I never knew why I loved fantasy, exactly. It was just something intuitive, like why I prefer chocolate cake to vanilla (but also: chocolate cake is much better).
Until today. I formulated why I love the worlds that are of the fantastic sort, even when they appear to be drearier or scarier than our own. What triggered this realization for me was exploring The Long Now Foundation’s website. The Long Now is a foundation that, in its own words, “provides a counterpoint to today’s accelerating culture and helps make long-term thinking more common.” This excerpt from Stewart Brand’s essay on The Long Now also deftly illustrates the need for a foundation such as this, functioning as a tonic for our hurried lives:
Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective to the short-sightedness is needed-some mechanism or myth which encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility, where ‘long-term’ is measured at least in centuries.
This is why I love fantasy; it revels in the long term. It harkens back to worlds past or worlds future and it stitches them into the fabric of my soul as I read. There is a reason fantasy often conjures up the image of castles and dragons and witchcraft, and why it so often takes place in settings as mythic and mysterious as Stonehenge: the mythic often goes missing in today’s world. Yet, we are part of the Cosmos, which is innately sublime and innately mysterious and awe-provoking. Still, our daily lives forge on without any account of this incredible thing we are part of, and we are reduced to consuming Buzzfeed articles and corn-syrup filled coffee and treading over gum-scabbed sidewalks. We forget to marvel at how each and every day, we contribute to the story of the human race and of the universe, no matter how small the scale.
Reading fantasy and science fiction rearranges the grey and pink matter in my skull, and I’m made to think of time planes and odd, grotesque creatures and magic pockets that I was never aware of before. Fantasy is not all that far fetched, when you think about it. We do not know the extent of the creatures that fill the seas or roam the Amazon Rainforest; we have only begun to chip away at the very thin film of white ice on the iceberg, and all of the gorgeous, monolithic, sapphire blue still remains unseen beneath the water.
I become a citizen of the Universe when I read fantasy. That is why I love it so.
Also, personally, I feel that the prose is slightly more beautiful.