Saturday, November 11, 2006

I May Be Getting In Over My Head

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.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah - the 64 million dollar question... Speaking as someone who's been enjoying fantasy pretty much my whole life (35 years at least), I'd say that it depends (a) on the improbable things, (b) the weirdness of the names (there are some seriously weird real-life names around these days that make me do a double-take when I see/hear them !), and (c) what the situations are...

But critics argue over the definitions of fantasy (and Science Fiction) for a good many years - and will continue to do so for a good many more ! So, on the whole, I don't worry too much about it - you could drive yourself seriously crazy if you do !

And yes - you're definitely getting obsessive if you're printing off a 15-page essay to read - especially if you know you're not likely to find the time to actually read it !*grins*

(I, on the other hand, am going to go and read it now...)

gail said...

You can annotate it for me!!

Anonymous said...

Oh ! Hmm - I'm not sure I'll have time to do that right now... I'll get back to you on that one !

gail said...

Actually, I was joking. I know it probably doesn't seem funny, but I don't know anyone who would annotate anything for anyone. Thus, they would laugh at the mere suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Ah ! Jokes - I know those... ;-D

Seriously, if you want it annotated, I'll do it. I tend to assume people are serious when they ask me to do stuff like that, because that's the sort of thing I would get asked to do !

gail said...

Oh, no. I'll read it myself after New Year's probably. I like to make my first approach to things from my own ignorant perspective. Then I try to seek out information about the parts I don't understand.

Anonymous said...

Fair enough then !