Fantasy is idealistic. It takes the world that we live in and makes it grander. The impossible becomes possible. The good becomes great. The ordinary become extraordinary. There are dragons. Magic is a real and potent part of the world. The gods are miraculously and apparently active in the world. There is the chance to for good to conquer evil, for the lowborn to rise, and for the wise to guide and shape the world for a better place. Fantasies are often very similar to the world in which we live, yet they make it a more miraculous place. The creativity of human thought can also be stretched to amazing extremes and creative multiverses that can barely resemble what we know and yet be so familiar. The powers at work in the worlds are potentially more active. It is consistently the story of heroes. It is the tales of growing up or growing into a better person. It is treading dark paths that we dare not tread to come into a better light. It is the chance to be more than yourself, to have any ability you may wish, to save the world, to study the most profound of secrets, to be a hero and walk with those as your friends, to advise kings and queens, to overcome any obstacle, to become a dragon, to have hope restored.
One of the things I like most about fantasy as opposed to other fictions is its ability to remove the connections with moral feelings from real world entities to examine them and avoid negative associations being built. I become very involved in stories to such a point they open around me and I ride along with the characters. It is then easy to live within the world of fiction and go along with the main characters. In Earth-based fiction, it is easy and truly unfortunate to be rooting against the bad guys when they are a person or people that actually exist. However, it is much easier and healthier to examine the morality of things such as inaction through the lens of elves. You can see the potential effects of a person’s actions without the tragedy of their mistakes. It makes for an excellent ground to explore thought and philosophy without (un?)intentionally attaching particular traits to a group of people for better or worse.
My favorite things in fantasy are dragons, magic, world-building, and elves. Dragons are long lived, intelligent, magical, powerful, reptilian, and epic. All of these things I like very much. They are the ultimate foe or hidden friend. Magic makes so many more things possible. It is the power that must be wielded carefully. It is strength of mind that must be tempered by wisdom. It gives the physically week an advantage. World-building shows the combination of careful thought to make something plausible and wild imagination that explores the implausible. It gives novelty and variation among common tropes. It lets mountains fly and magic flow through the very moons and colors of the world. Elves are the exemplars of longevity and care for nature. They have the frame of mind in their long time on the world to grow wise and see things that are unpurchaseable and so very valuable.
The world of Krynn by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman is that which first caught my interest and upon which much of my childhood fantasies and worlds were build. The towers of high sorcery, dragons of darkness and of light, cataclysm, and band of hero adventurers, and deeply complex wizard characters of Fizban and Raistlin drew me in and gave me the fire of passion for the genera. They still run strong in my thoughts of my own worlds. The Lord of the Rings addresses so well a world of culture, history, and the fight for good against a clear evil. Nevertheless, it was Gollum’s fall that ultimately destroyed the ring which creates huge layers of grey area. The world-building of Douglass Niles and magic systems of Brandon Sanderson are always intriguing for me to see more of how things work and interact in unexpected ways. The mix of cultures and honor systems of Robert Jordan have helped me define and shape my own concepts in these areas. The characters that I identify most with in Kvothe and Raistlin have helped me see my way through the fantasy world in which I live.
(Picture credit: modified work sourced from various Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons and Dragons, and The Iron Dragon hardback cover art)