So, here we are. There is more chocolate in my house than will ever be eaten and half a dozen gourds scattered across the porch and in the garden. This is my first real Halloween in the new house (we were still in a state of move-in panic last October), and I wanted to go all out with the full graveyard and giant roof spider and fog machine, but I’ve got a fence to put up next year around this wild third of an acre compound, so all extra $$ are going toward that between now and April.
I have a fondness for fall holidays. From now til the first of January, there is food and merriment and pretty lights and décor that help bring a bit of fantasy into the otherwise pretty normal little life I’ve got out here in the wilds of Ohio.
Holidays are good for shocking us out of the everyday, for helping us look at our lives and our spaces differently. I honestly wish we had more of them, though I’d prefer that they concentrated more on encouraging us to take about three times as much time off and spend about three times less on crap. Next year, I’d even like to have planted my own fine gourds.
But let’s get back to the fantasy.
I was a big believer in all things fantastic when I was a kid. Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, unicorns – you name it, and I tried to think up logical ways it could possibly exist. It turned out this was really good practice for worldbuilding in later life, because even as all my fantastical impossibilities were dismantled one by one, I started creating more explicitly fictional ones.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that about the time I stopped believing the world was full of magic creatures, I started writing about worlds where different types of fantastic creatures could believably live. Houses really were haunted, and unicorns and red bulls really did fight, and troll’s blood and dragon’s blood really could cure any sort of ill imaginable.
I’ve gone back-and-forth on the morality of encouraging children to believe in fantastical creatures. The letdown when I finally let go of Santa at the ripe old age of 12 was pretty shitty (I believed in Santa longer than I believed in God, if you can wrap your head around that), but what researching and understanding those phenomenon did was give me a taste for all things unexplainable; all things impossible. It wasn’t just trolls and tooth fairies I started researching, but spontaneous combustion and the origin of the universe. The world was full of mysteries.
It was that love of the unknown and impossible that drew me to reading fantasy and science fiction, and traveling, and a master’s degree in history. I wanted to know more about how the world worked, and how we understood it, and what we could do with it. And once I knew what was possible, I was able to extrapolate from that to the nearly-possible, and then the fantastically-possible. I started using fiction to explore that nearly-possible place, and I’ve been happily doing it ever since.
Today, I think everyone should believe in magic, if only for a short while. It can force you to challenge your preconceptions, broaden your view of the world, and question everything you see and hear. And if there’s one thing we need more of these days, it’s folks questioning what is possible. Maybe magic isn’t about troll’s blood and dragon’s gold – maybe it’s about artificially created viruses and bacteria. Maybe there’s no guy living at the north pole flying around on a sled – maybe there’s a giant alien craft spreading contagion across the stars.
You’ll never know unless you steep yourself in the fantasy first. It’s the fantasy that helps you question the reality.