by Michael Angerer
The beauty of Fantasy – and, in part, the reason why it was chosen as this issue’s theme – is both how varied its meanings can be and how close they ultimately are to the etymological root of the word. A quick glance at the Oxford English Dictionary, preferably in its handy 20-volume print incarnation, will reveal that the word is derived from Greek φαντάζειν (for all us non-classicists, phantasein), meaning ‘to make visible’. Going on from there, the word seems to have emigrated into English via Old French, whereupon it promptly spread into a wide range of more specialised meanings: from the mental apprehension of an object of perception to simply an inclination, liking, or desire.
This issue of The Poor Print only includes eight submissions, which, dear exasperated readers, partly explains the presence of this column; and yet, the same variety in form and content while maintaining unity in general effect may be discerned. Fantasy is a vehicle to represent, and thus both to evade and to comprehend, the turmoils of war; it is a driving force spurring us on to reach new heights; through fantasy, we may revisit the familiar in order to deal with the realities of life; it lets us follow inconsequential yet amusing lines of thought to the end; and it is this bottomless imaginative force that drives us to solve riddles or just go off to compare hand dryers. Fantasy, in other words, is the quintessential human capacity of creating what J. R. R. Tolkien himself, in his essay ‘On Fairy-Stories’, calls the Secondary World. There we are free to make visible whatever preoccupies us at the moment; and there we are free to use it as an escape or an analytical tool – or both, as it were.