I’m a fantasy nerd. If you’ve ever read any of my book recommendation articles, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of Sarah J. Maas which is high fantasy. Like people have wings high fantasy, and are immortal high fantasy. It’s not even remotely close to real life (although I wish it was – Rhysand, I’m waiting for a man like you).
I’ve liked fantasy my whole life, from reading mermaid books as a young girl (Emily Windsnap, you made me the woman I am today) to reading Twilight like a fiend before it was cool and made in to five terrible movies (that I also watch every year) to now, reading Sarah J. Maas and watching The Rings of Power on Amazon Prime.
The point is, is that most of the time I’ve kept this love of fantasy to myself, as when I talk about it, I usually have people who make fun of me for it. Because let’s be honest, what image do you have of me if I say I’m a fantasy nerd? It’s probably not someone who talks non-stop at parties wearing head-to-toe Saint Laurent. But that’s where the problem lies.
Lately, Game of Thrones is back on people’s lips as the new prequel show House of the Dragon has just come out, and all of a sudden, liking fantasy is cool again. First of all, I’ve never watched GoT because I haven’t yet read the books, and I’m determined to read the books first. Secondly, I’m seriously bored with people laughing at me for liking books about people with wings who go to war to save their kingdom by people who are obsessed with a TV show about people with dragons who go to war to save their kingdom. Hello? Have you no self-awareness?
It got me thinking: Why am I being shy about liking fantasy? I’m not shy about anything else in my life. I’m pretty vocal about my love of Taylor Swift, and I was pretty vocal about my love of One Direction (RIP), and am vocal about my love of Harry Styles (long live). Why is fantasy different?
What makes some shows cool to like and others to not? Why is liking Star Wars cool all of a sudden (in the ‘90s, I’m sorry to say, it wasn’t cool) and liking Star Trek lame? Why is liking the new House of the Dragon cool but watching the new The Rings of Power lame? Can somebody please tell me what the difference is?
I think it’s time for fantasy nerds to stop being ashamed of liking what we like. It’s no longer the ‘90s when stereotypes ruled the roost! People contain multitudes! We are allowed to know that dragons don’t exist (or do they…) and still enjoy reading stories about them. I’m allowed to have a fictional character who’s an elf and not a human being as my dream man.
I think it’s really dumb to be laughed at for liking fantasy when Game of Thrones is HBO’s most watched show ever, but for some reason, liking anything else in the genre is slightly wacky.
Obviously, it annoys me that the subject is fantasy due to my love of it, but I think what it really comes down to is making fun of people for liking different things than you. But that’s what makes the world such a rich and engaging place – that we all like different things and have different passions! I’m not a huge fan of Art Nouveau architecture – but that doesn’t mean the world wouldn’t be a beautiful place without it. I appreciate Art Nouveau architecture, even though it’s not for me.
Stop trying to dictate what people should like and why. I think one of the biggest self-discoveries I’ve made as an adult is that having passions is cool, no matter what it is. Liking things is cool – don’t dim your interests! We wouldn’t have half the stories – or even inventions (hello Alan Turing and the computer!) if people stopped pursuing what they’re interested in because other people told them to. You should never be bullied into liking something you don’t, just because other people say you should – and vice versa.
In the end, like Michael Jackson said, it starts with us. The man – or woman – or elf – in the mirror. Do I like fantasy? Hell yes I do. It gets me out of my own self-centred life and allows me to stretch my imagination to places the world has never seen, and never will. How amazing is that? I can read about love stories or grief stories or bloody non-fiction until the cows come home, but at the end of the day, all those things I can actually experience – and probably will, at one point in my life or another. The reason why fantasy is so cool is because it is something completely beyond my grasp. If we can imagine a world where people unlike us have powers that can do amazing things that we can’t do, or have technology that we will never possess because physics doesn’t work that way – what else can we imagine? Our imagination is limitless, and you can’t deny that it’s fun to put it to work sometimes. Especially when our own lives seem small, or dark, or limited.
If you like Game of Thrones, then I’ve got good news for you. There’s a whole world (or thousands, more like) of fantasy to discover, each one cooler and more mind-bending than the last. It will make you laugh; it will make you cry; and it will always keep you at the edge of your seat. There will always be plot devices like family trauma, politics, war, love, friendship, self-discovery, achievement, miracles – but to get to experience them (even within the bounds of our own imagination) in a body in a world completely unlike our own, will always be one of the most engaging ways to tell a story. In my mind, at least. And my inner mind is pretty rich. But that’s because I read fantasy.
Feature image via Arthur Elgort for Vogue Magazine