Letter to Visby

March 17th, 2015

I was asked by a librarian in Visby, Sweden, to write a letter of inspiration for their fantasy section that might inspire people to read fantasy books.  Thought I might as well re-post it here so that people outside of Visby might also benefit from my inspirationality (that’s a word now).  Forgive my unusually pompous tone, if you can…


Dear Readers of Visby.

Fantasy is about myth, magic, monsters, mystery and wonder. It’s a window into other worlds, other times, other realities. Places that have never existed and could never exist, except in the minds of writer and reader.

But fantasy is also a window into our world. A way of talking about us. About the modern world. About the things that are universal to humanity. Love and hate, war and peace, truth and lies, courage and cowardice, victory and defeat, right and wrong and all the grey space in between. About politics, parenthood, money, violence, progress, belief, betrayal, ambition and triumph. About what it means to be a hero. About whether it is possible to be a hero.

And, of course, fantasy wouldn’t be much good if it wasn’t about fascinating, funny, strange, honest, conflicted people getting themselves into terrible trouble. And getting out again. If they’re lucky…

Keep reading,

Joe Abercrombie

Posted in opinion by Joe Abercrombie on March 17th, 2015.

13 comments so far

  • Dennis+E+Henley says:

    I always liked these quotes about fantasy by Terry Pratchett:

    “Fantasy is an exercise bicycle for the mind. It might not take you anywhere, but it tones up the muscles that can.”

    “Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.”

  • Darren says:

    What a great way of putting it.

    I’ve never really thought about it that way, even though I’ve been reading fantasy since 1984!

    Wonder if I will start looking at it in a different way the next time I read fantasy?

  • Robb says:

    Good for you Joe.

  • Thomas says:

    Joe, please consider publishing all of your blog posts in a book format. For instance in 3 volumes: on whiskey, on fantasy and on writing. Lavishly illustrated of course.

    We will keep reading, and buying, always 😉

  • Iangr says:

    Aristoτle admits that without fantasy there is no inception of higher ideas.

  • George says:

    That letter doesn’t sound pompous at all actually. It’s very true and I know it captures the reasons why I love fantasy fiction and why your books are so good. I think your letter will more than do the job!

  • Jens says:

    To the point.
    Here is my translation for German readers. 🙂

    Liebe Leser in Visby,

    Fantasy handelt von Mythen, Magie, Monster, Geheimnissen und Wunder. Sie ist ein Fenster in eine andere Welt, in andere Zeiten und andere Realitäten. Zu Orten, die nie existiert haben und nie existieren können, außer in der Vorstellung des Autoren und des Lesers.

    Aber Fantasy ist auch ein Fenster in unsere Welt. Eine Möglichkeit über uns selbst zu reden. Über die moderne Welt. Über die Dinge, die für die Menschheit allgemeingültig sind. Liebe und Hass, Krieg und Frieden, Wahrheit und Lügen, Mut und Feigheit, Sieg und Niederlage, richtig und falsch und die ganze Grauzone dazwischen. Über Politik, Elternschaft, Geld, Gewalt, Fortschritt, Glaube, Verrat, Ehrgeiz und Triumpf. Darüber, was es bedeutet ein Held zu sein. Darüber, ob es möglich ist ein Held zu sein.

    Und natürlich wäre Fantasy nicht sonderlich gut, würde sie nicht von faszinierenden, lustigen, seltsamen, erhrlichen, widersprüchlichen Menschen handeln, die sich selbst in Schwierigkeiten bringen. Und von selbst wieder heraus kommen. Wenn sie Glück haben…

    Lest weiter,
    Joe Abercrombie

  • Johan Kullberg says:


    A letter to my home town by my favourite writer ;D

    Awesome stuff indeed!

  • Alex says:

    Hello, I have just read Half A King 4 weeks ago and that is the first book I have read of yours and I could not let go. I am readinding Half A World and sadly almost done. I am excited to read Half A War soon so I have a few questions for my favorite author or if any loyal fans can answer. 1. Will I be able to pre-order a copy of Half A War? 2. Will Half A War be the last book in this series? 3. Will you make a new series?

  • I loved that last paragraph. Fantasy protagonists do have a habit of getting into the worst sort of trouble. c:

  • Woden's Missing Eye says:

    Visby is beautiful. So is Gotland. There is a story about the tall rock formation in Lickershamn:

    Likajr, discovering the romantic interest of his daughter in a thrall, the captured son of a vanquished enemy, places his daughter up on the rock. If the thrall Helge can climb up and carry her down, he says, Helge can have her hand in marriage. The lover is game. Seeing that he is going to succeed, however, Likajr shoots Helge in the head with an arrow. He and Likajr’s daughter plunge into the sea and drown, never to reappear from the depths.

    The norse were pretty grim and dark really.

  • Joe Abercrombie says:

    Yes, yes, and yes.

    Woden’s Missing Eye,
    I often think grimdarkness is the basic form for myth and legend – the tendency toward shiny and heroic is a rather Victorian artefact…

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