The scientific community often astounds me.  This study is only an example of what ridiculousness they can get up to.

Seriously, Twilight is representative of the fantasy genre?

And people have to like Twilight to like fantasy?

Oi.  We have work to do.

For those of you who choose not to read the article, here is a short quote that sums the experiment and results:

So Webster designed some experiments to look at how people experienced fantasy, which he defined as a type of narrative — such as a book, film, piece of art — that included supernatural, unreal or impossible aspects. He distinguished fantasy from science fiction because, he says, science fiction tends to come with a logical explanation for the worlds it creates…

…[T]here was a clear difference between people who were prone to fantasizing and daydreaming and those who were not. People who were comfortable with fantasy tended to be more absorbed by what they read and saw. They also tended to have an emotional reaction. Many said they felt good after reading the narratives or looking at the paintings.

I realize that what I said above about Twilight is not what the study said.  It’s what the article intimated (and it’s still wrong).  But still, even the study was pretty . . . limited in its approach.  I love that reasonable=never will enjoy fantasy.  That in order to enjoy fantasy, it’s emotional.  One of the main points in this article was that subjects who enjoyed fantasy were willing to suspend disbelief and were comfortable with created worlds.

As a life-long fantasy and science fiction lover, let me clue you in:

I am SO not comfortable with created worlds.  That’s not why I love fantasy or science fiction.  Suspending disbelief is NOT my specialty.  I kibbutz.  A lot.  When I read, when I watch movies, when I go to plays.  I’ve perfected the under-the-breath mumble so that I am still invited to public outings.  I demand logic in my created worlds and EVEN THEN I have a hard time with it.

I love fantasy and science fiction for their human logic.  Put humans in a foreign situation and they react in totally predictable and beautiful ways.  I love seeing those puzzle pieces of human nature fall together and characters discover what it means to be human–or not so human, as the case may be.  Yes, my reaction is partially emotional, but it’s also very logical.  When a character reacts outside those bounds, I don’t like the story.  It doesn’t sit right with me.  This is how I approach fantasy and science fiction.

Then there’s my mother.  I love her so much, but I don’t think I’ll ever understand her.  She’s one of the most emotional people I know.  She makes no sense to me.  Words that have firm and concrete definitions, she decides have totally different meanings.  She uses emotional descriptors all the time, she plays games and strategizes in this totally heated and focused way that I cannot learn to save my life.  Then again, she was a Biology major in college and therefore obviously works on some logical level, though I have never been able to access it.  I don’t understand her and I don’t suppose I ever will, though I love her more than anything.  She hates science fiction AND fantasy.  Doesn’t matter how logical or emotional the piece is, she can’t stand the stuff.  She likes stories about real life, mostly emotional stories.  She kind of defies every conclusion that study came to.

And now we come to my father.  I love him to bits, and I’m pretty sure I understand him better than my mom.  Mostly because he’s more one thing than the other: he’s pretty logical.  If he were the other side of the spectrum, I’d understand that, too.  It’s the mix that gets me (which is rich, since that’s what I am–Mom and I are too similar).  But anyway, Dad’s all logic and what makes things work and what’s the math and the procedures and the pieces and parts and programming.  He is a huge science fiction and fantasy fan.  He’s who got me hooked when I was a kid.  He’s the one that I went to when I was having trouble believing a world–HOW did it WORK that way when it was so . . . improbable?!–and we’d talk about the procedures and the pieces and parts and programming.  We do that with this world.  He’s the one who taught me how to make connections and see behind the words.  He and I rarely talk about the emotions of a piece.  It’s all about the functions.

I think this scientist was a) WAY too limited in his scope and attitudes and b) downright foolhardy to try and figure out what one thing made people tick on fantasy.  It’s different for all of us.  It’s supposed to be!  Why would we want to define it?  It takes the community aspect out of reading.  All of a sudden, we’re all the same person reading for the same reason.  I happen to really like it when a book touches me differently than it touches my sister (who I tend to discuss the human logics with than the how things work logics) or my mother (though we rarely read the same stuff) or my father (who definitely is the one who taught me how to find the best books).

I like being part of that community–small family and random readers you meet in libraries and bookstores.  By all means, let the scientific community join in, but don’t you dare try to take that beautiful diversity away.

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