Writing for the UK’s New Statesman, author Ursula Le Guin makes a case for the necessity of fantasy literature — “books in which magic works, or animals speak, or the laws of physics yield to the laws of the human psyche” — and argues that it’s the only fiction genre with cross-generational appeal:
Realism comes in three separate age categories, fully recognised by publishers. Didactic, explanatory, practical and reassuring, realistic fiction for young children hasn’t much to offer people who’ve already learned about dump trucks, vaccinations and why Heather has two mommies. Realistic “Young Adult” novels tend to focus tightly on situations and problems of little interest to anyone outside that age group. And realistic fiction for adults, with its social and historical complexities and moral and aesthetic ambiguities, becomes accessible to adolescents only as and if they mature.
As for “genre” fiction — mystery, horror, romance, science fiction — none of it is for children; they begin to read it as they approach their teens, but not before. The only kind of fiction that is read with equal (if differing) pleasure at eight, and at 16, and at 68, seems to be the fantasy and its close relation, the animal story.
Le Guin’s argument isn’t earth-shaking, or even new. I just like how she makes her case.
(Via the Science Fiction Book Club blog)