Surprisingly, I didn’t even know what “Bangsian Fantasy” was until I was about seventeen and happened to read a second-hand copy of an old horror/fantasy/thriller novel called “Inferno” by Larry Niven And Jerry Pournell.
This is a novel from the 1970s that is based on Dante’s “Inferno”. It follows a guy who dies and ends up exploring all of the various circles of hell. Although I can’t remember all of the plot details, it’s an absolutely fascinating and vividly descriptive novel which I can still remember more about than I can with most of the other novels I read when I was seventeen.
Although “Inferno” is an old novel that is heavily based on Christian mythology ( eg: I should probably warn you that one part of the story contains somewhat outdated/old fashioned attitudes towards LGBT people, if I remember rightly), it’s basically just a story about a guy who ends up exploring a strange and horrific world. More importantly, it’s also a Bangsian fantasy novel.
So, what is Bangsian fantasy?
In short, a Bangsian fantasy story is any story that is set in an afterlife of some kind or another. It’s a story that takes place after the main character has died.
This genre is absolutely fascinating for the simple reason that no-one really knows what awaits us after death. They’re stories about something that literally everyone will eventually experience and, yet, apart from possibly a few people who have had near death experiences, no-one knows for certain what (if anything) happens afterwards.
So, these stories already come with a pre-made mystery attached to them. After all, “what happens to us after death?” is one of the oldest questions known to humanity. Seriously, it’s up there with “what is the meaning of life?“. Bangsian fantasy stories promise us an interesting, if totally fictional, answer to this old mystery.
Another cool thing about Bangsian fantasy stories are that they are also often one of the most imaginative types of stories out there.
After all, everyone is familiar with at least a few traditional myths, beliefs and legends about the afterlife. So, Bangsian fantasy authors either have to find innovative ways to make these old myths interesting again or they have to come up with a totally new theory about what awaits us after death.
What this means is that these types of stories can often be completely unpredictable. They can contain really fascinating fictional worlds that don’t even have to have a vague basis in reality, because they’re not set in our reality.
Yet another cool thing about Bangsian fantasy novels is that they can also feature famous people from history who have died many years ago. Not only can this allow authors to create interesting meetings between famous people who lived in vastly different times, but it also makes us think “what if these people still exist somewhere?“.
This question can be used in both horror stories (eg: when it involves historical villains like Hitler, Stalin, Jack The Ripper etc…), and in fun/ funny/inspirational stories (eg: when it involves people like Shakespeare, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens etc…).
The idea that famous people still live on through more than just their historical reputation is a universally fascinating one. It can be seen in things like theories that Elvis is somehow still alive or – as I heard of recently – the bizarre conspiracy theory that the famous American conspiracy theorist Alex Jones is actually Bill Hicks in disguise.
Anyway, Bangisan fantasy allows us to explore these emotions and themes in a way that doesn’t lead to us following bizarre conspiracy theories.
So, yes, Bangsian fantasy is an absolutely fascinating genre and it is well worth exploring if you can find any examples of it. It doesn’t really seem to be a hugely popular genre, but you can sometimes find Bangisan fantasy-like storylines in some TV shows and computer games.
Anyway, I hope that this was interesting 🙂