Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Guest Post: Editor Reece Hanzon On Genre Fiction - Why Science Fiction and Fantasy Are So Important

Hey guys! As promised, we have a special guest who is taking control of the bridge today, to tell you why science fiction and fantasy is so important. You'll find examples of the books he's worked on through the post. Please welcome editor extraordinaire, and my editor for The Undead Road, Reece Hanzon! Take it away, sir. Watch for asteroids.

(If you're going to SLC Comic Con FanX, here's my schedule)

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Most of my life, I’ve had to battle against a literary establishment that pooh-poohs science fiction and fantasy as having no real literary value, or not contributing to culture, society, or the human experience. Even now, when science fiction and fantasy are gaining more recognition and acceptance in society, I still encounter a lot of condescension for these genres; people seem to think that science fiction and fantasy stories are inherently escapist literature and do not or cannot teach us about life and humanity—never mind that both genres have made incredible contributions to literature that are still studied to this day (the great masters of science fiction and fantasy are often, in my experience, regarded as anomalies, or truly great masters that were amusing themselves with writing fairy tales).
This summary dismissal really bothers me because I think science fiction and fantasy actually have more potential to address modern-day issues than contemporary “literary” fiction. Those of us who write in these genres can deal with issues directly without being so in-your-face about it, which helps readers keep an open mind and not feel as defensive or uncomfortable—which can translate into much deeper thoughts on the subject at hand. For example, I recently worked on a manuscript that does this very well. Cold and Thieving Fires* by Blake Bunker is a riveting fantasy adventure set in a dying world torn by an unending war between the last two remaining cities, each with diametrically opposed philosophies and customs.
However, the true story of this book is about drug addiction and recovery. Throughout the book, the reader witnesses the main character’s descent into addiction, her denial of her condition, her harrowing rock-bottom turning point, and final recovery—all of which affect and are affected by the larger events of the story. Bunker has worked in the mental health industry, specifically in addiction recovery, and has used his experience to craft a story that is not only entertaining, but also socially important. Readers who have struggled with addiction, or who have friends or family who do, will find Cold and Thieving Fires resonates with them on a very personal level and gives hope that things can get better. It is a wonderful example of how fantasy can directly address an important issue in a much more accessible way than other genres. course, not everyone wants to confront an issue head on; many authors, even in contemporary literature, prefer to use symbols. Once again, science fiction and fantasy have a distinct advantage over their literary counterparts; because we deal with imaginary worlds, it is far, far easier for us to create symbols than it is for authors limited to the real world. Though, to be fair, we probably have more of a challenge helping the reader recognize our symbols for what they are without figuratively beating him or her over the head with them. Even so, we have the ability to help our readers confront ideas from a position of strength and security (the comfort of a blatantly imaginary, nonthreatening setting and the lure of an engaging plot), which gives our writing tremendous power.
When writers use their craft and creations to help readers understand and think about real issues, they have the potential to change lives. Everyone has some challenge or trial to deal with—whether physical, mental, emotional, philosophical, intellectual, or any other kind of problem—and everyone likewise needs help dealing with them at one point or another. Books, like so many other art forms, can help readers find the catharsis they so desperately need to help them through their trials. And science fiction and fantasy have an unparalleled—and sadly neglected—capacity to do just that. As writers in these genres, we have a responsibility to take our craft up a notch or two, beyond mere tales and amusements, and add some real substance to our works. By so doing, we will offer a helping hand to many, many readers, and especially to those who may not read the more “literary” books out there.

* Cold and Thieving Fires is not yet published. The details above are shared with permission of the author. You can contact Blake Bunker at


  1. Exactly! Those genres can tackle issues in ways that we can handle them better than other genres.

  2. Hey, what's wrong with being inherently escapist literature? Those people don't know what they're talking about.

  3. Hi David and Reece - it's each to his own isn't it ... but I enjoyed David's "Woven" a great deal ... and I'd have thought the Olympic Ceremonies would have highlighted Steampunk more - certainly did for me ...

    I don't read much in that line - but I'm more open to it than I was ... cheers Hilary

  4. Especially since it gets young people loving reading and talking about the books they have read, i believe this type of literature plays a very important role in society!

  5. Stories reflect the times that they were written in, and I think people forget that. A good sci fi or fantasy story is always about the time it was written in, in one form or another. The more it resonates, the more successful it was at showing us some aspect of ourselves.

  6. Yeah, definitely. SFF novels have always been about more than just the plot on the page. "Social science fiction" seems an apt term for the stuff that really makes us think as readers.

  7. I very much agree. I wrote an essay on why sci-fi and fantasy should be taught more in schools a couple of years ago. There are plenty of advantages.

  8. The world would be so dull without sic-fi. :) There is a definite place for it. Yes, it certainly can also deal with issues along with telling a story. Great blog post!!!

  9. i completely agree! we need sci fi and fantasy - it's the stuff of dreams and creativity! they're inspirational on another level!
    great article!