Why We Love to Write – and Read – the Magical Worlds in Fantasy and Sci-Fi

Danielle Wrobel shares her thoughts on why we love all things magical and out of this world. 

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I began to write with wizards and spaceships. More wizards than spaceships, but I managed to feature both: how else would the wizards be able to fight the aliens? They also contained far more bloodshed and tragedy than was entirely healthy for a child still in primary school to be imagining, especially in such detail. To all my doomed heroes: I’m sorry.

Astonishingly high character attrition rates aside, those early stories were full of possibilities. Perhaps overly so, in retrospect. But it is this aspect of science fiction and fantasy that has attracted me to the genre. It presents us with possibilities. Alternative worlds—whether they’re populated by grim-faced knights, super-intelligent clouds of gas, or even just humans who struggle with nosy neighbours that have five legs instead of two—ask us the same question: what if?

As writers and readers, we all have our own responses to this question. But asking the question itself is important. Science fiction and fantasy kindles our curiosity, and encourages us to look at our own world differently. We might see dragons in the contrails of planes, or super-intelligent AI in our smartphones.We might hope, in vain, for our invitation to study magic (I’m sure it was just lost in the post).

We might, too, look at our own world in comparison. I’ve read enough weird fiction to be glad that every time I eat a bowl of cereal it doesn’t dissolve into the table, or turn into a parrot that feeds off of happiness. I’ve also read enough medieval-analogue fantasy to appreciate the lack of a feudal system, and enough dystopian science fiction to hope that something similar doesn’t ever return.

Science fiction and fantasy has a long and fine tradition of discussing issues by providing a different context, from The Blazing World to The Left Hand of Darkness, Discworld to Kindred. It’s almost like a magic trick, the mundane kind. The author distracts with a showy magic system, or a detailed description of how anti-gravity works, and then, when you finish reading, you find yourself thinking differently.

This shouldn’t detract from the fact that science fiction and fantasy is also immensely fun. It is possible to twist every rule, from physiology to gravity. Sometimes these are discarded entirely, sometimes they are adhered to in inventive, unexpected ways. And with such possibilities ahead, every writer’s story is uniquely fantastical.


Plume Anthology MA Creative Writing 2017 Bath Spa University features a variety of extracts with a touch of Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Ariel Dantona She Tore

Andrew Harris The Prince of the Great Oak Tree

Dan Archer The Book Max

Danielle Wrobel Sickle Way