Sunday, January 24, 2010

Magic Realism

An angel walks into your local grocery story with shiny wings and a glowing halo. Everyone accepts this as a natural occurrence and doesn’t bat an eye. This is a simplistic example of the Fantasy sub-genre of Magic Realism. It is a growing part of Fantasy that hovers on the edge of classic literary works and mainstream fiction. Books in this sub-genre can be difficult reading, but are rich in description and can be very rewarding.

Magical Realism is a Latin-American influenced sub-genre. It consists of stories where the lines of reality and fantasy are blurred. Fantasy elements are matter-of-fact in the real world. The books usually include an examination of the character of human existence and some kind of criticism of society. The Latin-American contribution is felt by some experts to be a way for authors to deal with two separate realities. Many fine authors have been a part of this sub-genre, contributing intriguing books that provoke a lot of thinking.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of th ˇe prominent authors of Magic Realism. His book, One Hundred Years of Solitude, tells the story of the Buendia family in the village of Macondo. It is a vivid story with memorable characters in a realistic setting. Fantasy elements are subtle and give a powerful addition to the story. The poignant scene of a ghost searching the house for water to wash the wound he died from is powerful, especially when the wife puts containers of water all over the house. This is one of many moving scenes in this great book.

Isabel Allende is a writer of powerful Magical Realism too. Her books are full of astonishing images and interesting characters. For example, House of Spirits is the story of three generations of the Trueba family in a fictional Chile. One of the characters has supernatural abilities. The powerful themes and fantastic elements blend with realistic characters to become an excellent book to read.

Ben Okri is an author from Africa and has contributed to Magic Realism. The Famished Road is the story of * the spirit child. He breaks his promise to return to the spirit world after being born as a human, becoming fascinated by his family and refusing to return to the spirit world. His fellow spirits torment him as he lives through an impoverished life in Africa. Mr. Okri brings Africa to life with complex characters and vivid images. His works depict the struggle for Africans to overcome the chaos in their countries.

For those interested in the topic of Magic Realism in more detail, there is Magic Realism: Theory, History, Community edited by Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris. It contains in depth essays on the history of the sub-genre. The essays talk about how Magic Realism has become a part of world literature instead of w just a Latin American phenomenon.

“Chocolat” is a movie based on the book by Joanne Harris of the same name. It’s the story of a woman and her daughter that come to a French town. She opens a chocolate shop to sell her special chocolate candies that help people. A group of the more conservative town’s people want to get rid of her because they think she is a witch. This magical movie was nominated and won several Academy Awards.

Magic Realism is a sub-genre of Fantasy increasingly being explored by many authors. Once primarily a part of Latin American literature, it has found its way into the literature of many other cultures around the world. Works in this sub-genre are powerful literary stories with realistic characters and fantastic elements. Other writers in this sub-genre are: Alejo Carpentier, Jorge Amado, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar, Maria Luisa Bombal,

Saturday, January 09, 2010

On Writing Fantasy: Maintaining Professionalism

The economy is in a downturn right now. Many Internet companies have gone out of business or are in trouble. What, you may ask, does this have to do with writing? It serves as a reminder to writers to maintain a level of professionalism in their writing endeavors.

An expanding Internet provides many opportunities for authors to publish their work on the Internet. E-zines, E-publishers and web sites have appeared, opening new venues for writers to explore.

It demonstrates that an author shouldn’t go for the easy thing. Writing is a hard career and getting published even harder. There is a lot of competition confronting you. Along with that, there are other pitfalls too. A writer can’t allow desperation or desire to get published by any means blind them to these things. It can lead to disappointment in the end. A writer must decide on what level they want to be, whether amateur or professional.

Amateur writers don’t need to worry too much. They usually don’t care if they get money or not for their writing. One established author describes a professional writer as someone who gets paid at a professional rate for their work. He maintains that professional writers should get paid for their work, and settling for anything less makes a person an amateur. In a way his is right; a writer should get paid for their work. When you put a lot of effort into your writing, you should receive some compensation. It is never good to settle for anything less because then it turns your hard work into little more than a hobby and leads Å to other pitfalls. Are there times when you should settle for less?

Another established author thinks that a writer should use any means possible, including self publishing to get exposure for their work. Part of this is true and part is false. It is true that you can get exposure, but writers should do this with care. Placing a few samples of your writing on a web site to promote yourself is okay. Maybe let a couple of pieces get published for free. A writer should not resort to self publishing. It is expensive and leads to the perception with editors that your writing is not good enough for them to publish. It also leads to some other serious pitfalls.

Vanity publishers require you to give them a lot of your own money to print books for you. They don’t edit it or help you promote it. Invariably, the author ends up with a bunch of books they can’t sell. Another pitfall is falling äprey to unscrupulous agents. These agents talk unsuspecting writers into spending their money to get a book edited and usually disappear with the money. So beware. With the new growth in E-publishing and Print On Demand technology, writers are facing another new pitfall. One of the new E-publishers has been criticized for the horrendous contract they offer unsuspecting new authors. They grab up a lot of rights and pay the author very little for their books. It is not worth it.

Writers must maintain a level of professionalism. Professionals should get paid for their work. It is all right to put some things on a personal web site, but be careful of the pitfalls of unscrupulous agents, vanity publishers and tricky contracts. Don’t let a desire to be published overwhelm your common sense. I know it is hard because I gave in to it once, but I’m very careful now. Write. Be professional. Good luck.