Why does imagination take the forms it does? As a kid I wandered our farm and through the woods and fields for miles around, and while I walked I invented stories. But more than stories, I invented whole worlds and painted them with cities and deserts and rivers and strange animals and plants. The first world I invented was Thanos, and it was actually a future earth after aliens had invaded, conquered, settled and then abandoned it to the savage humans who remained. New cities had arisen, new tribes of humankind, and there were "leftovers" from the conquered years.
When I told my parents or siblings about Thanos they laughed and shook their heads. And when I told my friends they looked at me like I was weird. People said I was imaginative, but to me it just seemed natural. I wondered why everyone else didn't do it too. I also knew that plenty of other people had good imaginations and told inventive stories. My dad told some whoppers, but his stories were much more versions of the "tall tale," and always involved the world "almost" as it was.
As an adult I find that my writer friends are highly imaginative and tell wonderful stories. Candice Proctor and Laura Joh Rowland take the misty features of history and turn them into concrete realities that a reader can see, hear, and smell. They reinvent the past so that it becomes current reality. Sidney Williams takes the environments of small rural towns and common people and slides them a little to the left so that they're overlain by a world where vampires and werewolves and stranger things play. Wayne Allen Sallee writes of a real Chicago, but in ways that warp the perspective, that make you feel things you've never felt.
But Wayne has told me that he doesn't feel that comfortable when he tries to step out of the real Chicago with his writing, and I know that Candice is just not that interested in wholly imaginary worlds. (Forgive me Wayne and Candice if I've misrepresented you. Please let me know.)
Why is this? Do I love imaginary worlds because I want to escape? I don't think so. I like the real world OK. I'm not unhappy or desperate to flee an intolerable existence. I just like inventing weird stuff. I like it more apparently than Candice or Wayne or Laura, although Sid is a bit closer to me here. What accounts for these differences? I'm glad they're there. If you depended on me to write the books about historical Japan or England you wouldn't have very many. Those worlds are not where my imagination lives. But I like to read those sorts of books. I like to be transported to historical places. I'm glad that every writer's imagination doesn't take the same form. I just wonder why?