Monday, July 27, 2009

Fear and the Fantastic

Recently I've been reading The Face in the Frost by John Bellairs and Fair Peril by Nancy Springer and they've both helped me to reconnect with something that I had been missing in other works of fantasy--the dread of the unknown and a sense of sadness for things that pass through our lives. When I was reading Tolkien as a child, giant pony-eating goblins were frightening, as were spiders large enough to carry off small children. The bright passages were stunning and the dark ones were chill, but this is something that I see less of now than I did then.

It could be that fantasists don't write about bright and dark the same way, but it could also be harder for me to find the wonder that I did then or corral my anxieties into fear for a work of fiction; yet, these authors brought me into their worlds and populated them with that pleasant unease that makes you creep toward the door behind which is a faint banging...

Perhaps its just that at the turn of the year I'm looking for a good ghost story, something to shiver me out of the drought my tiny bit of Texas is undergoing (and over which rain clouds with a mean sense of humor linger and then fade). It's this sense of unease and possibly outright fear that feeds the stakes of a fantasy novel and it's something that is difficult to do well if you're focusing on a fantastic escape or a fantastic romance. So far, both of these books are charming me deeper down the hallway. The banging is still faint, but I'm thinking it may become louder very shortly.

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