Awhile ago, I talked to someone about movies and stories in general. This person mentioned (and I’m paraphrasing), “I take seriously movies like The Hurt Locker (2008) [as opposed to fantasy movies] because they are real.” In other words, works based on real-life events have more relevance for this person.
I’ve heard sentiments like this before in regard to speculative fiction—fantasy mostly—which I’ve mentioned in blog posts from time to time. But as I thought about what was said this time, a quote from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco came to mind.
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
I’m sure you’ve seen that quote before. If you haven’t, you can find the whole story here. I resonate with the rabbit’s question, because every time someone tells me he or she wouldn’t read a fantasy story because it’s not “real,” I wonder what “real” means. I don’t have to tell you that every fictional story is fiction, even those based on true events, because that is the nature of fiction. Otherwise, it would be nonfiction. But my guess is that the speculative nature of the story is the turn off, though science fiction falls under the speculative fiction umbrella.
An author who gives careful attention to worldbuilding makes his or her world seem real to me. I never enter Middle-earth without feeling like I’m in a real place, wandering roads that don’t exist in life, and eavesdropping on the conversations of beings who are works of the imagination. When I love a story, it becomes real.
But I’m not proselytizing for fantasy. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. I wrote this post, because of a conversation about the stories people relate to more than others.
What are the stories you relate to most?
Book cover from Goodreads. Hurt Locker poster from The Movie Database.