Monday, March 21, 2005

My Father, the Hamster

Suffering major blogger guilt today. I wasn't able to post all weekend due to a varity of RL commitments, and up until this moment I had all kinds of mommy-duties to attend to. Sorry to anyone who cruised by and got annoyed at the same old stale thing.

And to add more guilt to the pile, this has to be a short one. I can make one promise, though. Tonight is Episode 2 of Mr. Romance so surely I'll have much to discuss after that. Except for maybe that's not such a good thing. *g*

Philisophical observation. Today my son was watching "Power Rangers Ninja Storm" (and no comments from the peanut gallery on this particlar parenting no-no) and I happened to tune in just at the right moment and just long enough to realize that a conversation between one young Ranger and his father happened to be between a human (the Ranger) and a hamster. Yes, this young man had a hamster for a father.

I won't go into the complete physical impossibility of not only a talking hamster but a talking hamster able to sire a human child. Perhaps in some previous episode the father was turned into a hamster. I have no idea, and frankly, I really don't want to know.

My point in bringing this up was that my son accepted this situation entirely. He saw nothing odd whatsoever at the prospect of a boy having a hamster for a father. Then again, he also sees nothing odd in people dressed in skin-tight spandex suits and karate chopping monsters out of Frankenstein's worst acid-trips. He's five so he still lives in the world where b-quality computer effects and action figure toys filmed at extreme close-up to look as if they tower 100 feet high are the epitome of good entertainment. Lucky him.

So when does it happen that we relinquish our ability to accept the unreal with complete abandon? When do we develop that disbelief that requires so much suspension in order to enjoy the imaginations of those around us who, fortunately, retain enough of their own inner-child to still have imaginations?

A lot of discussion went on last week in the romance genre blogging world about the fantasy element in romantic novels - how much "fantasy" is too much especially within contemporary sub-genre. In fact, can the word fantasy even apply if the general set-up is in the world most of us would recognize (so that means no paranormals in this particular instance)? If a writer puts forth a heroine too perfect to be real and a hero her equal in the perfection department, and if these two experience things none of us ever will, can it even be called fantasy? Or is it, instead, just a failure on the part of the writer to create real characters and real conflicts and real resolutions and then calling the whole thing "fantasy" to excuse such sloppiness? After all, if all romance novels are nothing more than fantasy, why can't someone's father be a three inch hamster?

Looking the word fantasy up on, here's what it says:

Main Entry: 1fan·ta·sy
Pronunciation: 'fan-t&-sE, -zE
Function: noun
Inflected Form(s): plural -sies
Etymology: Middle English fantasie -- more at FANCY

1 obsolete : HALLUCINATION
2 : FANCY; especially : the free play of creative imagination
3 : a creation of the imaginative faculty whether expressed or merely conceived: as a : a fanciful design or invention b : a chimerical or fantastic notion c : FANTASIA 1 d : imaginative fiction featuring especially strange settings and grotesque characters -- called also fantasy fiction
5 : the power or process of creating especially unrealistic or improbable mental images in response to psychological need ; also : a mental image or a series of mental images (as a daydream) so created

I kind of like definition 2. If you buy this - that all free play of creative imagination is some form of fantasy - then every fictional book written can be called a fantasy. Even the ones where all kinds of bad stuff happens and no one finds love and there is a lot of dying at the end with nary a HEA for anyone. Or stories that meticulously account in highly realistic detail the routines of ordinary people in ordinary jobs leading ordinary lives. Boring, yes, but fantasy all the same if someone "imaginated" it.

On the flip side of this fantasy free-for-all approach, we could go with 3b - a chimerical or fantastic notion. This required me to look up the meaning of chimerical, which is existing only as the product of unchecked imagination : fantastically visionary or improbable. So, using this definition, a hamster for a father is fantasy while The Minutia of Life as Bob the Boring Office Worker is not. Still boring, but not fantasy.

I guess I live somewhere in the middle. Or rather, I like my stories to live somewhere in the middle. I don't want the minutia. The excrutiating reality that I get just by living day to day in suburban America. I need a little fantasy, otherwise I might as well not bother. However, I also don't want hamster fathers, either. At least not in my contemporaries.

I think it all comes down to personal preference, and that's a good thing. Because just as there are readers who span the entire spectrum from Boring Bob to My Dad, the Hamster, there are writers who do the same. Whatever it takes to allow a person to escape into a different space than where they currently reside, there are writers out there both great and small up to the task.

Some writers have retained such a tight grip on their imagination, harnessing it to bring forth amazing fantasies that bedazzle us and let us escape the real world for as long as we wish to do so. J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings trilogy is both one of my favorite books as well as my all time favorite movie(s) and it is 100% fantasy.

Other writers have developed such a keen sense of observation that they can study the real world we live in and present it in such a realistic but intriguing way that I'm simply captivated. Sorry to sound like a broken record, but I don't think anyone would describe Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as "fantasy", yet even so it allows me to escape my own world as surely as Lord of the Rings does.

You won't find me writing about hamsters or Power Rangers, but I hope that I retain the imagination enough to appreciate them as viable forms of entertainment for some. Too, I hope I will always be able to appreciate the fanciful even as I grow more jaded against it, as I live and move further and further from that perfect spot where my son now resides when anything can be believed if I want it badly enough.

And I certainly hope that the stories that do flow from my imagination never stop coming. Fantasy or not, they might not be everyone's cup of tea, but they keep me entertained.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really interesting, Lynn. And I've missed your blogs the last few days. I check here often.

I love a bit of fantasy, absolutely, which is one reason I'm a sci-fi reader. Such a great escape from the day to day, and the furthest thing from my reality. However, it can't be too far. There's a thin line between a work which transports you to another realm, and one that is so 'other-wordly' there is nothing to relate to and it leaves this reader behind.

No matter the situation, I need to find the point of human connection. The place where I can climb inside the story and imagine being there and *feel* something- not just watch from a sterile distance as it unfolds.

If I don't get that, then I miss the escape.

I do tend towards books the have blurbs like "quirky!" and "whimsical!" And I promise you if there's a single "gritty!" or "unflinching!" on the front, I run like all heck the other way.

I do want the fantasy.

So, offer escape to galaxies far, far away, a future in peril, planets at war, time-travel, etc., just don't forget to take me with you!