Thoughtful Thursday: In 2020, we’re thankful for escapism

Thankful for books!To our American readers: Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays here at Fanlit. A time we normally set aside for family, close friends, and (of course) good food. A time to consider how grateful we are for those and other aspects of our lives. A chance to reflect on the larger perspective than perhaps our daily lives don’t leave us much time for.

This year, of course, is different. The time we’ll set aside for family will be Facetime. Our close friends haven’t been close enough for far too long. Our food will be less elaborate, come in smaller portions, and no, it won’t taste as good. Little, if anything this year, is “as good.” And while we’ll still take time to reflect, much of that will be on what is missing, and for too many of us, who is missing. At our tables. In our lives.

Oftentimes, we in the fantasy/science fiction world bristle when non-fans disdainfully label our genre, “escapist.” I’m not going to argue with that here. Because instead, I want to own it. Because escape? I could go for some of that right about now.

Because when I sit down at that table, one of the things I’m going to be thankful for is how this year I was able to “escape” into the many-statued House in Susanna Clarke’s Piranesi, the desert setting of Bradley P. Beaulieu’s SHATTERED SANDS series, the Renaissance Italy of  Jo Walton’s Lent. Into the grittily profane Arthurian world of Lavie Tidhar’s By Force Alone and  whatever the hell lyrically surreal world Jeff VanderMeer sent me to in Dead Astronauts. Into the richly detailed universe — um, “Cosmere” — of Brandon Sanderson, who with his 1200+-page Rhythm of War says, “You want escape? Hold my beer.”

So yeah, escapism? Where do I sign up?

So where did you escape this year? What worlds did you disappear into for at least a little while? What wardrobes did you step through and where did you end up? Where did this tornado of a year land you, and what sort of respite from the world did you find there? And when you came back and opened your eyes back up to this tough, hard-on-the-eyes-and-spirit world of today, what moments did you recall, as if they were a wondrous dream, all in bright vivid color?

Answer as many of our questions as you like. One random commenter will win a book from our stacks. We hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

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BILL CAPOSSERE, who's been with us since June 2007, lives in Rochester NY, where he is an English adjunct by day and a writer by night. His essays and stories have appeared in Colorado Review, Rosebud, Alaska Quarterly, and other literary journals, along with a few anthologies, and been recognized in the "Notable Essays" section of Best American Essays. His children's work has appeared in several magazines, while his plays have been given stage readings at GEVA Theatre and Bristol Valley Playhouse. When he's not writing, reading, reviewing, or teaching, he can usually be found with his wife and son on the frisbee golf course or the ultimate frisbee field.

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  1. I think escapism is wonderful – sometimes we need to get away from the world, and sometimes that momentary escape teaches us new ways to see and cope with crises in our lives! I wandered to several places this year, including off into VanderMeer’s and Sanderson’s worlds; but my favorite escape this year was into Nnedi Okorafor’s world with Binti. When I returned to this world and the chaos I faced here, I was prepared to see it the way Binti did – to try and negotiate peace where there was hurt, even when the hurt was personal, and to accept both my own power and my occasional inability to fix everything.

  2. I’ve read a lot of books, but I was very impressed with both “The Year of the Witching” by Alexis Henderson and “Black Sun” by Rebecca Roanhorse.

    While those books are on the “grim”and/or “dark” side of fantasy, it felt good to read about characters who knew how to “escape” and then face their problems knowing that it can’t last forever.

    That being said, I’m looking forward to completing “The House in the Cerulean Sea” by T.J. Klune. So far, it’s amazing, and I’ve heard nothing but great things from everyone whose read it. And, that book is all about escapism!

  3. SHOREFALL was not an “escape,” but it took me to a powerful and beautiful world. Similarly, THE CITY WE BECAME was a trip–in many meanings of that world–and an immersion.

    Alix E. Harrow’s worlds in THE TEN THOUSAND DOORS OF JANUARY and THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES were vivid and magical. I ditto BLACK SUN by Rebecca Roanhorse.

    In very different ways, Stephen Graham Jones’s THE ONLY GOOD INDIANS and T. Kingfishers THE HOLLOW PLACES, both horror, were “escapes” to exquisitely realized worlds–not that I wanted to stay there in either case!

  4. Mary Henaghen /

    I’ve escaped into many worlds but the one that stays with me the most is To Sleep in a sea of stars by Brian Sanderson. He created an amazing world.

  5. Andi Beard /

    I escaped into the kingdom created by Naomi Novik for Uprooted, the world of the Himba in Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti, into the Oasis with Ernest Cline, and onto Indian Island with Agatha Christie in And Then There Were None. All incredibly enjoyable!!

