What I was a kid, I wanted to create worlds. I wanted them to spring forth from my imagination into existence. In short, I wanted to be God.
I soon discovered that job was already taken.
So I wanted to be the next best thing. I wanted to be a director, to make worlds people could see and hear on a movie screen or a TV at home. I held onto that dream for a long time, until I finally was forced to realize that directors were limited by budgets and the talent of the people they worked with and the whims of the producers at the studios they worked for.
So I scrapped that idea and decided to become a writer.
I've never understood why a writer wanted to work in a genre other than fantasy. It's kind of like getting a billion dollar budget with no strings attached and then telling the studio, "No thanks. I'd rather make a movie for under a million. I'll use my friends, our houses, and our own lights, furniture and costumes. It's going to be so much better because we didn't have enough money to do anything big."
As a writer, you can do anything in the fantasy genre. ANYTHING. A dragon that follows a storytelling girl around? Done. Teenage ghosts having the run of a theme park? Done. A geek getting turned into a vampire in New York? No problem. You don't even need to get a filming permit from the city.
The only rules are the basic rules of language and fiction, as well as whatever rules you create for your own universe. After that, the sky isn't the limit, because there are no limits.
And that's a big part of why I love writing and reading fantasy.
There's another part, too, in that fantasy is the most honest genre. It doesn't even try to pretend to be real. It's fantasy. It's a fable. It's a fairy tale. Other genres try to make you believe that they happened or will happen. Not fantasy, nope. We all know this stuff never happened, except in our imagination.
And yet...there's a deep truth in how fantasy touches us, the messages we get from it. Because we can peel away the untrue stuff like we're peeling an orange, we get to the heart more easily.
Fantasy stories are more easily about ideas. Anne of Green Gables is about a plucky orphan girl, but Harry Potter is about the individual's search for family. A Farewell to Arms is about a soldier in the first World War, but Lord of the Rings is about how even the smallest and most ordinary of us can be a hero.
Maybe it's this deep and immediate truth that kids respond to and makes them want to dress up as Superman, Spiderman or Mulan. If he were around today, Jung might say we were born wired for fantasy. The archetypes of fantasy are a part of of our universal psyche. They can be found around the world and going back to the beginning of history. They can be found in our dreams.
I don't know about you, but I want my dreams to fly. On beds with bed knobs, in costumes with capes, or on red dragons, I want my dreams--and my stories--to fly.