I’m thinking a lot about fantasy this week. There could be any number of reasons for that: I publish fantasy writers, for example, and I’ll be around a lot of them this week for a workshop. Fantasy writers are fascinating people. I mean, most writers are, I’ve found, but the fantasy ones are special. They tap into that otherworldliness that transports our imaginations to new and amazing places. At least, they do for me.
But I also watch a lot of young children’s programming. And I realized something after watching an episode of Doc McStuffins the other day.
Ironically, it was the science fiction element of the Doc McStuffins episode that struck me. Doc and her toys (who come to life when she presses her magic stethoscope) were transported back in time to meet a very young Florence Nightingale. As I’m watching this, I suddenly sat up. Time travel? Did they really just use a time-travel trope?
So, I had to watch. In fact, I keep missing the beginning and I find myself searching for that episode so I can watch it the whole thing to see how they handled it. And now I’m envisioning arguing with a 4-year-old about why we have to watch Doc instead of Blaze and the Monster Machines or Jake and the Neverland Pirates right this minute because Mommy just needs to see this. I might have a fiction problem.
That aside, it was my incredulity that a children’s show was using a science fiction trope that really got me thinking. And that’s when I realized that every single one of these toddler shows is in the fantasy genre.
I already knew this at some level. My husband and I often comment on why some fantasy elements bother us more than others. Why, for example, do I find it maddening that the Bubble Guppies walk on streets and have grass-filled parks when the entire show is supposed to be underwater? I mean, we’re talking mermaids and half-fish puppies, but it’s the streets and grass that bother me?
Or the fact that Dora and Boots comment in one episode that garbage cans can’t talk (well, duh) but Dora has a talking backpack and map. So, apparel and navigation guides, check. But waste disposal systems, no. Oh, and there’s that talking monkey, of course.
Talking animals, magic stethoscopes, math superpowers, these are the elements of fiction my child encounters on a daily basis. No wonder her imagination is so rich.
And that also got me thinking: When do we lose that sense of magic? When do we start noticing that monkeys can’t really talk and toys can’t really come to life?
We all do at some point, but if we’re lucky, we never really accept it. We keep our toe in that fantastic pool of imagination through the rich and diverse fantasy genre still offered to us as adults, be it through books, movies, TV or something else.
And now that I’ve made you realize you need a little dose of fantasy, head on over to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s website this week. Her Free Fiction Monday story (and she offers a new one every week) is all about opening your mind to new possibilities. It’s called “Precious Moments.”
I know, for me, every moment I share with my daughter exploring our imaginations is precious. Even if I have to overlook the talking monkey.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.