Imagine Magic! In Defense of Fantasy Literature

University of Toronto's One & Only Genre Journal

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”

― Dr. Seuss

Fantasy has been a part of the literary tradition since literature began.

In fact, the case could be made that fantasy was the first literature of ancient culture. From Jewish folklore thousands of years old to the Greek epics of Homer such as the Odyssey and Roman tales like Virgil’s Aeneid, the first stories of literature were about the fantastical. They were about magic, and monsters, and mad heroes going on impossible journeys.

These stories are taught in schools and are respected as great classics. So when did some people begin to lose respect for the fantastic? At what point did people decide to relegate fantasy to the fringes of literature under the classification “genre fiction”?

Today the fantastical dominates both the big and small screens. Fantasy is everywhere, and…

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A Good Land for Myths

University of Toronto's One & Only Genre Journal

Throughout Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel American Gods, many different characters state that “America is a bad land for gods.”  The novel argues that when many beliefs sail across the ocean to reach our continent, they struggle to survive.

While I cannot say whether America is in fact a good or bad land for gods, I can be very confident when I say that America is a very good land for myths and legends.

Today’s culture is filled with modern interpretations of ancient myths. Marvel comics has depicted characters such as Thor, Ares, and Hercules fighting alongside masked avengers as superheroes, even bringing their version of Thor to life on the big screen. DC comics also has attempted to pull stories from myth, occasionally linking the hero Wonder Woman to the Greek gods. Vertigo comics also saw several adaptations of ancient mythologies represented in the comic The Sandman (another…

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Without Fear: The Devil in Depression

University of Toronto's One & Only Genre Journal

just put this one first cause it looks neat, daredevil by david mack Art by Dave Mack

Superheroes have struggles and conflict. Their stories need this. Without conflict, they wouldn’t have any reason to wear spandex and go jumping off rooftops. But not all conflicts have to be outlandishly dressed villains. The Marvel character Matt Murdock/Daredevil has his share of foes (mostly ninjas). Matt’s crusade against Wilson Fisk, the criminal Kingpin of New York, and the other villains who invade his ninja-filled home in Hell’s Kitchen is fantastic, and his representation of disability as a blind superhero (albeit with some fun powers) makes for some fun adventures. But this is not all of what makes this character so great.

Daredevil struggles with depression. This is a comic book character who has openly confessed to struggling with clinical depression; this is a comic book that has treated depression as a mental illness and has portrayed it realistically.

It didn’t start out that way. In his…

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The Stuff What Don’t Get Spoke: Hawkeye and Disability Done Well

University of Toronto's One & Only Genre Journal

Hawkeye 5JPG Art by David Aja

“You can get it all back.”

Hawkeye (Vol. 4) written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by David Aja (Vol. 4), is arguably the best comic book that Marvel has put out in recent years. The comic pays equal attention to the bow-wielding Avenger Clint Barton and his Young Avenger counterpart Kate Bishop. Both share the title of Hawkeye, and both of them are great, but that’s not all it’s got. Hawkeye also has tracksuit-wearing, gun-toting Mafia villains, an issue from the perspective of a dog, and a passing reference to the movie Blade Runner.

But the greatest achievement of this series comes with the July issue, #19. I this twenty-two page story, the makers of Hawkeye give us a story of disability done well.

As a result of a previous issue, Clint Barton has lost his hearing and his brother Barney has lost the use…

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No Capes! An Introduction to Comics and Graphic Novels of the Non-Superhero Variety

University of Toronto's One & Only Genre Journal

If you’ve read my previous articles for TheSpectatorial, you may have picked up on the fact that I like comic books. I think the graphic novel is a fantastic vehicle with which to tell or devour stories. But there is one thing that prevents a lot of people from being sucked into this great medium: capes. There is an idea that comic books are about superheroes, and superhero stories might not be for everyone. That’s okay! I’m here to tell you that there are entire worlds of books out there for you to explore! There are literary graphic novels! Independent, creator-owned comics! And they’re great.

The literary/alternative graphic novel is not exactly new, and whether you know it or not, has been seeping into the public conscious for years. If you haven’t come across the books themselves, then you have almost certainly come into contact with their small/big…

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Reach for the Stars! Or in Defence of Science Fiction Literature

University of Toronto's One & Only Genre Journal

“I rejoice in accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who’ve been excluded from literature for so long—my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction, writers of the imagination, who for fifty years have watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

These were a few of the words spoken by long-time science fiction and fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin upon accepting the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.

It was a throwaway opening to an acceptance speech that was ultimately about the battle of art and literature against consumerism and capitalism. It was an admirable, moving speech. But what truly struck me was this opening line.

I saw it as a rallying cry, a summons to battle against those who would deny the importance of science fiction as literature. Because the sad truth is, those people…

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I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts… But Flying Saucers Give Me Chills!

University of Toronto's One & Only Genre Journal

spec illustration - alien Illustration by Lorna Antoniazzi

Scary stories have been a staple of popular culture since there has been popular culture. To be spooked, thrilled, horrified, and afraid has been at the centre of fiction for a long time.

Scary stories have always been a reflection of things that we fear in the real world. This is why for so long scary stories were about ghosts, monsters, and the supernatural. People were afraid of monsters. Stories about ghosts gave us chills, vampire stories convinced us that we should eat more garlic, Frankenstein’s monster reminded us that science is terrifying.

But now? What are these monsters now that we’ve lost our fear of them? Classic monsters are now often represented as antiheroes or love interests. We see them as the underdog, with the trait that originally made them scary now being used metaphorically to represent real issues. Ghosts often represent isolation—vermin to be sucked…

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