I came across a thing on Tumblr.
Like many things on Tumblr, it is collaborative. It begins with the end of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Fans of the series take turns imagining the aftermath of the final battle from the point of view of its survivors, and those who come after them. Both the immediate aftermath and the long term; both the general effects and the intimately, painfully personal.
Read it, if you can, and discover where it leaves you.
I did not get far – I hadn’t even finished the original post – before I began to imagine a different world from the one Rowling and her fans created. A world we might define as ‘real;’ a world that is part of our history. A world where millions died senselessly for the accident of their birth, or the nature of their personal beliefs. A world where neighbor betrayed neighbor, where friends defended friends at the cost of their own lives. A world where children and adults on both sides suffered guilt, loss, and betrayal. A world of ‘before’ and ‘after,’ where nothing will ever be the same – and yet all is not forever lost.
I wondered if these fans had accidentally described the aftermath of the Jewish Holocaust in Europe.
Most of us weren’t there in 1945. Most of us don’t know anyone who was. Some of us know the stories of people who were; diminished by time and history, perhaps, or, undiminished, too painful to confront. Too horrific to imagine. Yet these (probably) young people, in the freedom of their imaginations, cushioned by fantasy, imagine it. They confront and struggle with it. They, possibly all unknowing, empathize with real people and real tragedy and face the consequences of horrific acts. From the safety of fiction they learn about the world, about themselves, and make decisions that will guide them forward in their lives.
This is the magic of fiction. This is the place fantasy has in our lives.
Neil Gaiman says it better than I ever could, but the short version remains: Fiction is real.