Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Guest Post Featuring Gail Z. Martin: Escape This Way...Why We Love Fantasy Even More When Times are Tough
From the reports I’ve read, two book genres are the bright spots in the dismal publishing economy: Romance and fantasy. That doesn’t really surprise me, since people right now want some good news, a happy ending and a hero who conquers all. Romance and fantasy consistently deliver mostly happy endings and mostly noble heroes. There’s a clarity to the kinds of struggles faced in the majority of romance or fantasy novels. You know who the bad guy is, and you figure out a clear way to overcome the obstacles and save the day. In today’s ambiguous world, it’s often hard to figure out what or who is to blame for anything, and justice doesn’t get served up as quickly or decisively as it does on TV. My mother used to tell me stories about how she and her friends went to the movies during the Great Depression. No matter how grim the news was, she could count on the movies to lift her spirits. Nothing ever bothered Fred and Ginger, who danced along no matter what. Hollywood seems baffled about the success of recent movies like Avatar, but in light of my mother’s stories, it doesn’t seem strange to me that people weighed down by the economy, the tough job market and consumer debt want to see a movie where the good guys win. I suspect that the same is true for the romantic comedies that also seem to do well at the box office. They don’t change the world or impart the meaning of life, but together with a bag of popcorn and a Coke, they take your mind off your troubles for a few hours, which is worth ten bucks. I know that some readers, authors and reviewers prefer meatier fare. Under certain conditions, I enjoy a book or a movie that stretches my imagination, makes me think, or challenges my conscience. I like that kind of book or movie best when times are good and I’m feeling resilient, when I have some energy left over from dealing with my day. When it’s been a tough week, I want a roller-coaster action ride or a funny romp that doesn’t take a lot of heavy lifting. I want to escape. I think there’s room out there for both types of books and movies, not only in the marketplace, but on readers’ shelves. When I write my Chronicles of the Necromancer series, I want to give my readers a fantastic thrill ride. First and foremost, I want to give them a great escape from whatever’s got them down. Now for those who read carefully and are looking for it, there are some deeper thoughts slipped in between the sword fights, and some insights, perspectives and comments reflecting my own world view if you know where to look for them. So if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s there, or you can blow right by it and ride the coaster. With the current downturn, I think people have also re-evaluated how they spend their entertainment dollars. A movie in an urban area will cost you at least eight dollars, plus drink and popcorn, and it only lasts about two hours. Sporting events and live theater, even at your local high school, cost at least as much or more. On the other hand, a good book will last even a fast reader a whole evening, maybe longer, and you can read it again for free. That’s a lot of entertainment for an eight dollar paperback! So indulge. If reading a romance or a fantasy adventure gets you past all the bad news on the TV, the bills in the mailbox and the baby with colic, then read on. Don’t worry about whether it’s “significant.” Just enjoy. And to the experts and reviewers who who insist that everything be world-changing and gestalt-altering, mind-blowing content: relax. Just ask yourself, what would Fred and Ginger do? They’d keep on dancing. So dance on. Gail Z. Martin, is the author of the Chronicles of the Necromancer series published by Solaris Books. Be on the lookout for an upcoming giveaway featuring Martin's latest book, Dark Lady's Chosen!