Panelists explore fantasy fiction themes

By Claire Buchanan

A local librarian’s habit of recommending fantasy fiction to teens has made him similar to a “mild-mannered drug dealer,” said professor David Gorman at a Tuesday fantasy panel.

At Tuesday’s Fantasy Fiction: Ask the Real Wizards, Gorman and Steven Torres-Roman, a librarian at the DeKalb Public Library, discussed topics with panelists and the public, including how the dystopia genre of fantasy is getting old, how comic books can introduce people to fantasy fiction and the power of reading with emotion.

The event, which was held in Founders Memorial Library, included free copies of Ursula K. Le Guin’s fantasy novel, “A Wizard of Earthsea.” Students and community members participated in the panel discussion of writers, professors and librarians. The four panelists spoke about their connections to the genre and how it can provide an escape from reality.

“I came to fiction fantasy very young as an immigrant,” said Mary Anne Mohanraj, a panelist and University of Illinois at Chicago professor. “I think I often felt trapped between two worlds, and fantasy let me explore that in very interesting ways.”

The panelists spent the 80-minute event answering attendees’ literature questions, including what the panelists’ reading taste are and their thoughts on politics in books. The discussion covered topics from why sword fights are overrated to how The Lord of the Rings books lack strong female protagonists.

Panelists plugged their favorite books and authors gave several recommendations.

“I would recommend talking to your local librarian” about book suggestions, said Lynne M. Thomas, panelist and Rare Books and Special Collections curator. “Recommending books is exactly what they do. They can help you find fantasy novels you will like based on the other kinds of novels you like.”

Christina Haupt, 25, of DeKalb, attends literary events with friends and said this discussion “was quite informative” because of her fascination with fantasy fiction.

“It’s a lot of stuff that I’m already kind of interested in,” Haupt said. “And that’s why I come to discussions like this [that are] based on fantasy and things like that.”