Starting the Fantasy Fire

James Nicoll has an interesting comment on fantasy and science-fiction.

Why is it that fantasy works (the successful ones anyway) tend to be much longer than the sf works? Of course I am aware of several exceptions to this generalization, not the least of which would be The Foundation Series and The Dune Series. But when you count the sheer number of Robert Jordan's in the world, you realize that there really is a difference.

The key difference is that fantasy readers want to stay in that world and the sf readers want to apply what they've learned to the real world. I think this offers insight into two related entertainments, tabletop RPGs (like D&D) and MMORPGs (like World of Warcraft), and to a certain extent all manner of fanfic and even criticism.

A fantasy book is like a chemical handwarmer - it reliably starts, warms you for a bit, and then falls cold and dead. People like the longer books because that translates to more hand-warmth, and it allows them to forestall the inevitable. Table top RPG is a bunch of friends getting together to light a fire. If started, such a flame is hotter than the hand-warmer and is generally better (by all accounts). Sometimes the wood is too soggy to light, but there's a certain pride in even making the attempt. The successful MMORPG is The Sun.

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