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Why do people read fantasy genre?

It may seem like a strange question for an author to ask. Especially a writer with a Fantasy series.

But common are mentions of 'the five elements of fantasy' that somehow combine into a form so appealing readers will hold on to the genre their entire lives. Books become credos. That last part may seem hard to believe, but look at the passionate loyalty of fans of Brian Sanderson or J.R.R. Tolkien? Even the prevalence of Ren Faires told me that much.

It's clear, once a writer thinks of the readers themselves, that the draw of fantasy is incredibly enduring. Those five elements are sometimes said to be:

  1. Magic

  2. Adventure

  3. A struggle for mastery

  4. The genre itself, and its rich subgenres

  5. Worldbuilding (the place and settings)

It seems a bit of a stretch that people would live lives aligned with their favourite fantasy books when you look at the list. Doesn't it? Or at least, I can't remember reading a fantasy for 'a struggle for Mastery', or 'The genre itself'. So, is that it? That can't be it.

And what is the Fantasy genre for? What's its purpose? Its credo?

Why do I ask about fantasy books?

It helps to remember I started life as a writer of suspenseful mysteries and science fiction. Science and sidearms were things I understood.

Then... The Hobbit film landed, and I got my first glimpse of a narrative less dire and doomful that my other great love, Lord of the Rings. I also laid eyes on Lee Pace as Thranduil, and was immediately captivated by the beauty and charisma of a deeply injured ElfKing whose wife had been torn from him, and whose son was going to leave him soon too.

Prior to that, I'd always liked imagining a Ranger race that featured Ranger women. Strong, competent, free, and fun women. Now I started to have an idea for a series that was fueled by my love of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, their fandoms, and my own reflections on what I would have written. That powered some successful clean fanfic I wrote for fun.

Still, in my mind, I wasn't a fantasy writer. I was writing fanfic in Discovery mode. Just for kicks.

I knew I loved these stories, but when I started to dig more deeply into my career, I honestly thought converting them would impossible. I didn't have the time it would take, I didn't feel capable of writing fantasy, and I hadn't the resources. I knew it would need proofing. A lot of proofing. (Thank you Street Team / 2nd Readers!)

Then came the time for my Writing Business coursework, and I got on a plane and went to classes enthusiastically knowing next to nothing on the topic. Between classes, while at lunch with three other writers, I casually brought the fanfics up. Once they understood, these ladies sort of bopped me over the head and asked me What in the heck I was thinking. By the end of that meal, I was decided. I would rework and publish the Folded Earth series.

But I still wasn't sure anyone would want to read a scifi and mystery writer writing fantasy.

What is the purpose of Fantasy books?