On Writing as a Fantasist

Have you ever read something and wished you’d written it? While attempting to avoid work this morning, I looked at Scott Card’s website and he’s posted a link to an essay by a guy I’ve never heard of – Dave Wolverton. His essay, ‘On Writing as a Fantasist’ is a excellent read.

He’s articulated something extremely proficiently that I’ve long felt to be true and about which I’ve spent a lot of time arguing and talking with other people. Anyway, read these two extracts, and then click the link.

For decades no novel of science fiction, fantasy, or horror was allowed to appear on the New York Times Bestseller list, regardless of how many copies such a novel actually sold. Thus in the early 1970s a work by Stephen King that sold a million copies in a month wouldn’t even hit the list, while a book that sold fifty thousand copies held the number one position. Why? Because in New York, the work of fantasists wasn’t considered literature. (The same can be said for other genres. Romance, Westerns, mysteries–all forms of “genre” literature were considered beneath mention.) The same holds true to a lesser extent today. No Star Wars novelization has hit number one on the New York Times Bestseller list despite the fact that such books often outsell three-to-one those novels that are listed as number one. I suspect that romances generally sell much better than the list-makers would like to admit.

For the same reason, the works of fantasists have been consistently passed over for literary awards and publication in the mainstream magazines. Regardless of how original the piece is, how moving, how insightful, how enervating, or how beautiful, fantastic literature is considered incapable of being the equal of mainstream literature.

And what in Mr Wolverton’s opinion constitutes a good story?

A story that fascinates is better than one that bores. A story that is eloquent is better than the babboon howlings of the verbally damned. A story that is profound, that transmits valuable insight, is better than one that is pedestrian or that is opaque. A story that speaks to many is better than one that speaks to few. A story that is beautiful in form is better than one that is inelegant, rambling or clumsy. A story that transports me to another world or that transmits experience is better than a story that leaves me sitting alone and troubled in my reading chair. A story that artfully moves me emotionally or intellectually is better than one that leaves me emotionally or intellectually anesthetized.

Hear hear! Now click the link.

1 Comment
  1. Dave Wolverton, a.k.a. David Farland (the name he uses when he writes fantasy), is a great writer who has come from the “Utah” school of fantasy writing, which includes Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, Tracy Hickman, and, of course, me.

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