L.L. McKinney, author of The Nightmare-verse series, didn’t have to say, “the world tends to be on fire a lot,” for us to understand the general craziness of the world right now. McKinney was recently a panelist for Fierce Reads presents YA Fantasy and the Power of Storytelling discussion as a part of ComicCon at Home. She was joined by Hafsah Faizal, author of We Hunt the Flame, Katy Rose Pool, author of The Age of Darkness series, and Alex London, author of The Skybound Saga.
Moderated by Preeti Chhibber, author of Marvel: Avengers Assemble #1, the discussion touched on world building and some of the authors favorite tropes (the most popular being found family and enemies to lovers). However, a bulk of the conversation focused on fantasy as escapism while still seeing yourself be represented in the story.
The first question asked by Chhibber was why the authors found fantasy to be exciting and powerful. Pool said that the stories of “adventures where people were going off to save their world,” drew her to fantasy because it is not something that we can easily do in our world. This escapist sentiment was shared by authors such as McKinney, who sought to “get away 100 or so pages at a time,” and Faizal, who turned to fantasy when she couldn’t find herself, a home-schooled Muslim girl, in contemporary stories. London too, was drawn to fantasy because it allowed young people to have their complex emotions to be taken seriously, even if the stories themselves were “crushingly heterosexual.”
The topic of representation came up a lot as well. Chhibber asked the authors how they balanced fantasy with allegory and all of them responded that they did not, largely because allegories are hardly ever done right. Instead they said that they sought out stories by diverse and marginalized authors to grapple with their assumptions and particularly how they combat stereotypes. McKinney offers this: “Adjust who you’re telling the story for, and you adjust how you’re telling the story based on who you are as opposed to based on what the world tells you you are.” Pool, London, and Faizal agreed and added that when writing they also look at the story structure critically in order to tell the story in different ways.
Watch the whole panel at the top of the post.