Fantasy: fact or fiction?

I had an interesting conversation with a nonfiction author the other day regarding a manuscript about chakras.

The nonfiction author’s viewpoint: It had to be fiction. And most likely fantasy.

My viewpoint: Millions of people believe in chakras as fact. Who says it couldn’t be nonfiction?

Which makes me think there’s a discreet category of work that is not clearly fantasy, not like magic-and-dragons fantasy, but we’re not sure what else to call it because we don’t agree on how “real life” it might be. You don’t have to go as far as ghosts. Think of stories revolving around auras, intuitive or energy healing, reincarnation, remote viewing, etc. —  much of which is the typical stock-in-trade of New Agers (in the Western world) and Most Everyone (in the Eastern world). Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction depends on who you ask. And so does whether it’s fantasy or could fit right into a contemporary story.

The word “paranormal” used to have a definition that fit here pretty well. As in paranormal activity. But I think that, thanks to recent market trends, most people can no longer hear “paranormal” without associating it with 1) vampires, werewolves, or other supernatural creatures and 2) Romance (for teens or adults). I don’t often hear the term used with middle-grade work, and certainly not picture or chapter books.

I started to wonder if “occult” or something like that could work. Then I remembered the knee-jerk reaction that word causes among certain faith communities. (Speaking of which: would the same people consider a story about the devil fantasy? Or not? How about angels?)

Hey, I know — how about “speculative?” But that’s already got a much broader definition, at least here at The Spec. Too broad, maybe.

Is there any other word or characterization that would work? I’d especially be interested in hearing from someone with time in an Eastern culture or background. Or is it goofy to try to distinguish anyhow?

— Joni, who resisted the urge to give non-kidlit examples of “are they fact or aren’t they?” stories ranging from Holocaust denial to conspiracy theories to the lives of the saints. Almost resisted, that is.

1 Comment

Filed under Joni Sensel

One response to “Fantasy: fact or fiction?

  1. Natalie Aguirre

    I think chakras are part of Eastern spirituality and as a meditator, I wouldn’t call it fantasy. Though I could see someone who doesn’t believe in Easterny spirituality/philosophy calling it that. I’m not sure you can define everything by one word. Paranormal books can be very different than the magic in a high fantasy, for example.

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