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The Unexpected Fantastic

AmelieIn Amélie, the French film by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the heroine stands at the back of a café, awash in gold light and self-imposed invisibility. She is too shy and too quiet. She lets the man she loves walk away without declaring herself, or even giving him her name. She is on the edge of tears. She turns into a sheet of water and collapses into a puddle, splashing across the tiled floor.


A Question of Why

The HobbitOur book-filled house is, like so many, home to rows and stacks of jeweled Fantasy volumes. Successive versions of touchstone works are there, thirty-year-old, dog-eared, and travel-worn paperback editions of The Hobbit nestled near hard-bound commemorative editions, one a delight for memories of how we read back then, the other a monument to what that book means to us in a grander way. The kaleidoscope of the many colored Fairy books are beguilingly resting on one shelf, just at a child’s eye level, and all of Narnia frequently sits in our daughter’s hand in one volume, perfect for days of rain or travel. Our bedside tables are towers of weaving bookstacks, where Patrick Rothfuss and Connie Willis beckon and invite among Arthurian scholarship and Margaret Frazier mysteries. Mighty buttresses of Robin Hobb, George Martin, and Robert Jordan fill whole shelves in a reassuring statement that in our house, for many reasons, fantasy does matter and always has.


The Stuff that Makes the Man: Examining Alternatives to the Warrior Hero in Fantasy

In this essay, Kate Meyers examines the limitations of the warrior-hero ideal in fantasy literature, and argues that works such as Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle not only create heroic opportunities for both male and female protagonists, but also provide a way of expanding how we think of the hero in classic works such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

King Arthur. Superman. Achilles. Hercules. When we think of heroes, we think of men like these who fight for what they believe in. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell studies the stories of heroes such as these, arguing that they can provide the symbols “that carry the human spirit forward” (11). Campbell treats the hero as a universal, symbolic manifestation of the rite of passage, wherein a person undergoes a transformative ritual that is vital to their full integration into society (40, 10). As such, the hero can also function as a symbol of what his or her culture values. The hero as warrior has become a particularly common motif in modern fantasy literature—often to the exclusion of other types of heroism. This is problematic, as it excludes protagonists with traits such as communication and compassion from the role of hero. Consistently coding the hero as warrior, when the warrior archetype embodies traits that are highly exclusionary to a significant portion of the readership, sends the message that only men, or at least only people possessing stereotypically “masculine” traits, are capable of heroism and the rite of Howl's Moving Castlepassage it symbolizes. This essay seeks to reevaluate the situation of the hero in fantasy by using Diana Wynne Jones’s Howl’s Moving Castle as representative of an alternative type of hero, one who has both “masculine” and “feminine” qualities and is still able to complete the hero’s journey. Then, by taking Jones's characterization of the hero and using it to look at older works seemingly dominated by the warrior hero archetype, such as The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, we can synthesize different criteria for fantasy heroism that makes it possible for people of both genders to complete their rite of passage.


Tarantino's Got the Right Idea; Or, Why Fantasy Matters

Quentin TarantinoLast week, I was reading about Quentin Tarantino's latest project--a film called Django Unchained, which, according to a commenter over at Hollywood Elsewhere, tells the story of a freed slave named Django who works with a bounty hunter to find and free his wife.  What is interesting about this movie to me is the form that it's going to take--something that has the action and adventure of a "spaghetti Western," but that takes place in the time and space of the Civil War and that Tarantino would call a "Southern." 


An Origin Story

New York Times best-selling author Patrick Rothfuss reminisces about the origins of Fantasy Matters:

The Name of the WindBack in May of 2007, I was the newest of new authors. My first book had only been on the shelves for a month, and I was proud, terrified, excited, and shellshocked in roughly equal amounts.

It was at this time that I got an e-mail from a couple grad students in Minneapolis. They invited me to a convention they were starting up.

They were very flattering and their e-mail said something along the lines of, “We’re just getting started, so we can’t pay you or anything, but if you check out our home page, you can see that if you come, you’ll be getting not-paid with the best.”

So I hopped over to their webpage, and what do I see? Neil Gaiman and Jack Zipes.


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