The Purpose Of Fantasy?

Fantasy stories don't seem to have much of a purpose, these days. Save the day, rescue the princess, loot the dungeon.

I'd love it if the characters, in the pursuit of their mundane goal of finding The Lost Eye of Agrue or preparing for The War of Wisterandia against the Dark Ones From The North or whatever, stop once in a while and ask the kinds of questions Carl Sagan would have loved to have talked over.

Questions about Mankind's place in the cosmos.

The kinds of questions we in this world of flesh and bone should be asking ourselves more.

In my dream this morning, I was part of a team of people who were exploring a network of interspatial transport conduits - essentially, a Stargate network right out of that TV show, only without the military and the whole Goa'Uld, Jaffa, ancient astronauts schtick.

This was a dream where the team I was a member of had stumbled upon an idyllic world. We'd dropped into a clearing in a mixed forest - fir trees off to the West, wild fruit trees to the South. More trees to the North, on the shores of a large lake. It looked absolutely perfect.

It turned out that we had to spend one season here - three months - before the conduits could align again to allow us to come home. So we had to spend the time building shelters and digging a latrine away from the lake and sources of water. We had supplies to last us three months, but it was decided that we should supplement our supplies with locally-foraged foodstuffs.

I was sitting near a campfire at night, and there was an edge-on galaxy clearly visible in the sky. I was facing away from it. A woman from the team came up to me, and sat down beside me. She asked me what was so fascinating that I would pass up the chance of looking at something I have only seen in photos, or in a cartoon sequence on XKCD.

I pointed. She looked, and gasped.

Just over the fir trees, rising in the sky, dominating that quarter of the sky, was a vast spiral galaxy.

I'd seen this before, in a previous dream I'd had many years ago - one I'll describe in a future post.

I asked the woman what she would have thought if, throughout human evolution, we'd have had one of these hanging in the sky. What would have our ancestors have thought? Would the course of our evolution, the shape of our societies, our histories, been any different? Would we have been less of a virus of a species?

Perhaps, at the heart of these fantasy swords-'n'-sorcery stories, there should be more wild veerings into philosophy like these.

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