Explore Myth and Magic through Fantasy Fiction

Article excerpt

Byline: Sarah Long

Shirley May Byrnes, director of the DuPage Library System, reads fantasy books. Not being a fantasy reader myself, I quizzed her about it, and she explained that fantasy is a subgenre of science fiction. Fantasy is more about magical, mythical events, while science fiction is based more on science and machines. She said she preferred fantasy because she finds more character development and because fantasy often reveals the authors' value systems or the eternal struggle between dark and light. Typically fantasy is set in or based on medieval times, and there are several series based on either the Arthurian and Pendragon legends or characters. Byrnes told me that a recent children's fantasy series, "The Lost Years of Merlin" by T.A. Barron, features the great wizard Merlin from the Arthurian legend. But in it Merlin is a child growing up, blind. He "sees" with a sixth sense and learns his greatest lessons such as love, grief and forgiveness from nature.

Another reason Byrnes likes fantasy is that women are often strong characters in this genre. Marian Zimmer Bradley, one of Byrnes' favorites, wrote books about the women in the Arthurian legends including "The Mists of Avalon" and "The Lady of Avalon." She also created the world of Darkover. Another Byrnes' favorite is Andre Norton, the grand dame of science fiction and fantasy. Now, 90 years old and still writing, she published her first book in 1934 at a time when women couldn't get works published easily. …