Living with the Questions

The trailer for “I Kill Giants” dropped last week.  I am instantly hype for it.  It’s based on one of my favorite graphic novels of the same name, written by Joe Kelly and drawn by J. M. Ken Niimura, which you should definitely check out if that’s in your wheelhouse.  Or even if it isn’t normally in your wheelhouse!  It’s good to try different sorts of stories once in a while.

“I Kill Giants” is a great example of a liminal fantasy:  much of the conflict/mystery is on whether or not the magical elements are actually happening.  It’s a great approach to fantasy, though it takes a deft touch to pull it off well.

Here’s a thought exercise:  was Hobbes, the stuffed tiger who was Calvin’s constant companion, actually capable of transforming, or was it all in Calvin’s imagination?  Watterson left it deliberately unclear which was “truer,” letting the story rest in that uncertain tension.

Fantasy can do that.  One could argue that this is what fantasy is:  it lives in the tension between what is real and what is not.  We know that dragons aren’t real, but for the duration of a story, we can hold that idea in our heads:  we can accept that the dragons, in this story, are real, and that is enough.  Or, at the very least, we can live with the question that the dragons MIGHT be real.

That’s one of the many things I enjoy about fantasy:  the magic can be as bombastic as a fireball to the face, or it can be subtle and numinous as a soft scent you think you detect on the breeze but aren’t really sure if it’s there or where it’s coming from.  Fantasy is incredibly flexible, a vast field of seemingly endless variety. And there are some great stories out there where the fantasy is as subtle as a smudged fingerprint on a screen, or a light seen out of the corner of your eye.

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