  6. This year I escaped to Westeros in A Song of Ice and Fire. I managed to never see the series on tv. So reading the books for the first time this year has been quite the adventure. I’m currently on book 4, with one more to go. Then I’ll join the ranks of everyone eternally waiting for the last book. 😣

    • I’ve waited so long, I’ve decide to watch the show. LOL.

      • Noneofyourbusiness /

        Just keep in mind that the show starts out strong but becomes a very, very pale adaptation by the end (and that it’s physically impossible for the books to the end same way given the existence, non-existence and changes to locations and relationships of various characters).

        • Noneofyourbusiness /

          *’to end the same way’, not ‘to the end same way’

          • Maybe I will read them. I started two series by Ann Rice that she hasn’t finished.

  7. Happy Thanksgiving! This year, I think of lot of us had to escape. Book sales went up.

    Otherwise, I discovered African American folk tales, mythology, in novels via the “Tristan Strong” series. Harry Potter watch out!

  8. I’m currently escaping into Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s book, Shadow of the Wind! It’s a wonderful book read slowly– so many layers to the plot, so many characters, and such rich language.
    I picked up a few of his books after I heard about his passing, and he’ll really, truly be missed.

  9. Lady Morar /

    I escaped by starting on my book up, which I hadn’t worked on since the ’90s, and now I’m making daily progress!

  10. Noneofyourbusiness /

    Into books like Michael Moorcock’s Corum, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, Toni Morrison’s Beloved and Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. Into stories on TV like Infinity Train and Doom Patrol. Even digging up old Might & Magic on Youtube.

    Speaking of Infinity Train, if there’s one thing you could binge on HBO Max right now to get the ratings up so it’s renewed for a fourth Book, it’s Infinity Train. And at 12 minutes an episode, 10 episodes in a season, each Book so far (The Perennial Child, Cracked Reflection and Cult of the Conductor) is shorter than the shortest Marvel movie. Please see this interview with the creator:

    • He sounds like an interesting guy. It seems like the show occupies that awkward space where it’s marketed as YA but aimed at adults (or aimed at them also).

      And frankly, remembering my own morbid teenage self, I really think teens can handle “dark” a lot better than adults want to admit.

  11. Jillian /

    I love to read but this year was definitely the first time I used it for escapism. I learned to escape into fantasy worlds alongside the shadowhunters, the knights radiant, students of hogwarts, and so many more.

  12. The Distinguished Professor /

    Recently I escaped into Philip Pullmans “The Secret Commonwealth” and “Serpentine”. His writing style is just something special.

    As I’ve mentioned before, Nnedi Okorafor is a truly evil person in real life beneath her façade of superficial charm, who abused and harassed my child when she was their thesis advisor, and reliving that is a major part of what my child turns to literature to escape from. They find it vividly triggering even to see her name. Like Orson Scott Card and J.K. Rowling, we may enjoy her writing but she deserves to be shunned as a person.

  13. I escaped to San Francisco and faerie reading several of Seanan McGuires October Daye books

  14. John Smith /

    Hmm. I always like seeing pictures of beautiful cats.

  15. I know this is off subject, but can anyone recommend a good book about New Orleans circa 1840? Thanks. If this violates any rules, I’m asking for a friend.

    • This series starts a little early, 1833, but Barbara Hambly’s Benjamin January series. Benjamin’s mother became the placee (mistress) of a plantation owner. He paid for Benjamin to become a doctor in France even though Benjamin was born from a slave father.

      Benjamin’s now back in New Orleans but earning a living as a musician.

    • Hi, Zina, ignore my email about Benjamin January because Melita already recommended them. I really liked them, and I learned a lot and… hey, speaking of things that would adapt well to TV, how about those?

  16. I’ve been reading a ton of contemporary romances. Mostly popcorn and I can barely remember the character names let alone the plots the next day. A few have stood out…

    Red, White, and Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
    Division Bells, Iona Datt Sharma
    Boyfriend Materiel, Alexis Hall

    In the field, Martha Wells, Bujold, and Megan Whalen Turner have distracted and entertained.

  17. Michael Voss /

    This was the year I finally picked up Patrick Rothfuss’s THE NAME OF THE WIND. To say it was an escape – and a very welcome one – doesn’t do it nearly enough justice.

  18. Sethia /

    This year I escaped into the future with The Expanse series by James S.A. Corey!

  19. Andi Beard,if you live in the USA, you win a book of your choice from our stacks.
    Please contact me (Marion) with your choice and a US address. Happy reading!

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