The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Fantasy, Fiction and Film: Popular culture’s lucrative interest in book series-turned-movies continues

Over the past 15 years, Peter Jackson filmed J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series, and J. K. Rowling published the “Harry Potter” series, which was also adapted into film. George R. R. Martin expanded his “Game of Thrones” series, and the books became a TV show. “Doctor Who” maintains a strong fan base, three “Chronicles of Narnia” books were adapted into film, Suzanne Collins published the “Hunger Games” trilogy and the second movie, “Catching Fire,” premiered Thursday.

Fantasy and science fiction is hardly new. In fact, it fills ancient and medieval legends and tales, but the genre receives more attention than ever in current popular culture. 

E. D. Kain, writer for “The Atlantic” magazine, credits this popularity to select works that can appeal to many different types of people.

“Fantasy used to be for dorks,” Kain said. “You didn’t take a girl out to see a fantasy flick, and your grandmother didn’t read ‘Dragonlace.’ Books like ‘A Game of Thrones’ and ‘Harry Potter’ have changed all of that. When I began recommending Martin’s books to friends, I didn’t limit my recommendations to fantasy readers. To my great surprise, many people I knew who sniffed at fantasy before told me they couldn’t put the books down.”

Kain said fantasy was not mainstream in the past because the majority of readers only associated it with exclusive fantasy games like “Dungeons and Dragons” or off-kilter mythology. 

After the success of fantasy series like “Harry Potter,” both fantasy movies and books are lucrative enterprises. 

Eric Christensen, writer and blogger for “Fantasy Fiction News,” said the relationship between film and print is cyclical. A book sells, movie rights are purchased, the movie is produced, then the books sell more copies and producers and publishers look for more stories like the original book.

“This relationship is fragile. It only works if people keep buying books, watching movies and subscribing to premium channels,” he said. “When it comes to fantasy, people are currently doing all three, and publishers and producers are rushing to give us more.”

The latest increase in the profitability of fantasy stems from much of the work’s genre-combining. The “Harry Potter” series is a good example. The books are easy to read and exist parallel to the real world. The characters in the series go to boarding school, learn to make friends, grow up and fight a war. 

Rowling incorporates elements of a magical world, like potions classes, dragons and hippogriffs, without sacrificing the details of daily teenage life and ethical dilemmas. The struggle between good and evil drives the story, and readers can understand Potter’s struggle. 

C. S. Lewis once said, “At all ages, …(fantasy and myth) can give us experiences we have never had and thus, instead of ‘commenting on life,’ can add to it.” 

Lewis’s good friend Tolkien agreed with him and said fantasy’s escapist nature is what makes it great. By entering a different setting or world, readers can see themselves more clearly. 

Fantasy and science fiction are broad genres in both setting and readership. The labels can include mythological tales or futuristic space wars. There are wizards, vampires, hobbits, dragons, robots, cylons and jedi — the list goes on. Some stories appeal to different generations, and children who grow up with a particular story often carry it into adulthood. Readers enable stories to live on. Rowena Cory Daniells of “The Australian Literature Review” said despite similar settings, fantasy stories always have a shared interest in humanity.

“They all share a common theme: the exploration of the human condition,” Daniells said. “Even the much maligned medieval/quest fantasies offer their readers the chance to vicariously explore a wondrous world, battle evil and restore justice. Even a lowly Hobbit can change the course of the world by destroying the ring.”

Daniells said fantasy appeals to our sense of wonder and will never cease to captivate readers. 

Mary Hallberg, a teen reader writing for the “Young Adult Examiner,” noted the pervasive element that keeps fantasy and science fiction genre relevant and engaging generation after generation.

“Sci-fi and fantasy allow us to escape our world while simultaneously learning something about it,” Hallberg said. “They are grounded in the real world, and if these series didn’t strike a nerve beyond magic and fantastical creatures, they wouldn’t have been as popular as they have for quite as long.”

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Fantasy, Fiction and Film: Popular culture’s lucrative interest in book series-turned-movies continues