This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

October 31, 2001 - Fantasy Fest!

Many people think fantasy and science fiction are the same. They're not.

"Fantasy" takes place in a world where certain, often basic, things are just impossible. Take the Harry Potter series. The author doesn't spend a lot of time trying to work out sort-of-sensible explanations for why magic works. It's a given, part of the background. Spells work, ghosts inhabit Hogwart's halls, and brooms fly. On with the story!

Sometimes an author starts out as a fantasy writer, then changes. Take Anne McCaffrey's popular Dragonrider of Pern series. It began as fantasy: a young woman rode a dragon. The tale fit right in with the stereotypical swords-and-sorcery, faintly medievalist universe.

But over time, McCaffrey started exploring the physics of dragon flight. At some point, when a phenomena or worldview can be plausibly extrapolated from today's scientific knowledge, you're not talking fantasy anymore. You're talking science fiction.

And that's good. I admit it. I'm a science fiction fan. In that realm, I've read some pretty wacky stuff, but no matter where it leads me, it always begins with the same thing: the real world. Some dogged part of my imagination has to know that you can get there from here.

I have to say that on occasion, that makes science fiction far more frightening than fantasy could ever be. Check out the "Handmaid's Tale," by Margaret Atwood, for instance.

This bias toward reality is precisely the reason my wife, Suzanne, refuses to watch horror movies of the mad slasher type. Why? Because there really are insane people who will try to kill you. After the last horror movie she saw (about 15 years ago), Suzanne went out and bought nightlights for all our bedrooms. For months afterward, she also checked under the bed each night before committing herself to sleep.

By contrast, the most terrifying movie I ever saw was the first "Alien" movie, when the alien wrapped herself around John Hurt's throat and laid an egg in his chest.

That didn't bother Suzanne. Aliens? Fantasy.

But in my view, the alien adhered to certain strict, predictable, all too possible rules. I've never met one, but I COULD. Sure, a mad slasher might poke a long knife up through my mattress some night, but he's not going to lay an egg in my chest.

My point, though, is that you'll soon have the opportunity to learn about the differences between fantasy and science fiction from people far more qualified than I am. On Friday, November 2, from 6 to 10 p.m., the library will sponsor Fantasy Fest! The location: the old Safeway at 100 South Wilcox Street, Castle Rock, future site of our new Philip S. Miller Library.

The event begins with a keynote speech by Colorado author Connie Willis. Willis bears the distinction of having won more literary awards -- both the Hugo and the Nebula Awards, science fiction's highest accolades -- than anyone in history. In addition to being an accomplished, moving, and often very humorous writer, she is one of the most erudite, witty, and engaging speakers I've ever heard. I recommend her highly.

But that's not all. We'll have other authors, including Hilari Bell and Wick Downing. You can see Harry Potter collectibles, and demonstrations of fantasy role playing games. You can thrill to exciting stories by nationally renowned local storyteller, John Stansfield. We'll have live owls!

All attendees are encouraged to wear costumes, and to stop by the Costume Judge. At 9:30 p.m. precisely, a winner will be announced.

Did I mention the free food?

In short, this event, however fantastic, is not a fantasy. It is real. I hope you can join us.

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