MAKING NICE TO ESCAPISTS
I was mean to fantasy recently - not, as Yvonne pointed out, that it doesn't deserve it a lot of the time. When you apply Sturgeon's Law to the fantasy genre the figures don't change - it's just that the 94% is so egregious. Here is Alan Garner speaking in its favour:
One of the things I realised soon after I began was that fantasy was the only way to approach reality with any clarity. I didn't set out with that intent, but I did become aware of it quite early on. I recognised that fantasy wasn't mere entertainment, that it wasn't escapist. [...] Words will not go where we want to go. We cannot say what we most deeply feel. In the end, we can only say what we mean through image. Not through the words, but only through the images that those words can construct. Therefore I came to realise very early on that fantasy was reality, and that I had been aware of it in my classical studies as well. Homer and Aeschylus linked up with my grandfather quite quickly.(Garner's grandfather was a blacksmith, a fund of knowledge and a nigh totemic figure to the boy and the writer.)
On the subject of escapism, John Sutherland in How to Read a Novel says that the division of literature into low escapism for servant girls and counter-jumpers, and high art which engaged with life and made it more real (Lawrence apparently being the epitome), was codified by the Leavises.
The term escapism is seriously misplaced, I think. Even the most godawful fantasy novel grants not escape, but only a temporary reprieve. That too is a use of literature, and hardly to be sneered at.