiction, I read J.L. Bell's and M.T. Anderson's discussion of fabulism vs. fantasy at Oz and Ends and have just started printing out some of Bell's links to more material on the subject. (Including a fifteen page essay at Agni Online. What was I thinking? When will I ever have a chance to read that? In my next life?)
In the original post/discussion, M.T. Anderson describes the elements that he sees as distinguishing a new sort fabulism from fantasy, including the following:
"Less emphasis on the construction of coherent alternative worlds, and more on the mechanics of fable. The "unreal" elements are introduced with a specific view to their symbolic, symbolist, or psychological resonance, rather than any definite insistence upon their physical reality or the continuity of another world."
Okay, I'm going to admit right off that that's getting a little deep for me. However, I think it fits in with a question that just happens to be bouncing around in my mind today.
If the author decides not to worry too much about constructing a coherent world to emphasize "unreal" elements as symbols or because she's interested in some psychological aspect, does anything have to make sense? Don't things need to fit into their world, their context, to have some meaning? And what about authors who don't create a coherent world and emphasize "unreal" elements only because those elements are freaky or fun and not because the authors have an interest in symbol or psychology? Can a reader always tell one situation from the other?
I suspect that the response to all that is, "When you can take the stone from my hand, grasshopper..."
Actually, what I was thinking about before I read any of the stuff at Oz and Ends, was: If you make up some weird situations we don't see every day, give some characters funny names, and have them do improbable things, is that fantasy?
Perhaps I'll have answers for some of this in five or six months.