“Why don’t you do something useful with your time?”
This is a sentence that many fantasy readers, and certainly writers, must have heard growing up. And yet, if ever there is a disastrous event that puts our civilisation back at square one, those people will be glad to have fantasy enthusiasts in their corner. Of course fantasy enriches our lives as they are, encouraging creative thought while letting us escape reality, and often teaching us about concepts such as morality as we follow the main character’s journey from doubter to hero. But that has been well-researched and discussed in the past. What this article focuses on is the grand potential that lies within fantasy lovers, waiting for a catastrophic event to reveal itself.
Since fantasy readers have had their imaginations tested throughout their lives, we will be mentally prepared for a completely different kind of world. I’m not saying we’d shrug, mutter “Well this was only a matter of time” and grab our survival packs, shooting anyone who gets in our way. But fantasy lovers would certainly be among the least shocked. We will know the new world, because we will have inhabited similar ones in our minds, through the words on the page and our own imaginations. We will rally, as we have learned from Harry Potter, Frodo Baggins, Ged, and many other such heroes dealing with impossible adversities. Just like those main protagonists whose lives gets uprooted, we will not break down and cry, because we know that the whiney, useless characters almost never make it to the end of the book. Instead, we will focus on staying alive, finding food, finding shelter, even finding a safe haven so we can continue reading.
All of the social awkwardness that forms the cliched image of the fantasy ‘geek’, that will no longer matter. Etiquette is thankfully the first thing that goes out the window when society breaks down, and in its place will have to be brutal honesty. We will know from endless experiences with foreshadowing who we can trust, and who needs to be left behind. After all, nothing sticks in your mind like shouting at a book because the protagonist is clearly trusting the wrong person and getting themselves in serious trouble. The groups that form, maybe from groups of friends that you already have in your life, will be stronger than ever. They will have to be. And hopefully we will be wise enough to bypass the awkward phase where a group of friends thrust together in the name of survival first distrust each other for no reason except to create tension and extraneous trouble, and no one would have to die a heroic death in order to redeem themselves.
Our leaders will be the fantasy authors. They have a lot of experience herding people through all manner of bad situations, even if they may cause those situations in the first place. They have often done a lot of research into various means of survival, to know if what they make their people go through is realistic, and into death, to make sure their characters are able to protect themselves, and into many more things that probably puts them on some government watch-list somewhere. Most importantly, they are able to see the big picture. Fantasy authors are the gods of their universe, even if they sometimes feel like they are not in control of what their characters get up to. As such, they are able to see what needs to be done and order people around even if that means putting them in bad situations. They might be cruel, but they are also effective, and in the end they hope and believe along with everyone else that the good guys live and win. Except maybe George R. R. Martin.
Some fantasy lovers will find themselves plucked from obscurity and become great warriors or thinkers or cooks, like Alanna the Lioness, Christopher a.k.a. Chrestomanci, or (Bel)Garion. Others will have developed skills in their life that may only be called upon after the end of the world. Prominent geek and all-around awesome human being Nathan Fillion has once said that he’s learned welding specifically so he can be the skilled person in a group of survivors, the one that will need to be protected, even if it means other people in the group have to die instead. Those of us who haven’t had such foresight and don’t develop into heroes might even become those people that sacrifice themselves in order for the more skilled survivors to have a chance to keep humanity going. Or not, since we are all the protagonists in our own live’s stories, and would generally prefer not to get horribly murdered…. Maybe I should find something useful to do with my time aside from fantasy after all, just in case.
Sure, the world may never have to fight off magic, aliens, or an army of orcs, but regardless of the challenge one can be sure that those of us with fantasy in our brains and in our blood will be able to think flexibly, adapt, and deal with things head on.
[P.S. This is an article I originally wrote for another website, but since I never heard back from them I figured it’s safe to just post it here now]