I had the chance to travel up to visit Piers Anthony, the legendary creator of Xanth, at his home in Florida. The trip itself was as fantastical as one of his Xanth novels (and his fans will know how Florida-esque his settings are!). My producer and I drove across thick swamp and through curtains of Spanish moss hanging like eerie cobwebs till we reached his house – an enormous yet ghostly colonial style house draped with the accumulation of years of drifting swamp life.
I stepped out of the car and was first struck by the silence, being so far from civilization of any sort. And then I realized how wrong I was – the noise was incredible! Crickets and cicadas were buzzing everywhere in the canopy above, frogs were yelping from the swamps, and who knows what that crunching sound was… I almost wet myself.
I had a couple of reasons for being there – first, I wanted to interview Piers to understand how he builds fantasy worlds from scratch. We’re producing this brilliant fantasy game called Mystic Searches, which is playable both on the original NES and on modern consoles, and Piers was a massive inspiration to my own hero, Joe Granato, who’s heading up The New 8-Bit Heroes project.
But I was also there for a selfish reason. As a fellow fantasy author, I couldn’t wait to ask Piers what he thought fantasy was all about. What’s the point? Why do we invest so much of our passion in something fantastical? Why do we feel so compelled to read and write complete paracosms, building elaborate universes that will never see the light of day?
I asked Piers, a 21 times bestselling fantasy author (his credentials are ok), and he said:
I just love that so much. Not just the sentiment of escapism, but the passion in Piers’ eyes when he explains it.
I do think fantasy goes yet beyond escapism though. Most importantly to me is our mind’s power to create, and fantasy is such a diamond tool to practice the important skill of creation. Unlike other animals we develop everyday theories of the universe surrounding us. We construct and revise theories about physics, psychology and the esoteric. We understand the world and other people more accurately through this kind of theorizing.
Theorizing and fantasizing are the same thing! A theory, in science or in everyday life, doesn’t just describe one particular way the world happens to be at the moment. Instead, it tells you about the ways the world could have been in the past or might be in the future. This is why fantasy is so profoundly powerful and adaptive. It not only explains the world we see but it lets us see other worlds, and through the power of our marvelous minds we make those worlds come true. We slaughter problems like they’re wayward dragons, we respond in a flash to complex situations, we’re the heroes of our journeys! And look what we achieved. We changed the world by fantasizing. Everything you see around you, from the terracotta flowerpot your phallic cactus stands in to the complex electrical system hidden behind your vanilla linen walls, was once as imaginary, as unreal, as fantastic as Middle-earth, Hogwarts, Discworld, Xanth and my own Eadar. The future is fantasy, and I just love living in it!
E.A.A Wilson is an author, minister of metaphysics, mom and reluctant bureaucrat. Her comic fantasy novel “Ascension Denied” is set in purgatory but is nonetheless available to the living, right now, online, at all major retailers. Stay in touch through: