A word I’ve grown to love more and more.
First off, you’ve got dictionary definition one, “the creative imagination; unrestrained fancy”. As a multimedia artist (author, musician, visual artist, poet…), I place high value on lovely creative abandon. Then there’s definition five, “an imagined event or sequence of mental images, such as a daydream, usually fulfilling a wish or psychological need”. I’ve always enjoyed a good daydream – my night-dreams have had their moments, too, but their track record is inconsistent – and I suppose my friendly get-togethers on the immaterial plane qualify as this sort of fantasy, too (though we’ll pass on speculation as to the nature of my psychological needs for now, if that’s alright by you).
But when I hear the word “fantasy”, my first thoughts will lean more in the direction of definition 4a: “Fiction characterized by highly fanciful or supernatural elements.”
As it happens, fantasy didn’t particularly appeal to me during my childhood. Not that I was exposed to a great deal of it anyway, my parents having preferred to keep my green little mind away from media flirting with the occult until I was mature enough to consciously form beliefs. Still, my dad had read me Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” and subsequent books in the series; I’d seen BBC’s “Chronicles of Narnia” films, and eventually read the books, too; goodness knows there were fairytales galore, both in picture-book form and brought to me by the Disney Animation Studios. But with the notable exception of Disney, things relating to the supernatural, the paranormal, and the magical simply didn’t grab me the way mysteries, historical fiction, humor (including joke books and comic strip collections), and magazines about dogs did. I practically blush to admit this, but… I still haven’t read Harry Potter. (I know, I know…!)
I’m not sure when the turnaround happened. I don’t think there was any clear, defining moment when I read That One Book or saw That One Movie and suddenly loved fantasy with all my heart. I guess it was just one of those things that changed along with me as I grew up.
I’d already been writing for a while before the change took place. Actually, I’d been writing since my mother taught me how to form letters and turn them into words, (homeschooler shout-out!), but I didn’t start thinking half-seriously about eventual publication until I was twelve or so. My first series of I’ll-be-generous-to-Past-Me-and-call-them-“books” followed the zany misadventures of a bunch of kids around my age. Categorizing the stories as “realistic fiction” may be a bit of a stretch (would a park district ballet teacher really let a production of “The Nutcracker” get that far out of control?…), but nobody had superpowers or anything like that, so we’ll let the matter lie.
A later incarnation of the series, written in my latter teens, actually did feature an initially unexplained singularity: The narrating girl and the psychotic boy who loved her – as part of a love triangle that I’ve long thought has uncanny similarities to “Twilight” (pure coincidence, of course, since the books had yet to set the craze rolling and I highly doubt that anything of mine served as inspiration for Stephenie Meyer) – had the ability to converse with each other telepathically. Why I thought I could get away with that without involving fantasy, I’m sure I don’t know. It wasn’t until much later in the game that I discovered how the mental communication was happening (let’s just say it involves evil elves), and it was at about that time that I started to get the idea that maybe writing stories meant to resemble reality as we knew it wasn’t my cup of tea.
At around age twenty, I set my old works aside and wrote my first full-fledged fantasy, complete with shape-shifters and an epic quest and a whole bunch of words my spell-check simply had to learn to recognize. (Ah, very good – I see it hasn’t forgotten “maedym”. Attaspell-check.) After that came the novel about the teenaged boy who saved the world in his sleep with little more than a sword, a savage unicorn companion, and a whole lot of attitude; this eventually morphed into a four-book saga, and yes indeed, it’s on my “To Publish” list. And then, of course, there were “The Wilderhark Tales”, which served as one of the springboards for “Ballad”, there was the book about the talking fox, there’s my unfinished tribute to Greek Mythology (ah! Greek Mythology – is that where it all started?)… and there’s the whole rest of my career ahead of me.
I can’t tell you what all I’ll come up with next, or after that, or after that, or after that… But gosh knows it’s fun to fantasize about.