March Magics guest post

Posted March 2, 2017 by Lory in elsewhere / 6 Comments

Today, I’m pleased to be taking part in the Diana Wynne Jones March / March Magics event, hosted once more this year by We Be Reading. I offered to write a post on Three Diana Wynne Jones Books You Need to Read Right Now, a topic I’ve been thinking about for some time, and Kristen kindly agreed to make it part of the lineup. Here’s the introduction:

In an age of conflict, confusion, and uncertainty, it’s natural to reach for facts and verifiable truths to give a sense of firm ground. We might be forgiven for setting aside fantasy literature as a form of escapism, fine for comfort reading but basically irrelevant to the tasks that face us in the “real” world. An event like March Magics — which celebrates master fantasy authors Diana Wynne Jones and Terry Pratchett — might be seen as a fluffy distraction from the more important tasks on which we ought to be spending our time.

I feel that this would be a huge mistake. Our current crises stem from a failure of the imagination, which alone can bridge the gap between self and other and enable us to work out of love and empathy rather than narrow self-interest. Only through the imagination can we first conceive and then create a better future. And while undisciplined, wild fantasizing can lead us astray, it’s the truths of the imagination that can guide us through a world that seems to be splitting into a million alternative realities.

All fiction exercises our imagination, but in fantasy this aspect is brought to the fore, is made into the very substance of the story itself. Maybe that’s why fantasy has long gotten little respect in a society that primarily values materialistic success, and that in turn may be why we now seem so little versed in the ability to see through the delusions that are flying so freely.

Whatever the reason, it’s all the more reason to read and learn from the works of these two authors right now, and to share them with others in your life. I have the very great pleasure of reading out loud every night to my ten-year-old son, and I’m delighted that he’s decided that Diana Wynne Jones is one of his favorite authors. As we work our way through her books, I’m struck by how much they offer as a counterbalance to the negative forces at work today.

With these stories as part of his being, I have hope that my son’s imagination will grow strong and healthy to meet the enormous challenges in store for the next generations. And I myself appreciate them as nourishment for my own fight to preserve a world that he can grow up in.

Here are three books that strike me as particularly relevant at the moment. As you read your way through this month, I hope that you will share your own thoughts and insights with us.

Please visit Kristen’s blog to find out which three books I’m recommending you read right now, and keep visiting throughout the month for more celebration of two stellar fantasy authors.

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6 responses to “March Magics guest post

  1. Interestingly, I’ve scheduled a post for Sunday using a quote from Joan Aiken to make exactly this point. And it’s such an important point, one that bears repetition. Off now to read the whole post!

    • There are many quotes from my favorite authors about this topic from their different points of view. It would be fun to make a collection. Will look forward to your Sunday post.

  2. I have spent the past half hour trying to find a PARTICULAR quotation from DWJ that addresses this exact thing, and now I’m going to have to re-read all of Reflections. I found this, which is close:

    Imagination doesn’t just mean making things up. It means thinking things through, solving them, or hoping to do so, and being just distant enough to be able to laugh at things that are normally painful. Head teachers would call this escapism, but they would be entirely wrong. I would call fantasy the most serious, and the most useful, branch of writing there is. And this is why I don’t, and never would, write Real Books.

    The one I was looking for specifically addresses the fashion for utter realism for children in the early 20th century, which claimed that fantasy was harmful. DWJ’s own mother was something of a victim of this, with the result (DWJ felt) that her generation had a hard time dealing with the monstrous events of the 40s, because their avenue to empathy and imagination had been partially blockaded. I’ll try to find it. There’s a mention of Batman….

    • Yes, this is a terrific quote that demonstrates exactly what I’m trying to say about DWJ. And I vaguely remember the other anecdote too, though I don’t have time to reread Reflections at the moment…or do I? Tempting.

  3. I discovered Terry Pratchett while working through a difficult period in my life, and his brilliant wit and sly humour helped me cope by providing me with just the right kind of intelligent escapism that allowed me to look at my life from a refreshed perspective. Fantasy and science fiction have always allowed writers to examine and comment on society from different angles, something Pratchett always did to hilarious and moving effect. So glad to see him being celebrated and hopefully shared with new fans!

    • Excellent summary of the value of Pratchett’s writing for us today. I’m glad you’ll be joining in the celebration.