Home  | Login  | Register  | Help  | Play 

Magical Realism

Logged in as: Guest
  Printable Version
All Forums >> [Gaming Community] >> [Legends and Lore] >> Writers of Lore >> [The Workshop] >> Craft Discussion >> Magical Realism
Forum Login
Message << Older Topic   Newer Topic >>
8/19/2009 7:21:32   

Okay, I'm aware that I'm forty years or so late to the party, but I just read One Hundred Years of Solitude, and I was intensely struck by the 'magical realism' aspect of the book. My first thought was, "I've gotta get me some of that literary style." However, I realized, with the aid of Wikipedia, that magical realism, or an artistic genre in which magical elements or illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or even "normal" setting, is pretty much the target of the majority of 'Low Fantasy' works. Yet I've never encountered a Low Fantasy book which really succeeded in giving the same feel of reality that Gabriel García Márquez achieved, regardless of how much effort some authors put into 'normalizing' magic and such things.

So I ask you, L&L: Is the problem my reasoning, a lack of proper knowledge of Fantasy literature, or is it just that no one's gotten around to / cares about combining these two styles into a novel that is set in a fantasy world, but deals with fantasy minimally and without any fuss?

EDIT: I'm aware of quite a lot of conflicting definitions of 'magical fantasy', so I thought I'd say that I'm referring to the completely fuss-free, realistic style of documenting fantastic events which is present in this particular book by Márquez, rather than any other aspects of the genre present in other books groouped under the same style..

< Message edited by Mr.Pumpkin -- 8/19/2009 7:26:25 >
Post #: 1
8/19/2009 9:20:45   
Prator the Legendary

...The problem isn't with you. It's with thousands of years of human storytelling tradition.

Magic, at its core, can broadly be defined as "any force that humans do not understand sufficiently enough to describe with scientific theories and laws" (yes, the converse is true also; sufficiently explained magic is indistinguishable from science). In essence, trying to describe Magickal Miracles(tm) in a realistic manner takes the mystery away; once you know how magic works, it's not magic anymore. It's just Science-Fiction.

For this reason, trying to strike a balance between the mystical traditions of old with a modernist interpretation of reality is difficult at best, and I've never read any book by any author (No, I've never read One Hundred Years of Solitude) that actually managed to walk that magical/realistic line without straying to one side or the other. If you make the magic seem too fantastic, it stops being plausibly realistic. On the other hand, if the magic is too well-explained, then you're not writing a fantasy story so much as you are writing a sci-fi story about a universe with different laws of physics.
AQ  Post #: 2
8/19/2009 10:53:44   
Eukara Vox
Legendary AdventureGuide!

My Freshman Literary honors course in College was nothing but the genre of magical realism. One Hundred Years of Solitude is my favorite book and one that I submitted to the recommended reading list a long time ago.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel is another Magical realism book, as is DH Lawrence's The White Hotel, which I had to read for personal theoretical analysis. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende is also very good. Anything by Marquez, Allende, and Esquivel would be top on my list.

The best, by far, Magical Realism authors are those that claim Latin American descent. I have read several MR novels, but no one has yet been able to capture the feel and genre as well as the men and women who have Latin American blood. For a long time, this genre was secluded from the rest of the world behind Latin American roots. It is a rich tradition and slowly trickled into the rest of world through one reader to another. The fact that this genre was very cultural is perhaps why such popularity was slowly attained.

The genre of Magical Realism has its followers and has its doubters. There are many in the Literary world that do not believe this is anything more than a fancy sort of fantasy. I am of a different opinion, as it is often too real to be fantasy. More likely than not, the fantasy aspects are a minor part of the storytelling. But, spending a semester submerged in the genre taught me a lot about not only the fantasy that I love, but the differences between it and Magical Realism.

This genre has a special place on my list, as spending an entire semester submersed in it was one heck of an experience. I tried to write a short story that would fit within this genre. I have yet to definitely figure out if I accomplished my goal. I wish I could find my lit teacher from that semester. He would be able to tell me without a shadow of a doubt.

