So I've been thinking about fantasy worlds lately. I mean, with the state of the world, it's not hard to understand why, right? But I wanted to dig a little deeper. What is it about fantasy worlds that appeal so much? Some of us love escapist reading, or exploring new worlds, and some people don't as much (I won't even get into the people who don't like to read). But for those of us who are attracted to fantastic worlds... the question is why?
Well I imagine there are as many reasons as there are people, but I do feel that the sense of escape is a big one. The world can be a stressful place, even before a worldwide pandemic, and of course even more so now, so it makes sense that a lot of people would want to escape, to explore a world without viruses or other mundane elements. And by that I mean the day-to-day mundane things like going to the same (often boring) job or whatever. Isn't it so much more exciting to explore that dark cave or soar through the stars?
The other thing is the sense of wonder a fantastic world provides. Tolkien is famed for the sheer breadth of imagination he brought to his world, but there are so many others. And it's not just fantasy worlds. Many of us marvel at the wonders of science fiction, the sheer imaginative sprawl of speculative fiction, whether it's near futuristic or set years in the future. Who doesn't want a world where diseases are manageable, where people can live longer lives, with less drudgery?
For some there may be a spiritual element as well. Tolkien, again, was Catholic and is known for having his faith inform his worldbuilding. Narnia of course comes to mind. But whether you're religious or not, one can find meaning in a well designed fantasy world. For others it may be the hope and optimism that the future presents. The Long Way To A Small Angry Planet and other hopeful, forward-thinking SF books fall into that category. The truth is- as stated above, there are a million possible reasons. Everyone's reason is personal to them and valid.
For me, fantasy (and SF) allow me to explore a world I otherwise will never get to. There are limited opportunities for me to pick up a blazing torch and enter a vine- shrouded cave, or to see a dragon in the night sky, obscured by moonlight. To stand on an observation deck and look out at a nebula, or hear the screeching of a dinosaur in the night. Fantasy allows us, for a time, to be someone else, or be somewhere else, and honestly- for that reason it's priceless.