Opening with a quotation of Tom Shippey's assertion, "The dominant literary mode of the twentieth century has been the fantastic," Dickerson and O'Hara set out to answer the questions, "How should one read and understand a modern work of fantasy?" and "Can works of fantasy really have anything important to say to us?" They begin by exploring definitions of "myth" and "fairy story" and explaining how the understanding of these terms has changed drastically over the centuries of written literature. Distinctions of myth, faerie, science fiction, beast fables, folk tales, and fantasy are clarified, with some history of each genre and its applications, past and present. The ongoing cultural impact of a number of well-known stories is traced and examined, and finally several modern fantasy works and their attendant worldviews are analyzed.
Early on, the authors articulate their belief that the Bible is the Grand Myth, in the sense of J.R.R. Tolkien's statement (in On Fairy Stories) that "The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories...But this story has entered History and the primary world...this story is supreme; and it is true; Art has been verified...Legend and History have met and fused." This understanding runs throughout the book as the foundation of a compelling argument that myth is indeed a vehicle for truth.