Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Travelling Fantasy Roundtable -- July's topic: Intrusive Fantasy


Intrusion in fantasy often occurs in two ways. Either this is the intrusion of something alien, something entirely other, something not normally seen or active in the character’s world, something that disturbs the status quo by it’s arrival.  Or, intrusion is not truly intrusion at all but unveiling, an “apocalypse” where something hidden and secret now makes itself known to the character.

For instance, in the NBC program Grimm, Juliet discovers that monsters walk among us. This is not merely a realization of evil because evil has always been on earth, but a realization that the rules of life are more complicated than she had formerly thought and that certain species of people (hitherto unknown to her) are living lives she had not dreamed about. The fantastical intrusion might be a good thing. Or not. It might give glimpses of the numinous, the awesome, the otherworldly, the kind-heartedness at the center of the universe — thus creating saints (which often happens to folks who have seen angels or God. It might give the one intruded upon a glimpse of evil. . .the result of which is paranoia, conspiracy theories, isolation, prophets, or freedom fighters (spiritual or otherwise.)   

In the Christian view, the Revelation of St John is the ultimate intrusion of fantasy. As one of the Old Testament prophets stated, “Tear the heavens and come down!” In the same way, John sees a day when the heavens will roll away like a scroll and the truth about the world — its true ruler, its basic battles, its true moorings— will be revealed.

In Christianity, John saw the revelation of the unveiling when a door opened up in heaven and he was invited into it to “Come and See.” He was trusted with knowledge of how the real world works and told how to declare it. In fantasy novels, the unveiling comes about either through sudden accidental discovery, by a character’s gradual insight and realization, or by trust…that is, another character (good or evil) decides to share the “secret” of the intrusion with the main character. Examples of this kind of encounter with fantasy intrusion in contemporary life are cases of alien abduction, haunted houses, and bumping into bigfoot.

Once the character’s eyes are opened, choices have to be made. The character can choose to close her eyes to the truth, as some do in The Matrix. The character can choose to align herself with other “adepts,” “visionaries,” or wizened souls. . . after all fantastical truth is hard to follow alone. There is the danger of forgetting. Therefore, some kind of fellowship is needed. The fellowship’s duty is to grow in knowledge about this revealed truth, strengthen the will of those who might be tempted to fall back into unknowing. Thus churches, fellowships, partners, support groups are needed, especially if the intruder into the real world is dangerous, the character may choose to fight.

In the end, the character is changed by this sudden intrusion. Something must be done. Or the character must change. Intrusion fantasy shows the main character that the world is not what she had thought it was. Whether this unveiling blesses the main character or curses her is unimportant. What matters is that the character is changed and will never see herself, the world, or her place in the world in the same way again. Thus, those who have seen the God behind the veil will suddenly “bring forth fruits worthy of repentance”  or go about preaching to neighbors with the zeal of an ex-alcoholic or an ex-smoker. Intruded-upon characters generally change. And who would not? They must in order to accommodate the secret that had formerly been hidden behind that closed door in heaven. 

Our collective posts on Intrusive Fantasy is located at:

Chris Howard's Saltwaterwitch Blog
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