Fantasy’s Essence

After complaining about bad economics in the Harry Potter world, Megan McArdle describes the essence of such fantasy:

It is the meanest sort of Victoriana, the fantasy world of a child Herbert Spencer. There is a hereditary aristocracy of talent, and I am secretly at its apex. There is an elite school almost nobody can go to, and I am one of the chosen. People fall quite neatly into the categories of good, bad, or clueless, we are the good ones who get to run things in the end. That’s powerful fantasy stuff, which is why it’s so common.

Being in a contrarian mood, I’ve chosen this Harry Potter week to read Pullman’s His Dark Materials fantasy trilogy.  It is deeper than Potter’s world, though uneven, has the same essence at its core, and its economics isn’t that much better.  But I was charmed by this self-description:

Philip Pullman believes firmly in the virtues of healthy exercise and a moderate diet – for other people. It makes them feel virtuous, and makes them feel good if not happy. The most exercise he normally takes is unscrewing the top of the whisky bottle.

and his preferred writing process:

essenceWell, then you take your big piece of paper with the plot on its yellow Post-It Notes, and your careful notes about the characters, and your photocopied information about castles and Finland, and you bundle it all up into a heap and you throw it all away.  

Forget it.

It’s useless.  

And you start writing something completely different, something that you have no knowledge of, something that just came into your head, something that is utterly strange to you.

And you’re seized by a fever of excitement. It’s like falling in love; it’s like setting out on a thrilling voyage; it’s like no other joy in the world. You are possessed. You feel radiant. You give off light.

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