Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)

"I've wrestled with reality for 35 years," says Elwood in Harvey (1950), "and I'm happy, doctor: I finally won out over it." The appeal of Fantasy can be interpreted as lying in the dynamic relationship between its domain and what we would normally call reality. Fantasy can be an alternative to reality, can posit an Alternate Reality (or an array of them), can throw up "unrealized realities", can provide a putative explanation for today's reality (as in Fantasies of History, especially those dealing with secret societies/conspiracies), or can, in Genre Fantasy, create a Secondary World or Fantasyland (effectively, a reality that is isolated from ours).

A major notion in fantasy is that our everyday reality is uncertain; through Perception or otherwise we may discover it to be only the surface of the true reality, which is infinitely more complicated than we think – a notion explored in, for example, Thomas Palmer's Dream Science (1990) and Lisa Tuttle's Lost Futures (1992). Such novels are concerned with the structure of reality; a further major fantasy concern is with the relationship between objective and subjective realities. A trivial example of this is the type of Recursive Fantasy in which fictional and historical characters interact – e.g., Kim Newman's Anno Dracula (1992), where Dracula, Jack the Ripper, Jekyll and Hyde et al. co-exist with Queen Victoria. More significant are works in which a created reality has or comes to have equal weight with our mundane one – Cool World (1992), Stay Tuned (1992) and John Grant's The World are examples. The "message" of such fantasies may be that all things are real, all possibilities reified; or, in corollary, that (as John Lennon put it) "nothing is real". [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.