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2004-03-01 11:04 AM
The "F" Word (Warning: Oscar Spoilers for those who taped it!)
Thank you Peter Jackson for the title of this entry.
Is it possible? Can one now use the word, "Fantasy," in polite company once again? Has the rest of the world woken up this morning to find that all the geeks they made fun of in high school really did know something they didn't?
Nah. It's a fluke.
Here's my guess:
In spite of the fact that some of the great works of literature can easily be classified as fantasy--what's that? You don't believe me?
Well, if you insist.
A Christmas Carol.
The Magus. (John Fowler, look it up.)
Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus.
Crime and Punishment. (And if you don't see the fantasy elements in that little morality play, I feel sorry for you.)
All the works of the Brothers Grimm.
All the works of Dr. Seuss. (Fuck you, they are so literature.)
And on, ad nauseum.
Okay, right about now the field has been split evenly into two distinct camps. One camp is nodding their heads. The other camp is scratching theirs.
I'll leave the choir alone for a bit and preach instead to those heathens in the second camp.
You've been brainwashed. Yup. Hate to tell you that, but it's true. You've given the old blanket okee-doke to the snobs who title themselves "Critics," when instead you should have been listening to Reviewers. You see, critics critique. They nit-pick. They usually sit around in big overstuffed leather chairs and justify their Harvard educations by masticating a well-told tale between their platinum capped teeth.
It's in their interest to emasculate anything that has the slightest odor of popular success into the category of "pop" literature.
We've run into them before, you know. When Misery (written by Stephen King, a self-proclaimed Horror writer) won the Oscar, it was immediately titled a "Thriller." That way they could justify the award being given by echoing such past masters as Hitchcock. It allowed them to recognize the outstanding work done on the piece without having to come down from their ivory tower. But even Hitchcock was considered a hack in his time. C'mon! The man makes these TAWDRY little crime dramas.
Then again, Shakespeare wrote for the common man and was considered a hack.
Hemmingway was a newspaper writer who kicked out his novels as fast as he could so that he could get back to drinking. (On a side note, most of the stories you've heard about good old Ernest are false. He hated to answer questions about writing. Everyone made such a mythology out of the act and it pissed him off enough that he made shit up whenever a questions was posed to him about "THE CRAFT!")
Dickens? Please? He was considered a populist showboater. He wrote "A Christmas Carol," overnight in order to make a well-paying deadline. I'm still convinced that Tiny Tim was his way of mocking the entirety of his piece and the treacle that he was forced to write in order to buy food. But he wrote a damned fine story in the process.
In other words, I don't think we've got anything to worry about as far as Fantasy gaining acceptance any time soon. There's always going to be someone out there to rip it apart and re-lable it so that we penny-dreadful writers get all the credit due Scientologists with a quota of new recruits to make.
It'll take time for the old batch of snobs to die off and a new batch to take their place. But the new batch will have been raised on Stephen King and Peter Jackson's trilogy and that is what will be considered literature. Because in the end, art is determined by the audience.
It just takes time, is all. Time, and an ability to enjoy something in spite of what we're told we should.
Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of the Abyss.
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