A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Escapism

I write fantasy and science fiction.  I use it as an escape from my regular life, and I hope that my stories will provide an escape for others who read them.

A dictionary of literary terms defines Escapism and Escapist Fiction as follows:

ESCAPISM: The desire to retreat into imaginative entertainment rather than deal with the stress, tedium, and daily problems of the mundane world. See discussion underescapist literature.
ESCAPIST LITERATURE: Not to be confused with escape literature, escapist literature is designed primarily for imaginative entertainment rather than readings designed for provoking thought or addressing serious social issues. The term is derogatory in connotation, though one might argue such writing serves a psychological purpose by offering a relief from the stresses or tedium of mundane life. Arguably, the vast bulk of popular reading is escapist in nature. Sir Philip Sidney's Defence of Poesy famously describes the appeal of such escapist work: "He cometh unto you with a tale which holdeth children from play and old men from the chimney-corner."

Now, I'm thoroughly convinced that escapism and escapist literature is perfectly fine to read.  But I don't necessarily agree with the definition that escapist literature isn't designed for "provoking thought or addressing serious social issues".

Look at Tolkien's work.  It was an allegory to the world that he found himself living in.  Yet it is also often classed as "escapist fiction", even though Tolkien himself was appalled at that definition of it.  If Tolkien's work is escapist literature, then how can you say that it's not also thought provoking?  It was definitely used to address serious social issues in his day.

I use a lot of the same social issues we see today - racism, discrimination in general, social elitism, poverty, and other such concepts - as themes in my writing.  But my stories put a twist on them where, in the end of the story arcs, you get the idea that the world's going to be a whole lot better and some of these issues are going to be resolved.  It's not a complete HEA but it's close enough to be counted as one in a general sense.  But I also write my stories to give people a break from reality.  I want them to experience a world similar to our own and yet vastly different, where the kinds of social issues we face today are resolved on a grand scale.

I don't believe that escapist literature is all fluff.  Certainly some of it is.  But I feel that any story that lets you escape your world for a moment, no matter the content of that story, is considered escapist literature.  In fact, there's a great article here at Azurescape that discusses this very topic.  The author presents several good points in a much better way than I can.

Of course, stating all fantasy and science fiction is, in essence, escapist fiction would put me at odds with Tolkien and his views on his own work...but it'd be an interesting debate if I could talk to him.

(Zombified authors, anyone?)


  1. I need escapism every once in a while, and books are definitely a great way to escape! Cool post on E, and good to meet you on A-Z!

  2. I don't see it as fluff either. It can be entertaining and thought provoking while one is immersed in the story / world.

    Nice use of E.

  3. I could never debate Tolkien; I would be too busy fangirling. ^__^

    But--agreed! I write what I like to read--great adventure, fun characters, and problems being solved. I hope when a reader is done they come back to RL with strength to take things on--but I find value in just giving them a flippin' BREAK too.

  4. Firstly, I love your 'lemon' reference in your profile. That is so perfect for me. LOL

    And yes. I, too, am an escape artist. I completely use my stories, as well as others', to drift from out own world for a bit.