When Fantasy is More Real Than Nonfiction

Ask me with a gun to my head if I believe in them, all the gods and myths that I write about, and I'd have to say no. Not literally. Not in the daylight, nor in well-lit places, with people about. But I believe in the stories we can tell with them. I believe in the reflections that they show us when they are told. And forget it or ignore it at your peril, it remains true: these stories have power.
- Neil Gaiman, from Reflections on Myth

It is through fantasy that we have always sought to make sense of the world, not through reason…It is through the fictive projections of our imaginations based on personal experience that we have sought to grasp, explain, alter, and comment on reality. This is again why such staples as the Bible and the Grimm's fairy tales have become such canonical texts: unlike reality, they allegedly open the mysteries of life and reveal ways in which we can maintain ourselves and our integrity in a conflict-ridden world.
- Jack Zipes, from Why Fantasy Matters Too Much

Lord of the RingsFrom myths and folklore, to fairy tales, fantasy and science fiction, people through every age and culture have turned to storytelling to reflect upon their lives. While literature, in general, helps show readers the world from different times, settings, and points of view, sometimes a decentralized setting allows readers to reflect upon an issue in a different way. Scholars such as Marina Warner, Jack Zipes, and Maria Nikolajeva, among others, have written extensively about the subversive and didactic nature of fairy tales – simply put, fairy tales have been used to both impress social values and lessons upon their readers and listeners, and to proffer an alternative to what seem like established social norms. By extension, fantasy and other speculative literary genres serve the same purpose.

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A Few Outstanding Women War Correspondents

Souad Mekhennet is one of many women journalists who have entered dangerous situations to try to inform the world about conditions in a war zone. A few of the most influential and best-known, now deceased, are listed below.

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American Reading Habits Infographic

There's nothing quite like that feeling of getting a brand-new book from the bookstore, taking it home and spending hours absorbed in its pages.

People used to talk about the imminent death of reading. The internet, it was thought, would kill the book industry. But old habits die hard, and the trusty American novel continues to give readers many hours of escapism. In fact, according to Global English Editing's infographic on American reading habits published below, we're reading almost as much as we ever have.

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Young Adults as Unreliable Narrators

How to Set a Fire and WhyIn How to Set a Fire and Why, Lucia claims to not remember exactly what occurred during an argument with her aunt's landlord, leaving her exact reasoning and motivation somewhat mysterious. In writing Lucia as an unreliable narrator, Jesse Ball draws from an established tradition.

An unreliable narrator lies, expresses uncertainty or bias, or seems to have a misunderstanding of situations that occurred. The author may employ an unreliable narrator to intentionally mislead the reader or as a means of characterization. Part of the pleasure in encountering such a narrator is parsing out what is true and what is not. Teen and young adult narrators are some of the most obvious and well-known examples of the trope, and this makes logical sense. Adolescence is often a time of conflict, teenagers vacillate between uncertainty and confidence in their beliefs as they try to forge a concrete identity for themselves. They are often dishonest, caught as they are between childhood and adulthood, they push the limits, break the rules and lie to avoid punishment.

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Climate Fiction: A Glimpse into the Growing Genre

Midnight at the ElectricIn Midnight at the Electric, it is the year 2065, and teenager Adri is part of a carefully selected group departing Earth forever to live on Mars. Although the story takes place less than 50 years from now, massive planetary destruction has already taken place. As Adri puts it early on, "there's no Miami and hardly any Bangladesh and no polar bears…and they're paying billions of dollars to start a colony on Mars because humans need an exit strategy."

Considered by some to be a sub-genre of science-fiction, and by others to be an entirely new genre, climate-fiction highlights climate change and its potential ramifications. Although books exploring man-made climate change date back to the '70s, it was only in 2007 that journalist Dan Bloom coined the term "cli-fi." Now, only one decade later, dozens of books fall under the definition of climate fiction, and the genre has seen an explosion in popularity.

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The Origins of the Kashmir Dispute

The Ministry of Utmost HappinessThe Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan occupies center stage in Arundhati Roy's The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. For readers unfamiliar with the dispute here is some background (this piece first ran as the "beyond the book" article for Roy's long awaited book):

The conflict in Kashmir traces its roots back to the partition of India and Pakistan (see our Beyond the Book article for An Unrestored Woman).

When the British left India in 1947, Kashmir was not an Indian state, but was instead one of hundreds of smaller independent princely states. each with their own rulers, who swore loyalty to the British empire. As the British Raj withdrew, these princely states had to make the complicated decision as to whether to become a part of either India or Pakistan, or become independent countries. Most that were within contemporary India's borders chose to become a sovereign part of the country.

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