The Popularity Explosion of Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books
Stories have been told by human beings for millennia. They shape our worldviews, bring us together in wonder and emotion, and take us on journeys we wouldn’t otherwise be able to go on if not through the pages of a book. This is especially true of two of the most popular genres today.
In recent years, the popularity of science-fiction and fantasy books has exploded. There are many reasons for this uptick in popularity, one of the top reasons being that several sci-fi and fantasy writers, like J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin, and Suzanne Collins, have not only had major success in print but in Hollywood. Other factors, like imaginative storylines, pushing the envelope on old tropes, and tackling complex topics in unique ways help to attract a wide variety of readers to these genres.
How does sci-fi and fantasy accomplish this? Read on to find out what these genres have to offer.
Ultimate Escapism Through Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books
Fantasy Has Always Been Appealing
I started reading fantasy at a young age. People don’t think about it, but most kids in the U.S. cut their teeth on fantasy in the form of Dr. Seuss. I mean, seriously, a cat in a hat talking to small children or an entire society on a dandelion puff? We grew up on fairytales and myths, legends and tall tales. They shaped us and taught us what we needed to know about the world. Nobody wanted their houses to get swept up in a tornado and be hunted by a wicked witch, but everybody wanted to walk through a wardrobe into another realm.
Other important authors like Raymond E. Feist, C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Ursula K. Le Guin all inspired me to venture further and further into the fantasy genre. They offered worlds with familiar elements but turned sideways. Magic soaked every page. It was the ultimate escape from day-to-day life.
Science-Fiction Changed My Whole World
Then came science fiction, and I was hooked, though I do have to admit, Star Wars, Star Trek, and Stargate had more to do with my initial fascination more than any book. Then I wanted more, and like the bookworm I am, I found the authors who appealed. The ones who ignited that sense of wonder and speculation.
Alien worlds, science that pushes the envelope on reality, topics that make you think and examine the world around you; this is why I read science-fiction. It is a thinking person’s escapism. Authors like Walter Jon Williams, Nancy Kress, Sheri S. Tepper, and Arthur C. Clarke all paved the way for future readers and writers to explore the universe in ever more creative ways, plunging us to the depths of what could be and holding up a mirror to what is.
Fantasy is the Epitome of Imagination
Dragons, magic, and vampires. The fantasy realm encompasses many different sub-genres from the recently renamed Urban Fantasy (now wholly Contemporary Fantasy) to High Fantasy. Fantasy is the epitome of imagination and creativity. It takes myths and legends and supercharges them. It takes hard truths and shows them to the reader, allowing for another way to live or a path to choose.
An article in cossgrrrl says that “Fantasy gives an outlet for the creative part of the brain without straying too far from real life. CG: Some adults are more imaginative and creative than others. Our world is becoming increasingly demystified, and some people crave finding new mysteries to explore.”
My favorite fantasies involve people figuring out humanity and love, empathy and compassion, power and greed. Fantastical stories can weave a tale around these topics without sounding like a lecture. A favorite fantasy story of mine is by Guy Gavriel Kay. He enjoys writing about worlds based on earth’s ancient history but with a fantastical tilt. In this story, entitled Tigana, a grieving, vengeful wizard takes away the name of an entire kingdom. It explores the desperation of the remaining people of this kingdom and how a nation reconciles its identity with its name. It’s a difficult portrait of how deep grief can tear a person apart and make them do horrendous things in the name of love. I do believe that if told in any other way, except for a fantastical one, this story would not have been as impactful. Besides, how can an entire name be taken away except through magic?
Science-Fiction Creates Alternative Realities
Hubcityspokes recently stated that science-fiction is important, not only for its imaginative storylines, but because “through its creation of alternate realities in different points of time, readers are attracted to what mirrors where we are today. In that valiant search for the future, science fiction teaches us how to handle the present.”
Sci-fi involves speculating on what could be based on current scientific theories and weaving those into a creative story. Human beings love exploring possibilities and new ideas in the world of science fiction.
Tackling Complex Topics
Fantasy Brings the Magic Out in All of Us
One of the things I love about any fantasy story is how, ultimately, they are all about how humanity relates to each other. Yes, the stories are all told through fantastical creatures, and humans are often imbued with magical and mystical powers, but the questions of how and why are brought up in digestible ways: Why do we show love, kindness, and understanding to everyone? How does light and dark magic translate to humanity’s constant desire to find balance in our world? How do teenagers deal with bullies? Why are kings, queens, princesses, and princes still cool? All these topics are explored and more.
Science Fiction Helps Us See New Perspectives
From Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to anything written by Octavia Butler, sci-fi stories of all types don’t shy away from dealing with topics of social justice, past atrocities spun in future worlds, and human differences being reflected from the eyes of the other. Not only does Science-fiction span the spectrum of hard science woven into a speculative story that theorizes about what the future might hold, but it grounds us in fantastical worlds populated by the alien and unknown.
Throughout every story, the reader will find diversity, economics, hope and greed, love and loss all tied up in metaphor and spaceships or dystopia and apocalypse. In no other genre can a writer tackle these topics so that the vast majority of readers will sit down and listen. Or throw the book across the room and have a good cry.
Find the One
I am a firm believer that all books have validity and that ninety-eight percent of all voices should be heard. That other two percent, well, let’s just say I don’t abide haters (say that in an old Western movie-type voice, and you’ve nailed it). This being said, I will pick up a good science-fiction or fantasy book over any other because I know I’ll be challenged, entertained, and can leave this world behind for a while. That those aliens on a planet far, far away represent a human being on the other side of the world (wherever that may be), or it may represent me to them.
Denise Spain is the author of the Crossroads Series and is currently writing a variety of other books and novels. She loves creating adventures for her characters and readers alike. Whether it is surviving in some dystopian future or teaming up with Sasquatch and other mythical creatures, all her stories involve people discovering just how amazing they already are. Life and good storytelling should be about the fundamentals: living life to its fullest, love, and self-discovery.