Literary Fiction? … Needs More Dragons
I am not shy about how much I love dragons in books. I have a vivid memory of the first time I bought myself a pile of books with my own money; it was the first three books of Melanie Rawn’s Dragon Prince series and yes, there is a dragon on the cover. Even before that fateful day, I had a soft spot for our often-winged mythological friends, and putting one on the cover of a book is a sure way to catch my attention.
I can’t help it. I’ve always felt like St. George was a bit of a twat.
That said, it is time that dragons release themselves from the bonds of fantasy and roam free across genres as the universe intended. I recognize that according to the guidelines of the high fantasy genre, anything with dragons is, by nature, high fantasy. But ignore that for now, and let us imagine for several blissful minutes what it would be like if humankind’s obsession with dragons were to be realized across fiction and what it could do to improve, well. Everything.
Let’s start with a genre that is decidedly not my jam — a statement that probably surprises no one, given the above. Literary fiction is, in my educated opinion, an attempt by certain authors to gain entree into The Canon by cataloguing the potentially fascinating lives of people in the most boring prose possible. I grew up in suburbia; I don’t need to know what brand of fancy man cave the neighbor has or what darkness lurks in the hearts of bored housewives and their pool boys.
What I do need is more dragons.
Picture this: a cookie-cutter suburban street, all the lawns perfectly green and the gardens perfectly tended. If there is a car in a driveway, it is a “sport SUV,” whatever that means. The only thing that can be heard is the occasional wail of despair from a harried mother of three trying to get two children to their sports on time while also wrestling a sticky toddler into their car seat.
Suddenly, the skies darken. A whoooosh of wings rattles the tops of the tastefully planted poplars between houses. The mother’s Starbucks tumbler crashes to the pavement. “Everyone inside. I know you have rugby and I don’t care. Inside. NOW.” The family rushes inside just as a blast of white-hot fire envelops the house on the corner — thankfully empty since the Joneses have left for their lake house early this year. Searing flames crisp the rose bushes outside Mrs. Robinson’s house before the fire department arrives, and our protagonist cannot help but smile a little despite the chaos; that woman has always been a little too proud of her floribundas.
This time, her house was spared. Her secret affair with Mr. Jones has gone up in the crackle of flames still emanating from the shell of the once-tastefully minimalist living room of his house, and she breathes a sigh of relief that she won’t have to come up with a reason. The Joneses won’t be coming back. No one ever does once their house has been Torched. She peels her children from the window of her own living room — a mirror image of his — and shoos them back out to her black Lexus RX. Her toddler is somehow more sticky than before; how is that even possible? With a final sigh, she picks up her insulated tumbler from the asphalt of her driveway. The outside is uncomfortably warm, but when she lifts the tumbler to her lips, the ice cubes inside clink pleasantly. Sending up a prayer to whoever gave some inventor the idea for vacuum cups, she pulls out of her driveway and points her hybrid SUV toward the rugby field to a chorus of “do we have to listen to Frozen again??” from the older children and a chant of “Elsa! Elsa! Elsa!” from the toddler.
The soaked wreckage of the Jones’s house disappears as she turns left on Columbia Avenue. High above — so high that it looks almost like a bird instead of a 20-foot flying death machine — the dragon wings its way toward the distant mountains, its first mission perfectly executed.