Truth is stranger than fiction... I suppose that's true. Half the time I'm pretty sure that my life would make a hell of a reality show but no one would believe it wasn't scripted.
Maybe everyone's reality is another person's fantasy. There's always someone who has it worse, right?
When tasked to answer the question of what is the best fantasy world out there, my first thought was simple... books.
It's not a precise answer, it's not a specific answer but it's an answer I can defend.
Whether the tales that hold your heart's beat are reality-based fiction, memoirs, autobiographies, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, etc., it's all in some way... a fantasy.
Even non-fiction can be a fantasy if you're eagerly devouring the words of a life you aspire to live.
We live in an era where there's an entire world of information, quite literally at our fingertips. But Google is also a fantasy full of half-truths and misinformation that you have to learn to read between the headlines and put the information together piecemeal to try to ascertain some semblance of clarity. In a single year, we lived an entire History textbook... but only the bad parts... and some still plague us (pun very much so intended) to this day.
Truth is indeed, far stranger than fiction. So we escape inside the bindings of a book to dial down the reality and live out a fantasy.
My favorite fantasy world was Harry Potter until the author turned into a Death Eater before all of social media. Beyond Harry Potter, I was never much for fantasy or sci-fi based fiction. I like my fiction with a dose of mystery, a criminal plotline and a twist of twisted.
My favorite escape is to the town of Denton, Pennsylvania. You won't find it on any map... it's not real. Good thing too, a lot of serial killers make their home there... but they're all thwarted and outsmarted by one, Josie Quinn.
Lisa Regan writes the Josie Quinn detective series. There are currently 12 books in the series published, with number 13 in the editing process and a contract for a total of 20 to be created.
Each title can stand on it's own as a one-off read but the devoted fans know the benefits of reading them all, in order, and anxiously awaiting the next release. I've lost a lot of sleep inside these titles. Lisa has a knack for keeping her readers attention until she's finished. You simply do not want to put the book down because with every turn Josie makes, you need to know what's waiting around the corner.
My dog dislikes this.
I'd call Josie a cat, but she has far more than nine lives. She has gotten herself into... and inevitably out of... some pretty dicey situations. With the help of her crack team of detectives, she is the most well-written police woman I've ever had the pleasure of imagining inside my head.
The research that goes into police procedurals and criminal psychology simply can not be denied. I studied these things with the aspirations of joining the FBI so I am critical to say the least when a book or TV show or movie gets it wrong.
It's so easy to fall into the trap of having everything neatly wrapped in an hour long episode or two hour long movie but that's not how the real world works.
You're also unlikely to find 20 books worth of serial killers in a small town in Pennsylvania but that's the only reality Lisa asks of you to suspend. And you do it willingly because each new killer comes with new and interesting back stories and MO's and you can almost picture it making one hell of a TV series... but Hollywood is so notorious for ruining a perfectly good book, you hope that they don't.
Inside my head, Denton, PA. exists. I picture it something like this:
That's a real town in Pennsylvania. What it's called, I have no idea. I did a Google image search for "small town Pennsylvania" and picked the one closest to the Denton of my imagination.
Maybe it's weird to find an escape, or a fantasy, inside a world where murder is so common. But have you watched the news recently? Or... ya know... ever?
Fictional murder is far better than real life murder and in that it is an escape, it is a fantasy. Before I found Vocal and started writing nearly every night, a lot of the pandemic has been spent reading the adventures of Josie and her latest crimes to solve. And solve them, she does.
The real world doesn't offer such happy endings. Sometimes the bad guys don't get caught. Sometimes the wrong person is imprisoned. Sometimes they become President. The world is a terrifying place and while an escape to a suspenseful thriller novel may seem like more of the same, Josie never fails.
This is not to say there is nothing sad in her life. In fact, Josie's fictional backstory is littered with hardship she's had to overcome, and some things she simply can't overcome. She loses people along the series, she experiences heartbreak, she is injured... she becomes a whole and palpable human being that can be related to.
Everybody knows loss.
Everybody is broken in some way.
Everybody has walls to protect themselves.
Josie is no exception and in her likeness to true humans, she becomes an escape from them because Josie keeps going. Her baggage isn't designer but she carries the burdens life has given her (or I suppose... Lisa has given her) with a quiet grace.
Most of the time.
I highly recommend finding your own escape inside these books, listed in order above are all of the published titles to date.
Whether your perfect world is magic and wizardry, dragons and goblins, fairies and elves, fairy tales or the simple escape a different version of reality.... the fantasy exists within books.
They are the birthplace of imagination, the spark of creativity, the inspiration behind any writer and the purest form of living outside of your own life there could ever be.
Crack a binding and escape. Every word is a fantasy to someone, because it's a description of a world that is not their own.