“We need, in any case, to clean our windows; so that the things seen clearly may be freed from the drab blur of triteness or familiarity—from possessiveness. Of all faces those of our familiars are the ones both most difficult to play fantastic tricks with, and most difficult really to see with fresh attention. …We say we know them. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.

…Fantasy is made out of the Primary World, but a good craftsman loves his material, and has a knowledge and feeling for clay, stone and wood which only the art of making can give. By the forging of Gram cold iron was revealed; by the making of Pegasus horses were ennobled; in the Trees of the Sun and Moon root and stock, flower and fruit are manifested in glory.”

That is a quote from Tolkien's marvelous essay "On Fairy Stories." [The full essay can be found here] This isn't new, obviously, but I periodically re-read "On Fairy Stories," and I thought this was a lovely reminder of what genre fiction can be.

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What do you think makes speculative fiction special? What attracted you to it and what keeps you coming back?

EDIT: I mean "speculative fiction" as an umbrella term for science fiction, fantasy, and all fiction that portrays the world not as it is.

The image is a painting by Jenny Dolfen.