We're taking it kind of easy today at Fantasy Matters since most of us are busy celebrating the 4th of July (read: grilling out and drinking beer), but we did think that today would be a good occasion to share with you some of our favorite science fiction/fantasy stories of freedom, independence, and liberty, so that you can have appropriately-themed reading suggestions for your holiday. We'd love to hear your favorites, too, so make sure you post them in the comments!
For me, the obvious choice is the original Star Wars trilogy. I watched these movies over and over as a little kid, and the characters and stories just really resonated with me. I think it's because it's more than just an epic story about the Rebel Alliance and their fight against the Empire, but it's also the story of several individuals who were key in making that fight a success.
My favorite moment of freedom in a work of fantasy isn't a climactic space battle, or a casting off of a dark lord, or a phoenix resurrecting itself in flame. It's a simple, quiet sentence, said by one dead little boy, Edwin Paine, to another, Charles Rowland, in Chapter Four of Season of Mists (Neil Gaiman, Sandman): "But you don't have to stay anywhere forever." That realization seems to me the epitome of freedom.
Guy Gavriel Kay's Tigana is set in a world where characters battle for not only geographic independence, but for the freedom of memory itself after a sorcerer erases the very name of their homeland from the minds of the rest of the world. To maintain the right to exist, each character, from the young singer Devin to the grief-stricken tyrant Brandin, is challenged to reaffirm their individual identities through difficult choices, many of which involve heart-breaking sacrifice. The characters and scenarios culminate in a liberty that is hard-earned, and will resonate with a reader long after the book is done.
I can't pick a favorite because I have (first of all) too many books that I enjoy and (secondly) a terrible memory, so I can't make a properly informed selection. I do, however, very much love Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Coraline is such a brave and ordinary girl, terribly smart and carelessly good, and the kind of child I wish I had been.
I know it's really corny, but I love the speech that President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) gives in the movie Independence Day: "And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: 'We will not go quietly into the night!' We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We're going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!" I love that it alludes to Dylan Thomas' famous villanelle, but even more than that, I love that it envisions the possibility of the 4th of July as a day where the whole world, not just our country, can celebrate freedom together.
Finally, here are the Muppets, showing us what the 4th of July is really all about:
Happy 4th of July, everyone!