Writers of fantasy are often singled out for their feats of imagination. I never really got that. Alternative worlds and imaginary beasts and magical creatures – flying horses and enchanted boats and magic dragons and the like – seem to me relatively easy to conjure up. What really requires imagination is not the depiction of fantasy worlds, but, rather, the depiction of our own, from perspectives other than our own. To enter into the mind of someone like Karenin, say, to depict in the minutest detail how a mind such as his works, to examine how it reacts as he observes his marriage breaking down, to understand why he thinks and acts as he does – all of this seems to me a far greater feat of the imagination than the creation of any number of Middle Earths.
The literary imagination