Late to the Party: A Review of Left 4 Dead 2

This week, we're excited to introduce a new feature here at Fantasy Matters--a series of video game reviews written by new contributors Dan Lammert and Luke Rasmussen.  The series is called "Late to the Party," because the games are a few years old, these reviews were originally published on Luke and Dan's own website, PlastikSickness--a website that also features Luke's skills as a DJ and musician.  This website brings together video games, music, zombies, and the apocalypse in a fascinating synthesis of geek culture, and it is definitely worth checking out!  Today, we bring you the first review in the series--Luke Rasmussen's look at Left 4 Dead 2.


Left 4 Dead 2Santa came a little early and delivered a copy of Left 4 Dead 2. Alright, so it was Dan (sorry to ruin that it wasn't really Santa) but that was great because we spent quite a bit of time going through it. Managed to get through the whole thing as a matter of fact, and it was quite a rush.

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Midweek Fiction: Neil Gaiman, "The Guardian"

I introduced Neil Gaiman once, at the Fantasy Matters conference, as it happens. After agonizing for a terrifically painful amount of time over how best to do this, I realized the best thing to do would be to make the introduction as short as possible, leaving out all the glorious things written, all the well-deserved awards won. So, gentle readers, I give you: Neil Gaiman.

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Why Fantasy Matters: A Personal Apologia

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Part 2)I

I wore my new Ghanaian dress to the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. It wasn’t a costume, I admit; but it was a beautiful, show-offy, peacock sort of dress. You might call it my Sunday best, except that it was midnight on a Friday.

Afterwards, I drove home at 3am with a headache from crying, trying to blink my salted contacts back into place. The themes of death, absence, and longing had been so beautifully handled in the movie, and I was trying to articulate to myself why it had hit me so hard. The usual apologia for fantasy is this: that it reflects the real world. I understand that argument. But it doesn't sit well with me. “Seeing my own world in a new way” didn't account for what I was feeling. I realized that the reason I personally read, see, and write fantasy is not because it helps me understand the real world; rather, it’s because fantasy confirms my intuition that this world is not the real one.

If you have a brain, sirens should be going off. They might, for me, if I’d read the previous sentence and not known the author. (Hi, self.) But I seem sane in other areas. I pay taxes. I have lots of friends, who also pay taxes. I earned degrees in science from excellent schools.

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How do you know when the girl is imaginary?

Imaginary GirlsThe first thing I did upon finishing Nova Ren Suma's extraordinary book, Imaginary Girls, was to flip back to the beginning and read it again. Though I reread a lot, the one other time I have done so immediately is with Gene Wolfe's Peace. This is fitting, perhaps, as it is Wolfe's definition of good literature - "that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure" - that came into my mind as I was reading Imaginary Girls.

Upon finishing again, my thoughts turned from the sublime to the practical. I thought, "Huh. I wonder where they are going to shelve this." I can see Imaginary Girls being described both as "the realistic book all genre readers should pick up" and "the work of the fantastic guaranteed to appeal to all readers of realistic fiction." I can see where both those descriptions are accurate, and both contain the important part - everyone should read this book. 

Suma herself describes it as magical realism. I don't disagree, but I am going to talk about Imaginary Girls specifically in terms of the fantastic. I'll try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but to talk about this book, I need to talk about how it ends.

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Hey, That's Not Fantasy, Revisited: Thoughts on Songs of Love and Death

Songs of Love and DeathA few months ago, I wrote an article on Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife in which I suggested that perhaps the novel wasn't fantasy literature.  This post inspired a number of comments, as well as a guest post by Ken Schneyer in which he explores the nature and limitations of genre definitions.  All of this was very interesting to me, and the question of how I define fantasy literature has been something that has been percolating in the back of my mind since then.

These questions came back to the surface when I picked up Songs of Love and Death, a collection of stories edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.  All of the stories engage both the supernatural, as well as the theme of love and romance, and this cross-genre focus made it an excellent volume to think about the nature of the fantasy genre.

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