I belong to a book group. We get together once every two weeks to talk about a book, which is usually “literary” in nature – you know, Man-Booker prize winners and so on.
The success of the group can be measured by the fact that it has been going more than 40 years. [No, I haven’t belonged to it that long; in fact only one of the members has been there from the very beginning. I have belonged 12 years.]
Perhaps one reason the group has been so successful is that the members – usually numbering about 10 altogether – sometimes come and go, changing the group dynamic, and that they encompass many different religious/cultural/ethnic groups from different countries. It is always a stimulating discussion group.
Alas, they rarely discuss sff (science fiction & fantasy) unless it is called something else, you know: magic realism, post-modern surrealism, realistic futurism or some other totally silly phrase that actually means, well, science fiction or fantasy. So Cloud Atlas is permissible (because it was short-listed for the Booker) but space opera is not, no matter how well written; The Lovely Bones would be fine, but a “fantasy” is not, no matter how much you might enjoy it, and so on.
Yesterday, the group discussed Heart of the Mirage, the first book of The Mirage Makers. Perhaps they were being extra polite because the author was sitting right there, grinning inanely (having one’s book discussed in front of you is an exercise in extreme embarrassment), but they seemed bowled over, rather taken aback by their own enjoyment of the story, intrigued by some of its sub-text.
These are people who would like fantasy, if only they would admit it.
And why is it so hard to admit?
Because magic is somehow linked to children’s literature and reading it smacks of immaturity?
One wonders just how popular fantasy could become, if only people would acknowledge that the genre offers everything that mainstream also does, depending on the book: pure entertainment, thought-provoking stories, lyrical tales, tragedy and ethical dilemmas, comic relief, adventure, fun, romance, chick-lit, crime, war, human-interest, etc etc. Serious or fluffy, it’s all there, just as it is in mainstream literature.
All you have to do is find the type of book you like to read. Give it a try sometime. You might be surprised.