Despite David Abram’s fear that reading disrupts people’s “attunement to environing nature,” fantasy literature can vibrantly convey how to hear our environments as it describes characters attuning their ears to particular places. Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom series (1995-2021) and Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking trilogy (2008-10) develop an echoing ecopoetics of place through both world-building and style. Their fantasy worlds emphasize that characters must relearn to listen in unfamiliar environments: adjusting their expectations and interpretations of background sounds, recognising significant silences, adapting to new ways of communicating, and seeking meaning in nonhuman sounds rather than dismissing them as noise. Their stylistic choices also draw attention to background sounds, enabling readers to hear certain environments along with the characters. Ness uses eye-catching visual strategies to mimic how we aurally orient ourselves in changing, contested places, while the aural movements of Nix’s syntax express the characteristic sounds of particular places. Precisely by dis-locating readers and characters from familiar environments, fantasy novels may remind us how to hear them.
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