Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Magical Realism III

Magical Realism III

So my personal journey into the hypnotic world of magical realism came through the British, came when I first read W. H. Hudson’s Green Mansions. After reading the book I was enthralled with the concepts and Hudson’s audacity to allow the magical world to encroach on the real world. For years I searched for other such experiences in the literary world. I wasn’t writing much at the time, mostly a weekly column for a local town newspaper, but I was hooked and the idea of creating and populating such real places with magical aspects took hold. But, I couldn’t find many other novels like Green Mansions. So, like with much of my writing, I tried to write the experience I wanted to encounter. I was unsuccessful at the first three novel attempts.

Then I read The Magus by British author, John Fowles. A book which touched me so powerfully, I read it at least once a year, and have given more than 30 copies of the book to other writers, poets and artists in the hope it will inspire them to believe anything is possible as it inspired me. Many papers and discussions on magical realism list The Collector by Fowles as his only magical realism book. But I disagree. Fowles, himself considered The Magus his magical realism novel (as he noted in the revised edition’s intro) and I wonder if the writers who include The Collector in their magical realism lists have actually read the book. I have a feeling they’re instead citing the title from previous publications or essays. To me The Collector is far from the field of magical realism as it doesn’t contain some of the most imperative aspects of this misinterpreted literary style.

When I undertook to write Shaman Circus, it was going to be a dark fantasy novel, but as it shifted and changed, by its own direction, magical elements crept in: ritual and carnival, political uneasiness and tragedy in both the community and in many personal lives, struggles between the established civilized order and the spiritual needs of a population very different form the rest of the US, and then there’s the magic in everyday life – the means to help people cope with events too big for the mind to grasp. Small everyday ways to be able to breathe when overwhelmed. The story evolved because of what the characters could or could not do. There was too much realism for fantasy and I wanted there to be hope and healing in the face of the horrors. I didn’t follow any format for magical realism and didn’t even realize it fell in that realm until three years after I’d finished the first draft and a couple of revisions. Previously I’d written some literary pieces, but mostly dark fantasy and psychological horror. So this was a switch. Most of it must have been subconscious. I only realized it fell in that character when trying to write the synopsis to seek publication. Strange things indeed.

And things they are a-changing again…

When I started searching on Duotrope – (an online data base and submission tracker of over 2700 print and online magazines) for publications which accepted magical realism fiction a couple of years ago, very few magazines opted to publish such stories. Now each day brings new magazines venturing into this often confused and not fully understood territory and a lot more of them came onboard within the last few months.

So you do the math…


  1. I recently watched the film version of THE MAGUS after having it shipped from my Netflix queue. I was not overly impressed, probably because it had such a 60ish dated feel. But then I watched the special feature on the disc about John Fowles and his work. Now I'm very intrigued. And with your reminder, I must remember to obtain a copy of this book.

  2. The movie was dreadful and nothing like the book. In fact, I think it was one of the worst book-to-film situations I ever witnessed. You should find the book deep,complex and a roller coaster ride.

  3. Can you recommend any british magazines/publishers who accept magical realism short stories?

  4. The Future Fire, Thieves Jargon are two British mags. I don't usually know the mags by country You should also check out A Capella Zoo, Shimmer, Crossed Genres, moonshine Review, Zahir, Rebel Satori Press, and there are many many others. If you go to Duotrope http://www.duotrope.com/index.aspx - a sumbission tracking website and type in magical realism in the top slot, where they ask for genre a long list will appear and once you click on the name of the mag, you'll get lots of info and a link to the mag's website.


Web Analytics