I am often asked fantasy and science fiction where fantasy starts and fiction ends, what is the difference between them and whether one should regard them as separate notions . The is a tough issue, and offers no easy and unambiguous answers in particular for the laymen. Nevertheless, we can almost always say that this or that work is more fantasy than science fiction, and vice versa. After all, few people dare to include the famous "Star Wars" to the genre world of elves and dragons, or "Lord of the Rings" to science fiction. So let`s try to understand what is the matter and give a clear definition of the genre of fantasy.
Today, giving a definition of fantasy is quite a formidable task as nowadyas the works of this genre arevery popular and you can find them on almost any bookstore shelf. But on the other hand, as a literary trend, it was formed in the middle of the twentieth century. So what is this: a recognized classic, or a fleeting rush of glory, caused by the promotion of the game and cinema industry? To answer these questions, it is necessary to trace the development of the genre, or rather its emergence and establishment.
Fantasy, of course developed from fairy tales and myths. Fairy tales are the oldest and the immortal genre of literature as the target-readers are children - the most appreciative audience. In addition, fantasy has taken a step forward, apart from the division of characters into heroes and villains. Fantasy has inherited some of the epic narrativeness and the tragedy from the myths. The heroes must fulfill their mission, whatever it is, but at the same time, he is not so determined, as a character of mythological tales, and he is given the choice, which gives rise to contradictory feeling and down-to-earth characters. Fantasy Hero strives for freedom and independence, he wants to depend only on their decisions, brave horse and this trait is linked to the fantasy world of chivalry. In these genres honour and courage are the main qualities. Fairness in fantasy, though valued as highly as in the chivalric romance, is not always victorious. Fantasy boasts a rich mixture of European literary tradition and this traditionalism is its main advantage .
Fantasy retains its charm only in case of keeping to traditions. Any attempt to modernize leads to transcending the genre and, as a result, we obtain either mystic or horror, anything but fantasy. Robert E. Howardis is the godfather of the fantasy genre. Over 30 years of his rather tragic life, he has written many interesting books and changed the face of this genre. In his works, Howard has mixed reality and fiction. Even in the works about Conan behind the fairy tales one can see real countries with a well-known history. However, due to distortion of fantasy, they acquire a kind of mysterious flavour. These stories gained a wide recognition in our country and overseas, which is not surprising as the reader reveals a new world, where good defeats evil unlike in reality.
John Ronald Tolkien-the man who created the genre of contemporary fantasy. He brought elves, dwarves, magicians, and many other creatures into our lives, which are now considered a normal thing to be.
During his long life, Tolkien created a wonderful world full of magic and humanism. Yes, it is humanism: one of the central ideas is the idea of forgiveness. Being a humanist to the backbone, Tolkien rejects any thought of revenge or even justified harsh punishment. This can be explained by his religious upbringing as well as his love of nature: the author grew up among trees and grass, as his mother wanted him to. This is one of the reasons why nature plays a key role in the works of Tolkien. Nature is always associated with harmony. The third important idea in his works is the idea of the decisive role of personality in history. "Small pebbles can cause a great stoneslip," - Tolkien speaks through his characters. The actions of any of minor character can critically change the storyline. And it does not matter whether the hero is strong or weak, smart or stupid, as long as he remains honest and faithful he will be rewarded.
In his works, Tolkien expressed philosophical thoughts and ideas, humanistic and religious views. The writer presented them in such a way that they are easy to understand for young people. He managed to make his thoughts heard by the youth of several generations, better than any other writer. With such a solid foundation the genre of fantasy developed rapidly. Now, being familiar with the history of the genre, we can try to give it a precise definition. However we should distinguish its closest literary trends - science fiction and mysticism.
Mysticism may be defined as a genre, depicting otherworldly intervention into our daily lives. The works of this genre can be divided into mysticism and horror. The most outstanding representative of this genre is Stephen King. Mystery and horror can be pose before the reader plenty of philosophical problems and offer answers to them, in the course of the narrative to explore the inner world of the hero, to assess what is happening in the real life events. Mystery describes the mysterious, unsolved and unknown part of our world that is so unsettling. Horror is mysticism, which is evokes not only curiosity but also fear connected with otherworldly mysteries.
Defining science fiction is more complicated. In order to write a fantasy novel one should have not only the talent of the writer, but also profound scientific knowledge. Everything depicted in science fiction is connected with advancement and may become real in future. Classic examples of science fiction writers are Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, etc. Fantasy art initially describes an unreal world , which is impossible in our reality. Fantasy promotes moral values. This is a major difference. There is a hero issue: hero is a must in the fantasy world. On the contrary, science fiction addresses social and public issues and can do without a hero.
Taking the abovementioned into consideration, we can arrive at the following conclusions.
Fantasy is a literary genre that emerged in the twentieth century aiming personal freedom of a human from economy, laws and other elements of everyday life. It combines humanity of fairy tales, tragedy from myths and nobleness from chivalric novels. Authors working in this genre create worlds that are parallel to reality or by no means connected with it. These worlds are full of harmony with nature, variety of intelligent creatures and magic. Fantasy sheds light on the many philosophical and humanistic ideas.