How Fantasy, Horror, and Sci-Fi Awaken Magic and Wisdom

I am a fan of the genre. I’m talking specifically about fantasy, horror, and science fiction as literary tales of magic, fear, and wonder. These types of books get readers of all ages excited. But many still put down fantasy, horror, and sci-fi as “inferior” subjects. Professors mock the genres, insisting they’re low-brow. Writing teachers attempt to dissuade students from writing those types of stories.

But these genres offer a lot of insight, wisdom, and new ways of thinking. Sure, people like the entertainment, but there’s so much that these genres bring to the table. And today I want to focus on three magical things that fantasy, horror, and sci-fi awaken in us.

So let’s refute the nay-sayers and remind them that fantasy, horror, and sci-fi offer just as much to readers as any piece of classic literature!

Sparks Imagination

Most of us grow out of imagination. We think it’s just for kids at play, who daydream about flying to outer space, slaying dragons, and running away from monsters. Something as silly as that definitely doesn’t belong in adulthood, right?

Wrong! Imagination is supposed to stay with us our entire lives. It shouldn’t be left behind in childhood.

Believe it or not, imagination serves a great purposes for adults as well. It provides us with vision of what could be. It helps us find solutions. Imagination helps us relate to others. It helps us see beyond what is right in front of us.

So adults can use imagination practically, but there is an added benefit: imagination excites our brains. If we’re honest, most of our everyday lives are a bit tedious. Imagination breaks that tedium and opens us up to whole new worlds—just like what we read about in fantasy, horror, and science fiction. These genres allow us to escape the real world monotony for a little time. We travel to different worlds, meet people we’ll never really meet, and learn different rules for existence.

All of those things awaken our imagination, and without that, life gets boring. With these genres, our imagination muscle gets put to work and reinvigorates it for our everyday life.

Conjures Questions

When our imaginations are in full-flow, we begin to wonder—and wonder is a magical thing. Yes, wonder and imagination are very much tied together, but it’s wonder that opens us up to questioning.

How did they do that? How was that problem solved? Can that really be done? Would that really work? If they can do that, why couldn’t I do this? What’s possible? Is anything really impossible?

This is the power of wonder. If we keep space for imagination and allow wonder to creep in, we start to think more about what’s possible in our own lives. We encourage kids to do that; why not adults?

Because wonder is something adults need more of in their lives as well. Adults are the ones constantly working to earn money, keep a house, and manage the home. There’s often no room for wonder, only logic.

But without wonder, we never really stop to think about what else we could do. Are there ways to create a better life, a better world? How can we as individuals contribute to that? Must we always be tied to obligations that leave us drained?

Author Neil Gaiman has said, “Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.” Replace “fairy tales” with any genre, and that quotation is still true. Remember that the dragons you have in your own life can also be defeated, but to beat them, we need a working imagination and enough wonder to ask questions.

X-Rays the Real World

A criticism people have of these particular genres is that they don’t exist in the “real world”. Fantasy often takes place in a completely different world; horror commonly exists beyond what is logical; and sci-fi is usually way out there—literally!

But we don’t need books to be set in our world to gain deeper insight about the real world from it. If we’ve learned anything from English class, authors are constantly putting themes and ideas into their writing. Why would we assume they weren’t doing the same in fantasy, horror, and science fiction?

Yes, these genres, too, can have deeper meanings and context behind them. The difference being that they put a barrier between the reader and the “real world”. These genres allow us to look deeper at situations that we see in our world, but through a comfortable lens. There’s a distance that lets readers take in the story, and then reflect on the similarities in the real world.

Sometimes, this distance is needed. For many readers, it can be uncomfortable to dig into those themes if the setting, characters, and world hit too close to home. Fantasy, horror, and sci-fi can work well in this is way if we give them the chance.

This is especially important when we remember that the world we live in can be a harsh one, for adults as well as children. That barrier can be a necessity in the face of trauma, and it can help one cope with pain while also understanding and healing from whatever trauma they’ve faced. We shouldn’t close out these genres as they possess their own ability to help others face themselves.

Genre Fiction Benefits Us

These stories and their elements can awaken our minds, help us problem-solve, and make us realize that we have it in us to change the world. If we engage with them, these genre tales will give us the tools we need to do the above. And adults and children alike need that in the real world.

Fantasy, horror, and science fiction are wonderful genres. Despite what some may say, they can actually teach us a lot about ourselves, our thoughts and beliefs, and our own world. There is a great magic in opening our imaginations and letting wonder come out to play. And when we fall into those things, it allows us to see the world in a whole new way.

And isn’t that what we expect of all good reading?

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