Fantasy and Magical Realism
Reading an article about Magical Realism this weekend, I came across a quote, “Magic realism is like a polite way of saying you write fantasy”.
I have always been amazed with quotes like this, that lend just a bit of credence to the theory that horror and fantasy are not as serious as some other genres. As a horror fan, I cringed, when people implied that horror movies were not worthy of Oscar consideration. The standard line being something like, “Oh, that will never win, it’s horror.” Here is a list of movies, horror movies, whose cinematic excellence and the effect they had on audiences, in my opinion, made them worthy of an Oscar: Let The Right One In, Aliens, Psycho, The Omen (1976), Pan’s Labyrinth, The Exorcist; each one a classic.
This year a fantasy/horror movie DID win the Oscar for Best Picture, Guillermo De Toro’s, The Shape of Water. The words of his acceptance speech brought a tear to my eyes: “And I want to tell you, everyone who is dreaming of using fantasy to tell the things that are real in the world today, you can do this. This is a door. Kick it open and come in.”
We come back to “magical realism”. It is a term that basically describes a fantasy genre which is written in a real setting as opposed to the author creating a new “world”. The magical elements are set against this “real world” and, the other reason for its distinction, is it’s addressing “real life” issues. The Shape of Water is an example of magical realism. Del Toro, in his speech sends out an inspiring call to other filmmakers, authors, and artists. But, does he call the genre “magical realism”, no, he called it fantasy. I can’t speak for him, but maybe he didn’t feel like being polite. Seriously, though, my novel is set in the real world and it deals with at least two real life issues, grief and prejudice, but I’m not going to be polite either. I call it fantasy.
Some brilliant writers are writing and have written in the “Magical Realism” genre, Gabriel García Márquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Toni Morrison, Alice Hoffman, and many more. I won’t even pretend that my writing is on par with theirs, and if you want examples of how this genre is really written, read their books. Sorry, please, read their books.
As for me, if at some future time, I set my novel in your backyard, and my weed-eating monster trolls are tearing up your garden, will it matter if they are doing it for ecological reasons or because they are just plain evil? No apologies.