bringing thereof, affect the way you read sf/f? and at what point does the
story become an effective way for dealing with RL things?
Here’s the thing – I don’t think you can help your own baggage. Likely it’s been packed for you by the generations that came before and you inherit vast swathes of stuff that may be heavy or old or outdated and it’s perfectly possible to pause by the roadside on your journey through life, put down your duffel bag, root around through it, and discard the things that you think you no longer need or want – but until you do that you’re stuck carrying the damned thing around. We grow as human beings and hopefully we learn as we grow, which is why it is possible to have an educated opinion (at some point in your life) about what is discard-able without damage. But what if something you don’t want to discard, some precious link to a time you remember fondly or to a person you remember with love, starts to become a problem?..
That’s where story and RL meet and intersect. It’s those I-can’t-help-it moments that come up from the bottom of the duffel bag when you least expect them. Some writer you have never known might come up with a story, or a paragraph, or a sentence, or a word, which brings up some moth-eaten, one-eyed, threadbare teddybear from the bottom of your bag and you bawl because you forgot you still carried that bear, half-forgot that it had ever really existed, and seeing it again out in the light of day is suddenly more than you can bear/
Guy Gavriel Kay is particularly good at pushing my emotional hot buttons – and other people’s too, as I found out when a member of the audience at one of his readings which I attended a few years ago stood up to tell him that she ran a rape counseiling service and that she sometimes gave the husbands and the boyfriends of the rape victims a passage of his to read – the rape of Jennifer by the Dark God of Fionavar. And the men gave back the passage in tears, and said “NOW I understand.” For me, the trigger sentence was “Tigana, may the memory of you be a blade in my soul” – to this day I don’t know how Guy Kay, from prosperous peaceful settled Canada, knew what it felt like to have your country, your identity, your past snatched away from you - but he does, and that sentence in Tigana encapsulates it for me. I cannot read it and not weep.
I’ve heard it said that fantasy is the sugar coating on the bitter pill of reality – that, when they are coated with the “sugar” of the fantasy, the bitter insides are more easily swallowed, assimilated, internalised and fundamentally made a part of the reader’s own mindscape and values. True fantasy is not all fluff and fairy wings. True fantasy is the raw truth of our own world, enacted in a place removed from our own in time and space and context, made “safer” for us by virtue of the fact that it does not affect us directly or physically, but nevertheless giving us a chance to look it in the eye and confront its demons and – in the best of all possible worlds – learn enough about ourselves and our ways to be able to exorcise the worst of the demons from inside our souls.