“I just don’t do fantasy.”
That is a sentence I’ve heard more than once in various libraries and bookstores. I understand that people have their preferences, but I never understood why some people are so quick to shun fantasy and sci-fi past the age of twelve. In my opinion, that’s when it really gets good, because we develop a better understanding of what we read.
For the same reason many adults (and a few very serious teenagers) don’t read fiction, many people find fantasy and sci-fi to be simply a distraction, and therefore not worth reading. As a writer, but also as a reader of all sorts of fiction—sci-fi and fantasy included—I find this to be heartbreaking. I find that these novels often aren’t given the credit they deserve.
“Why read fantasy or sci-fi?” That’s a fair question. Some people read it because they’re looking for an escape from their everyday lives, but others, like me, read sci-fi fantasy to better examine the world they live in.
I find that some of the best sci-fi and fantasy books I’ve ever read take place in worlds that look almost exactly like ours, except with one major difference—a single change that effects and alters the fictional world and the way people interact with their world and each other. Parallel universes, time travel, immortality... these are all small changes that effect everything. These seemingly minute changes magnify certain elements in our world: parallel universes speak to our desire to make different choices and explore their consequences, time travel connects us to our past and future, and addresses the eternal question of “What if I could do it over again?”, while immortality speaks to our collective fear of death and the meaning that it gives to our lives.
Fantasy and sci-fi genres are vehicles for us to look at our own world in a different light. Nonfiction can be helpful, but it can’t allow us to live new experiences. Realistic fiction does many things, but rarely triggers our minds to question the daily assumptions through which we live our lives. Good sci-fi and fantasy frees us to float to other worlds and other times, and while seemingly being disconnected from our daily lives, bring us back inside ourselves, permitting a new found understanding of who we are and what we believe.
Having been born in British colonial Hong Kong and educated in Mandarin Chinese schools before moving to Palo Alto, California—the mecca of futurism—Anna Caltabiano is a child of the transnational cyber punk era. She's seventeen years old and already the author of two novels: All That is Red and The Seventh Miss Hatfield. You can find out more about her and her work on her website, or follow the author on Twitter @caltabiano_anna.