Too serious for a fantasy?
Award winning author Ellen Kushner created the Interstitial Arts Foundation to provide a means to support struggling authors who write genre fiction. There are other grant programs for struggling writers, but they usually exclude genre fiction, as if it is not worthy of public support.
So why doesn’t genre fiction get more respect? People are apt to dismiss it as escapist fiction, not on the same level as fine literature. Especially if the genre is fantasy.
There are some who think fantasy is nothing more than escapism, where buff barbarians with enchanted swords defeat the evil king and liberate the land from oppression, or the chosen one rises up from the dung heap in which he was raised in to destroy the cupcake of doom and become a hero for the ages. There must be death in the story, but the right people must die and those who survive must find strength anew because of their comrade’s noble sacrifice.
While escapist literature can be found in fantasy, it can be found in every genre including mainstream fiction. The world is better for it, as sometimes we all need to escape from the rigors of living in the real world for a few hours, and our imaginations are a great place to escape into. However, there is so much more to fantasy than escapism. While you will still find your sharp-witted thieves and your magical flights on a dragon’s back, there are deeper matters lurking beyond the swing of a sword.
J.K. Rowling is not shy about exploring the relations between the upper and servant classes in British society in her noted Harry Potter series. C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman both explore the nature of divinity from two very different perspectives. Ellen Kushner explores the role of gender in society. Patricia McKillip takes a long hard look at the unintended consequences of what happens when people impose their utopian vision on society, and Stephen Douglas examines the ideas of messiah and pariah within both modern and traditional society. These are serious themes, well deserving of respect. More so because all the authors I’ve mentioned have done so with out allegorical tricks or writing with over bearing message driven prose. In fact, their stories all share one common thing: they are a fun read and can be read for nothing more than pleasure.
In writing The Garden at the Roof of the World, I’ve not shied away from exploring some very serious themes, some of which are obvious to the casual reader, others less so and require a more careful read. I’ve done this because I believe that fantasy, in its capacity to expand upon mythology, provides the best medium to delve into the deepest and most important issues that face each of us, within breathtaking stories that stir the heart while lifting the spirit, placing the reader in times and places for which they yearn. In The Garden at the Roof of the World, I offer you a thrilling adventure that will take you across half the medieval world. The are things lurking within the novel that I hope will challenge those readers who care to explore them, but there is one thing I hope for all my readers: Enjoy!
The Garden at the Roof of the World by W. B. J. Williams is now available for pre-order at http://publishing.dragonwell.org