The Sunday Salon: The Value of Escapism

In the eternal, pointless, and semantically frustrating battle of “literary fiction” versus “genre fiction” (I can’t even, people), the word “escapism” is sometimes thrown at speculative fiction. The argument goes that the fantasy and science fiction fans can’t face the harshness of reality (depicted in “literary fiction” as, to quote a professor at Agnes, “two people in a room getting a divorce”) and so prefer to immerse themselves in fantastical worlds where they can unobtrusively (or obtrusively, in the case of Mary Sues) be someone else. I’d always thought that argument was awful, because I’d only ever seen it used to prove that “literary fiction” is superior, and rejected the argument entirely—including rejecting escapism itself. But a recent episode of This American Life, of all things, made me reevaluate the concept of escapism itself, including its merits.

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