Monday, October 11, 2010

What's the lure of the fantastic?

There are many reading genres, but certain people will gravitate toward fantasy and science fiction time and time again, to the exclusion of all others.  I count myself among them, with the only exception of the romance genre, which is also one of my favorites.  I especially enjoy reading paranormal romances like The Twilight Saga and the Night World series.  In fact, I prefer such books to ordinary romance novels, although I do read those, as well.

So what is it about fantasy and science fiction that so appeals to many people, although not all?  Is it merely the curiosity factor?  Is it the wish to escape?  But if so, escape from what?

It’s both of these things, and much more.  It’s the desire to tap into the deepest recesses of our minds, where symbols thrive, living in a world of their own, a world that our waking, rational minds find to be weird, incomprehensible.  Fantasy and science fiction, and paranormal romance as well, access this world that lies beyond consciousness.  It is the world of archetypes, those eternal realities first described by Carl Jung as the denizens of what he termed “the collective unconscious”.  He differentiated this level of the mind from the personal unconscious, which is that belonging to the individual person.  The collective unconscious is the heritage of the entire human race. 

I believe we long to experience this level of the mind.  However, since our waking consciousness finds it nearly impossible to communicate with it, we rely on symbols, mythology, fairy tales, and stories of alien worlds.  We even yearn to experience, at least vicariously, all the strange, wonderful adventures that are impossible to find in our waking reality. 

Why do we want to live in the world of the collective unconscious?  Perhaps because we feel the need to compensate somehow for the monotony of so-called ‘reality’, with its daily, boring routines – the morning commute, the gossip at the office, the bills in the mail…  For those still in school, there’s the piles of homework, being bullied by classmates, not being asked to go to the prom….  There has to be more to life than these things!  

So it is that we dream, each and every night, and enter that alien unconscious world.  So it is that we seek it when awake, through the works of such authors as J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Ursula K. LeGuin, L.J. Smith, and so many others that transport us into strange alternate realities, thus helping us to live as heroes and heroines, rather than ordinary people.  So it is that we become part of a world deep within us, while at the same time, part of the very cosmos itself.

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