David Eddings – and Dreaming Big

This is a cheeky repost from John de Nardo’s recent Mind Meld over on SF Signal. It’s here because I’ve had a sentence from it actually quoted by two of my twitter friends today – and (rather more seriously) in the light of the tragic loss of David Eddings – a man who wrote fantasy because he was a ‘pessimist’.

Q: Why do you think there is an imbalance towards a negative futuristic outlook? How did we get here and how has this affected the genre? Can you give some examples of positive/upbeat ideas in your genre?

Call me a starry-eyed idealist, but I find little negative about the genre. It can be mundane, certainly, but negative? That’s another thing entirely.

The SFFEthics mission statement wording runs, ‘We aim to leave cynicism and negativity at the door, and concentrate on what makes us smile, what entertains us…’ Accentuating the positive doesn’t need to imply that we’re surrounded by the wailing and the gnashing of teeth.

I have a very singular job – arguably, the only one of its kind. Standing for the largest specialist geek/cult/sf retailer in the world, everything I am is about celebrating the genre. Not just the literature – the ideas and creativity contained within – but the people who write it, read it and critique it. With every signing comes a celebration of that author’s work and of their fanbase – I’ve stopped counting the people who’ve driven miles to meet someone, who bring treasured first editions, who – quite literally – cry as they’re overcome by the presence of a writer who’s changed their life.

Isn’t that what we’re celebrating?

What’s positive about the genre? Everything. In the current financial climate, sales of genre literature are rising; people need escapism, new vistas and visions. And it’s not only books – it’s comics, RPGs, computer games. Our reality becomes bleaker – give us the fantastical. Give us other worlds; give us creatures of imagination that lurk beneath the surface of our own.

Popular culture doesn’t challenge us – soap operas serve only to grind it in our faces. At its height, it offers us – what? – a vicarious dream of potential celebrity, even as the media exults in tearing that celebrity down. This is what we have to aim for? I think we can do better.

Completely randomly, on the table by my elbow I have:

  • Andy Remic’s Biohell
  • David Devereux’s Hunter’s Moon
  • David Moody’s Hater
  • Liam Sharp’s God Killers
  • Mark Charan Newton’s Nights of Villjamur
  • Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind
  • Tony Ballantyne’s Twisted Metal

Some I’ve read, some await that long, claustrophobic commute – and there’s an image to iconise the point. The science fiction, fantasy, horror genre takes us out of ourselves; opens our eyes and minds to a wider picture.

To achieve, one has to dream. To dream, one has to read. And the genre we read enables us, if we wish to, to dream big.

That, in itself, is a cause for celebration.

David Eddings dreamed big – the ‘Belgariad’ was a cornerstone of the fantasy genre. Thank you to Liz and Michael for the quote… but I’m sure he would have said it better.

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