J.T. Geissinger is the author of Edge of Oblivion. Please enjoy her original essay, titled ‘Is Romance the Ultimate Fantasy?’
My husband and I have a long-standing argument regarding the proper definition of “fantasy” as applied to books or movies.
Flexing the (admittedly rusty) muscles of my left brain, I argue that if magic, imaginary worlds or other supernatural phenomena are used as a primary plot element—aka Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones—a story qualifies as fantasy. He argues back that if two people who have nothing in common except proximity and raging hormones end up living happily-ever-after—a la Pretty Woman, 50 Shades of Grey, Twilight—there is no greater fantasy. In his view, an alternate universe might exist in which magic abounds, but there is no universe in which a hooker is saved from the streets by a handsome businessman, an awkward twenty-one-year-old virgin becomes the object of a kinky billionaire’s obsession, or a vegetarian/centenarian vampire falls in love with a gawky, surly, clumsy human teenager because she smells good. And, served by that irrefutable piece of genius evidence, my husband opines that I should stay forevermore mute on the subject.
Or, if I can’t be rational, at least be useful and make him a sandwich.
But what is romance, then, if not fantasy? I can hear my husband thinking self-delusion, but his Germanic utilitarian approach to relationships aside, romance is—or should be—fun.
Yes, you heard me. Romance is fun.
And much of fantasy is not. Harry Potter’s parents were murdered by a dark wizard, who also wants to kill him. Not fun. The evil Lord Sauron created a ring that would allow him to conquer and rule all of Middle Earth and its varied inhabitants. Not fun. The Seven Kingdoms are populated by the most cut-throat, murderous band of lords, ladies and courtly knights in fiction, some of whom practice incest, kill children and would not hesitate to skewer you and feed you to the dogs if you looked at them sideways. Fun for hungry dogs, maybe, but for you, not so much.
I write paranormal romance and the darker elements of traditional fantasy are interwoven with the romance so it’s not sticky-sweet, but fun it most definitely is. Come to think of it, there’s quite a bit of bloodletting, kingdom conquering and evil plotting in my newest book, Edge of Oblivion…and the title definitely doesn’t lull the reader into a false sense of security that they’ll encounter a light-hearted romp. Edge. Of. Oblivion. Might as well just come right out and shout “Someone is going to die!”
But—and this is a big but—amid all that darkness, the romance keeps the book from being depressing.
Because how can you be depressed when two wounded hearts find each other? How can you be depressed when they struggle to overcome their differences and become better people in the process? How can you be depressed when love conquers all? You can’t. No matter how dark and bloody things get, love shines a big old spotlight that cuts through the gloom and makes you happy in spite of the body count.
Suck on that, Voldemort!
For the sake of marital harmony, I do concede that romance as a genre might not always be rooted in reality, but when I can connect on an emotional level with imaginary characters whose fight to hold onto one another against all odds resonates with something deep inside of me…it sure is fun.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go make my husband a sandwich.