Aside from reading fantasy I also run a restaurant with my wife. Our restaurant is directly across the street from our local library, so we get a lot of readers through our doors and I get a chance to talk with many of them. Inevitably, when discussing books, the fact that I’m a huge fantasy nerd gets mentioned fairly quickly. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Customer: Oh, so you’re a big reader too? Who’s your favorite author? I love Stephen King.
Me: Oh yeah, King is great, but I like Joe Abercrombie…. a lot.
Customer: Who?
Me: Oh, and Jim Butcher… The Dresden Files are my reason to live.
Customer: Jim who?… Dresden Files? Abercrombie?… The clothing company? What do they write?
Me: *mental sigh* Fantasy. They write fantasy.
Customer: Ooooh, like children’s books?

That may seem like an exaggeration, but it’s not. I’ve had that conversation and similar ones at least a dozen times.  I’ve gotten to the point where I often avoid talking about books with my customers, period. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Lev Grossman says he has the same problem. A new acquaintance, after finding out that Grossman writes fantasy, will say:

Come on… It’s all made up. It’s like playing with dolls! None of it’s real!

Here’s Grossman’s defense:

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviews

I have terrible news for you. It’s all made up. All fiction is fantasy — it’s what my daughter’s kindergarten teacher would call “pretend play.” Madame Bovary is a doll. Stephen Dedalus is a doll. Mrs. Dalloway? Doll. When it comes to novels, fantasy is the rule, not the exception. If anything, it is realist literature that pretends to be real. Fantasy doesn’t pretend.

Fantasy doesn’t pretend. I love that. Have any of you encountered these Fantasy Poopooers (or, worse, are you related to one?) What did you say to defend our genre? Please share and we’ll pick a random commenter to choose a book from the Fanlit Stacks.


  • Justin Blazier

    JUSTIN BLAZIER (on FanLit's staff since September 2009) is a Cyber-Security Analyst/Network Engineer located in Northern Kentucky. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, Justin cut his teeth on authors like Tolkien, Anthony, and Lewis. Due to lack of space, his small public library would often give him their donated SFF books. When he is not reading books he is likely playing board games or Tabletop RPGs. Justin lives in a quiet neighborhood with his wife, their daughter, and Norman the dog.