Why does realism matter?


Something annoying: The author of this io9 article about a panel discussion on fantasy highlights a Lev Grossman quote, then goes nowhere with it. Here’s the quote:

“Why does realism matter?”

Simple, isn’t it? and nice.

But it’s true. Why is realistic fiction useful? If I want to understand the horrors of war, the pain of divorce, the disappointment of seeing a business fail, I don’t need to read fiction. There’s non-fiction on that very subject. I could read the real thing not a fake version made up by someone.

So forget about justifying the utility of fantasy. How do people justify the utility of realism?

Let me answer my own question: Because it’s beautiful. Because it’s powerful and affecting and we love it.

And that’s no different from fantasy. We’re comparing best to best, right? We’re not comparing the best examples of one genre to the worst of the other, right?

The best fantasy is powerful, affecting, and beautiful. (Maybe that should be “and/or” because sometimes the powerful and affecting parts are not at all beautiful.) It’s not all that different from other kinds of fiction. Sure, it contains elements that the author made up, but all authors make things up. Novelists aren’t trying to write non-fiction, and I don’t see any reason to force fantasy to justify it’s utility in ways that other genres don’t have to.

“Why does realism matter?” Because we long for it, the same way we do for fantasy.

In unrelated news, I broke the 9K mark on my epic fantasy, and the world is still collapsing around my main characters. In fact, there’s more collapsing to go. Fun! But I’ve already started worrying about how long the book is going to go (which is dumb but I’m a worrier).

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