I have been mostly working lately; with c. 6 meetings, lectures or other items in the calendar per day it is hard to do anything else. But with the remaining little time, I have been thinking about fantasy. What it is? Why we need it? How is it related with what or who we are?
The little psychology, philosophy and neurology I’ve read seems to point to some possible answers. It might be that we are not actually inhabiting the world as it is, but rather as we dream it is. There is the 17th century play “Life Is a Dream” by the Spanish playwright Calderon: like Segismund, we are dreamers in our towers, doomed to find something durable among the multitudes of different perceptions and evaluations of our realities.
In my dreams there are elements like flying without wings, interplaying or mixing of identities, and dramas of stone, steel, sexuality and death, all staged in alternative, possible (or impossible) times, cultures, planets, or galaxies far, far away, as the saying goes. Playing the current generation of fantasy games, in contrast, rarely takes you into decidedly consistent fantasy universe of its own. There is the old game Planescape: Torment (Black Isle, 1999), and the world of new Half-Life 2 (Valve, 2004) is actually quite compelling, but I have not played it enough to say anything about the game itself.
This weekend’s free time is used up by the hundreds of short stories that I have to go through in order to find the annual winner of the Portti science fiction award. It is clear that fantasy is also much about the capability to balance the alien with the familiar, and about the skills of communicating one’s vision.