The Desi Fantasy Reality

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FOR TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS

The Desi Fantasy Reality

By : Sonja Chandrachud  /  Nov 2010

The lure of the unknown, paranormal and supernatural has always fascinated man since time immemorial finding its way into our everyday lives. Faeries, Vampires, Wizards and now Tantrikas step into our mundane world every time someone, somewhere pens a fantasy story of yet another parallel universe transporting us into the land of extreme imagination.

What is fantasy writing? In the earliest written documents known, mythic and other elements would eventually come to define fantasy and its various subgenres. They are a part of some of the grandest and most celebrated works of literature like The Odyssey to Beowulf, from the Mahabharata to The Book Of One Thousand and One Nights, from the Ramayana to the Arthurian legend. Fantastical adventures featuring brave heroes and heroines, deadly monsters, and secret arcane realms have inspired many audiences—both storytellers and readers. In this sense, the history of fantasy and the history of literature are inextricably intertwined.

Fantasy writing has evolved over the years with Rudyard Kipling, Edgar Rice Burroughs along with Abraham Merritt, who established what was known as the ‘lost world’ sub-genre, which was the most popular form of fantasy in the early decades of the 20th century, although several classic children’s fantasies, such as Peter Pan and The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, were also published around this time.

Juvenile fantasy was considered more acceptable than fantasy intended for adults, and so writers who wished to write fantasy had to fit their work in a work for children. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote many early works verging on fantasy, but in A Wonder-Book For Girls and Boys, intended for children, she wrote actual fantasy. For many years, this and successes such as Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (1865), even the later The Lord Of the Rings, were classified as children’s literature. Today, the perception that fantasy literature is meant only for children no longer exists.

What sets fantasy writing apart? The identifying traits of fantasy writing are the inclusion of fantastic elements in a setting, where inspiration from mythology and folklore are predominant. The masterful creation of parallel worlds inhabited by unusual beings and creatures born of light and darkness, angels and demons that live by magic and the occult as they battle one another are created to facilitate multidimensional messages. Over the years, this fascination with fantasy has grown by leaps and bounds even in the face of today’s reality-based existence, finding its way into mainstream literature as a highly specialized genre.

Being a respectable fantasy writer requires much more than just an overactive imagination filled with elves, dragons, wizards and wrinkly old sorcerers who embark on endless quests to godforsaken realms. As much as certain elements and settings are a given, fantasy writing tests the ability of the narrator to explore the realms of both mind and space wherein situations and issues have unusual and non typical outcomes in the make-believe worlds that have been created. A fantasy writer must exhibit the ability to deftly brew up a fantastical tale, conjuring up outlandish subplots, flesh and blood characters that are both truly believable and amazingly unforgettable.  The fantasy writer’s job is nothing short of being a magician whose narrative illusions must read like reality making you laugh, cry and think, all while slaying the inner demons within you.

Where is fantasy writing today? The West has produced its share of well known hobbits, elves, wizards, vampires and faeries adding an aura of respectability to the fantasy genre and making it one of the most lucrative and yet toughest genre for a rookie writer to break into. Book sales figures reflect the vast potential that exists in this market but there is a hidden twist in this tale. Most fantasy stories do not lend themselves to single hit wonders. They usually work better in the series format as it allows both reader and writer to develop the plot and the numerous subplots, characters and timelines more effectively. A growing interest in Eastern mysticism has seen western writers draw inspiration from Eastern fantasy tales, weaving in the concepts of Karma, Dharma, Moksha and reincarnation to add an element of exotica to their stories. For example, in Quest Wilbur Smith describes a tantric ceremony scene between two sorcerers that explores the ‘opening of the third eye’. Graphic descriptions paint a vivid picture of tantric practices involving sex and the occult, giving the readers a seductive glimpse of eastern mystical make-believe that could very well have occurred not too long ago in real time.

In fantasy writing the word ‘Imagination’ takes on a different meaning for it is not merely a tale about bloodthirsty demons versus faeries fighting over a talisman or a lost magical book. Underneath all those layers is invariably a passionate quest where the protagonist must slay his inner demons to find his true calling…much like any other real story…but with the magic of fantasy.

Sonja Chandrachud is the author of A Hilarious Haunting Adventure series.