The Intersection between Fantasy and Reality

By Gail Z. Martin

Most of us read fiction to escape reality, at least for a little while. If you want to immerse yourself in the real world, you generally read non-fiction. But any time there are two groups, there is a boundary line between them, and often that boundary is fuzzy, porous, and perhaps more an imaginary demarcation than a wall. That’s the way I think the separation is between fantasy and reality.

Reality focuses on truth and fact, or at least believes it does. Of course, unless we’re good at vetting our information and choose our sources wisely, what we believe to be real may, in actuality, be nothing more than tin-foil hat conspiracies and magical thinking. The truth is out there, and it can often be empirically proven. But because it is uncomfortable, threatening to the status quo or results in cognitive dissonance requiring us to divest ourselves of comfortable ideas proven untrue, we resist looking for the truth, and often turn away from it when we find it.

On the reality side of the line, the gray area is the home of pseudo-science like anti-vaxers and climate change deniers, of life-long smokers who resist the idea that tobacco kills, of moon shot unbelievers and grapefruit dieters, alien abductees and Bigfoot sightings. It’s where the last believers of debunked science find refuge, the shadowed wilderness where the devotees of magical thinking go to escape those who blinded them with science. This is the arid no-man’s land for those who either lack the capacity to understand the concepts or—much more likely—find it so threatening to change their minds that they dare not leave their self-imposed exile.

And it is scary to move away from the borderline. If you have embraced a junk science concept all your life, it’s probably because an authority figure, someone you trusted like a parent, teacher, member of the clergy, or political leader told you that concept and rewarded you for believing. The fear that keeps people locked in the DMZ is that removing one faulty belief may lead to finding other, equally incorrect assumptions, until the whole house of cards collapses. There may be social pressure to stay in the wilderness with your tribe of true believers. And if you leave the tribe, where would you go?

Then there’s the line as viewed from the fantasy side of the divide. This is the place where good storytelling, the power of myth and wishful thinking create fantasy so close to being real that it seems to actually be real. This is the realm of urban legends, stories of one-armed carjackers and ghostly hitchhikers that have been repeated so often, we swear we heard that it happened to a friend of a cousin’s friend. It’s the apocryphal story that would be so perfect if it actually happened, but it didn’t. The promises we believed of inventions (like flying cars or faster-than-light travel) that were supposed to come true, but didn’t, and we feel cheated.

This is also the space of the half-awakened dream, the place where archetypes rule. It’s a liminal space where there is truth in something not quite real—which is the essence of myth and archetype. It is not the truth, but it is a truth, and a powerful truth at that, which lasts down through the ages, staying alive by the power of its mythic truthfulness.

It’s the transcendent nature of the myth that keep sojourners in the fantasy border wilderness. The near-real dreams are so seductive, the promise of the future so fulfilling, the siren song so loud that it feels like failure to move into the mere fantastic.

Borders are dangerous places. They question your identity and allegiance, and they’re often hotly contested. Most of the time, they’re imaginary lines that we draw and defend as if they were real. Sometimes, the line shifts and suddenly there is a new reality. Efforts to eliminate ambiguity with total certainty lead people to build a wall instead of a line. But walls never last.

My Days of the Dead blog tour runs through October 31 with never-before-seen cover art, brand new excerpts from upcoming books and recent short stories, interviews, guest blog posts, giveaways and more! Plus, I’ll be including extra excerpt links for my stories and for books by author friends of mine. You’ve got to visit the participating sites to get the goodies, just like Trick or Treat! Details here:



Book swag is the new Trick-or-Treat! Grab your envelope of book swag awesomeness from me & 10 authors before 11/1!


Trick or Treat! Excerpt from my new urban fantasy novel Vendetta set in my Deadly Curiosities world here Launches Dec. 29

More Treats! Enter to win a copy of Deadly Curiosities!

Treats! Enter to win a copy of Iron & Blood!

Treats not Tricks! Read an excerpt from War Of Shadows

Halloween goodies! Excerpt from Iron & Blood

Bonus Treats! An excerpt from Everyday Haunts by JeanMarie Ward and from Real Weird

Scary good loot! Free sample chapter from Charles Gannon’s Raising Caine

Check out Broad Universe’s Full Moon Blog Tour now through Nov. 7 with 25 awesome authors (including me!) and spooktacular book giveaways!


A Night Sky with Moon and Trees

A Night Sky with Moon and Trees

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