Fantasy Needs to be Real, by Omar
This blog post is written by Omar Ismail
Fantasy needs to be Real.
I’m the kind of guy who likes fantasy and sci-fi. I, like many geeks, have it as my genre-of-choice. It feels like there’s just more freedom to it. It feels like an extended hypothetical question in the form of a book, or a play, or a TV show, or a comic or a game.
I’m also apparently the kind of guy who dislikes the following sentence:
“What do you care if that one part doesn’t make sense?! It’s a film about a flying man in a cape!”
At first, this might seem like a perfectly reasonable question. The film contains a single ridiculous premise. Men can’t fly, yet Superman (in case you were unsure who I meant), does. Why am I accepting of a flying, indestructible, superstrong, x-ray-visioned, man of steel, but complaining about something that doesn’t make sense in the plot? None of it makes sense to begin with.
Simply put: Because I am willing to suspend disbelief for the hypothetical situation we’re in.
You’ve told me there’s a Superman. Fine, and now we move on with the story. There’s a reason however, that everyone makes the same jokes about Superman.
1) Nobody notices he’s Clark Kent even though his only disguise is a pair of glasses.
2) He wears his underpants on the outside.
Those are silly. Everyone complains that they are silly. That he’s a sun-eating, humanesque, laser eyebeam firing, space alien is rarely ever mentioned. That’s because those things are part of what we’re being asked to believe for the sake of the story.
We’re being asked “What if… Superman?”. We’re being shown what the creators think would happen, and we’re answering back with “People would recognize him”, and “He would have figured out underwear by now”.
This is ok.
Fantasy has to follow its own rules. Is Superman’s weakness really Kryptonite? Ok, then why is he throwing a continent of it into the sun after being stabbed with it? I’m pretty sure Kryptonite is far more of a weakness to everyone else on earth, than it is to Superman.
Frederick Pohl said “A good science fiction story should be able to predict not the automobile but the traffic jam.” And that’s what I’m looking for in my Sci Fi and Fantasy. I know it’s not real. It’s not meant to be. Hypotheticals never are. (Unless they begin with “Let’s say I had this friend…”)
It’s more fun however, to play along and join in the idea. “You’re right… cars would cause traffic jams!” “That’s interesting, I bet the country would start to rely on Dr. Manhattan to a point where they wouldn’t cope if he left”. “Hey, I have my own ideas that build on yours, what do you think of them?”.
This interaction is what makes the Sci Fi and Fantasy fans so involved. That’s why we’re (I mean they’re) at conventions grilling George RR Martin. That’s why Star Trek Conventions have people who have tried to develop their own warp drive (look up the Alcubierre drive, I’m not kidding). That’s why everyone writes up their own theories on how Sherlock didn’t die.
Good Fantasy invites you to join in, and the friend that tells you to stop thinking about it, is missing out on the best bits.