< Message edited by Eukara -- 8/19/2009 11:02:44 >
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 3
8/19/2009 11:24:55   

@Prator: The thing is that it isn't explained any more than the more mundane aspects of the plot; it's treated with the same gravity as anything else.

@Eukara: Huh, I'll see of I can find any classes like that in college. Any thoughts on why it hasn't been utilized in an actual fantasy setting? Or has it?

< Message edited by Mr.Pumpkin -- 8/19/2009 11:27:07 >
Post #: 4
8/19/2009 17:52:23   

I think what sets One Hundred Years of Solitude apart from regular low fantasy is the tone, the treatment of magic. Most straight fantasy, whether it's low or high, urban or secondary world, chooses one of two approaches to magic (that Prator has covered): 1) the magic is explained like science 2) the magic is treated as something bizarre and fantastic. Magical realism chooses neither of these things. It instead treats magical elements as if they weren't any different from regular things--would you explain how an egg is boiled? No, because people innately accept that if you put it in water and raise the temperature, it will boil. No need for an explanation. Magical realism is treating magic in the same way.

If you look into the background of why Marquez wrote the novel, you'll understand the style a bit more. He says that it was highly inspired by the stories told by his grandmother (or was it both his grandparents?). When he listened to them as a kid, he couldn't figure out which parts were fiction and which parts were fact, because his grandmother told the most bizarre, fantastic things in the same tone as she told the mundane happenings. That was what he tried to recreate with this story. And that might explain why people without the Latin American roots are often less successful at creating MR: they weren't raised in stories like this.

As for whether magical realism is literary fiction or fantasy... frankly, the technical definition of literary fiction does not exclude fantasy. It is only that certain snobby people hold fantasy in disdain. The reason magical realism manages to escape the banhammer in academic "creative" writing classes is because of the feel. Since the magic is neither fantasic nor overwhelmingly explained, it has a similar effect to the plot as the regular happenings. And because literary fiction often stresses on using very distinctive prose, magical realism is even more capable of sneaking past the radar, since it's usually told in a voice that's... different from most fiction, to say the least.

In terms of writing magical realism, I've dabbled in it one and a half times. The one contained only one instance of blatant "strangeness" that went unexplained, but I meant the entire thing to contain the "weird" feeling of MR. The half was supposed to be MR, and it fits the technical definition (somewhat), but the style made it not truly MR. Namely, the protagonist did not react to the magic like it was nothing...
AQ  Post #: 5
8/19/2009 23:49:41   
Prator the Legendary

Mr. Pumpkin, the mere act of describing an object or presenting it for examination or demonstrating its use is a kind of explanation. If you'd never seen a knife in your life before, but you observed one in action, you would gain an understanding of what a knife is and how it functions on your own, without direct exposition. The author does not actually need to deliver exposition in order to explain anything. In fact, only the intentional withholding of any description can prevent you from developing your own explanation for how... something... works and why it works in that manner.

For instance, you read about a wizard who casts a fireball spell: the magickal forces involved create heat and flame that expand over an area. Without having the magic directly explained to you, you might conclude that the spell creates a cloud of combustable gas that explodes with concussive force when ignited.

The trick, I think, is to describe everything in such a way that the reader isn't inclined to question any part of what you've written; for all intents and purposes, what you've written is completely plausible. At the same time, you need to avoid using TOO MUCH description; fireball spells stop seeming fantastic if you know that they work by the Heisenburg Effect, developed by Gerald Heisenburg in 1963 as a consequence of experiments with Elemental Fire and pure oxygen.

In short, there must be just enough information to promote willing suspension of disbelief about every aspect of the story without actually revealing everything. It also helps if you play everything straight.

Bad Example 1: The Dresden Files series is urban fantasy. It's realistic, sort of (Gravity magic! Yay!), but the entire setting exists in an enormous plothole because the vast majority of the humans in the books somehow fail to notice the omnipresent magic that pervades every aspect of their lives. It would seem that mere skepticism just wouldn't cut it when actual trolls live under bridges and abduct human passerbys on a daily basis... Hence, the reader is left questioning the plausibility of the book.

