I got into fantasy for a funny reason: the editor I wanted to write for was specializing in fantasy. Then I discovered that I just couldn't take fantasy very seriously. Thus it became humorous, and that has defined my Xanth series from the outset. I also write serious fiction, including serious fantasy, but Xanth has been my most successful, so the commercial verdict is in: funny is better.
Funny things make people laugh, and laughter is good for you. I understand that folk who see the lighter side of things live longer, though it might be that the lives of the deadly serious folk merely seem longer. So it stands to reason that funny fantasy is better because it promotes health and longevity. Some may not see it that way, but they should die off sooner, leaving the field to those who laugh. It's called natural selection.
There are different types of fantasy, and they all have their place. But the funny stuff is like dessert: fill up on serious if you must, but finish with the fluff. What is wrong with unicorns, goblins, fairies, and grumpy magicians? They're fun. You may groan at puns, said to be the lowest form of humor just as the bun may be the lowest form of bread, but admit it: deep down where it doesn't show, you like them, don't you? As is also said, the only thing worse than a pun is two puns. They can give you pundigestion so that you start emitting fantasy puns yourself and no one can stand to be near you. At least they're not fattening like buns.
Some fantasy has gotten altogether too serious. I understand that the main characters in a popular TV fantasy series are quickly dead. I think it is better to smile than to die. The death toll is much reduced in humorous fantasy.
Even something seriously serious may be more effective if there is some leavening of humor. Take reading: many young folk don't much like to read. But if they encounter writing that is really fun, they learn to like reading. I was once an English teacher, but I think I have taught many more kids to enjoy reading via my funny fantasy than I ever did as a teacher.
We all tend to have lives that are more serious than we prefer. For the sake of our sanity we sometimes need to escape. We need the balance of joy, of fun, and light fantasy is the best place to find that. Even dark humor, with night mares galloping in to bring bad dreams at night to sleepers who deserve them.
- As I see it, fantasy is unbelievable by definition, so it's better to go with the flow and keep it light. That's one reason.
That's about six reasons. I discover to my chagrin that I can't come up with a seventh reason, so I'm left with figurative egg on my face. Figurative eggs may stink worse than real ones. Isn't that hilarious?
Piers Anthony has written dozens of bestselling science fiction and fantasy novels, including the Magic of Xanth series. His latest Magic of Xanth novel is Five Portraits (Open Road Media).
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