Bad Example 2: : "The Force" in STAR WARS was what gave the story and setting a heavy mystical element in among all the robots and laser weapons. However, a new revelation has shown that apparently force-sensitivity is caused by the presence of symbiotic organisms called midichlorians: if you accept it, this revelation takes a fair amount of the mystique away. Hence, the reader has no questions; everything is completely straightforward and there's no mystery or magic left.

P.S.: I'm BSing this essay question. Stop me when what I'm saying is completely off-topic or ridiculous.

< Message edited by Prator the Legendary -- 8/20/2009 9:45:14 >
AQ  Post #: 6
8/20/2009 3:04:14   
Eukara Vox
Legendary AdventureGuide!

One of the misconceptions of Magical Realism is that... there is magic involved.

Psychology plays a huge part in Magical Realism. Magical is part of the title, but the genre doesn't, in any way, require the use of magic at all. I have read a few magical realism novels that didn't include magic at all... or anything that could remotely be called magic.

@Mr. Pumpkin:

Huh, I'll see of I can find any classes like that in college. Any thoughts on why it hasn't been utilized in an actual fantasy setting? Or has it?
Personally, putting it into a fantasy setting takes away the believability. Like I said, through my study and my reading, it is the mostly realistic setting that makes magical realism what it is. A small part of the "hard to believe" or "unbelievable" in a very believable world.

< Message edited by Eukara -- 8/20/2009 3:12:03 >
AQ DF MQ AQW Epic  Post #: 7
8/21/2009 23:35:40   

Prator, I don't know how much you know about magical realism, but I do know that comparing it to stuff like Star Wars is not a good idea. In magical realism, the "mystic" happenings are not explained because the explanation doesn't matter. Explaining it would mean it no longer is magical realism. Your theory that there has to be a balance between disbelief and explanation does not apply to magical realism at all, because it cannot be judged on the same grounds as regular fantasy. There is no one set formula for how much magic to reveal, and even if there was a formula, said formula would not apply to magical realism.

Magical realism is a specific genre--it exists and it works. Your post doesn't seem to relate to the criteria of this genre at all. Maybe I'm misunderstanding you, but I don't even know what to say in response (in fact, upon reading, my above paragraph seems very inadequate). It's like seeing an essay about earth geography in a thread about secondary world fantasy.

I suggest you read One Hundred Years of Solitude. I think that'll be much more informative (and not to mention entertaining--it really is a brilliant book) than reading my confused and garbled posts.

EDIT: I don't think it's impossible to use magical realism in a secondary world. Macondo, the setting of One Hundred Years of Solitude, was a fictional town. So if we take that imaginary locale and place it in a secondary world, the story still works. What doesn't work--and what Eukky seems to be saying--is magical realism in a secondary world that is /magical/. If it's another world, but not supposed to be more magical than earth is, then MR works quite the same way. There seems to be a growing number of non-magical or little-magical fantasy worlds recently, so I can see this being an option for MR.

< Message edited by Firefly -- 8/21/2009 23:41:30 >
AQ  Post #: 8
8/22/2009 9:28:25   
Prator the Legendary

I did say I was spouting nonsense, did I not? Alright, I'll go do some research...
AQ  Post #: 9
Page:   [1]
All Forums >> [Gaming Community] >> [Legends and Lore] >> Writers of Lore >> [The Workshop] >> Craft Discussion >> Magical Realism
Jump to:


Icon Legend
New Messages No New Messages
Hot Topic w/ New Messages Hot Topic w/o New Messages
Locked w/ New Messages Locked w/o New Messages
 Post New Thread
 Reply to Message
 Post New Poll
 Submit Vote
 Delete My Own Post
 Delete My Own Thread
 Rate Posts

Forum Content Copyright © 2018 Artix Entertainment, LLC.

"AdventureQuest", "DragonFable", "MechQuest", "EpicDuel", "BattleOn.com", "AdventureQuest Worlds", "Artix Entertainment"
and all game character names are either trademarks or registered trademarks of Artix Entertainment, LLC. All rights are reserved.

Forum Software © ASPPlayground.NET Advanced Edition