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Seems like the moment to start another one of these. I'm back from Denver, where I was attending a writers' conference.
Interesting thing: The Paleomap Project.
The goal of the PALEOMAP Project is to illustrate the plate tectonic development of the ocean basins and continents, as well as the changing distribution of land and sea during the past 1100 million years.
I will probably rip it off shamelessly when next I play a SF rpg reaching outside our solar system.
I used to be way into the worldbuilding side of SF gaming. Actually got back in the saddle recently to rewrite an old project:
You might want to take a look at SimEarth. While dated technologically, it has models for tectonic drift, continents mashing into one another, & etc.
I'm totally curious why each word on the Disraeli and his wombat link leads to the same image -- I'm used to seperate links leading to separate bits here.
I ended up liberal on the NeoCon quiz -- is anyone surprised?
The Historical Boy's Clothing link, without actually looking at it, leads me to think of a book we just picked up for Other Change about the Victorian conceit that boys have to go through a girl phase before becoming men. This feels like a fascinating and historically important context that affects the way men (hell, at least the way _I_) grew up in the mid-20th C. Is it really different now?
Ohhhh, I loved SimEarth. Addictive. Plus, you can end up with superintelligent, space-travelling dinosaurs! Mind you, I usually ended up having to monolith them, but.
The graphics are primitive by modern standards, but at least it oughtn't to have massive system requirements. :->
Hey, great! I ran the Paleographic Atlas Program in Particles in July, but I hadn't known about that one, and it's way cool. Would you mind if I put it into the Particles queue?
Tom Whitmore said, The Historical Boy's Clothing link, without actually looking at it, leads me to think of a book we just picked up for Other Change about the Victorian conceit that boys have to go through a girl phase before becoming men. This feels like a fascinating and historically important context that affects the way men (hell, at least the way _I_) grew up in the mid-20th C. Is it really different now?
Dar Williams wrote a lovely song called 'When I Was A Boy,' about that bittersweet period when girls are told to put shirts on before playing outside, and to come in and be ladylike, after a unisex childhood of skinned knees and climbing trees. The last verse is from the point of view of a man looking back on the time when he was allowed, as it were, to cry and to love and to hug without having to be manly all the time. Link leads to lyrics.
Dar Williams came on the folk scene just after I was active as a concert promoter -- I've liked what I've heard, but I haven't sought out much new. Thanks for the connection, Eloise!
I'm a pusher, Tom, it's what I do. :->
Oh, and Teresa? The link he refers to, historical boys clothing, is mildly bustificated in the particles (tries to append itself to the makinglight URL when I click on it).
'When I Was a Boy' is also the title of a wonderful album by Canadian alternarock/folkie Jane Siberry (though it doesn't sound like the gender connection is made as explicitly as Dar's song). You might have heard the song 'Calling All Angels' from Siberry's album which was recently on a movie soundtrack (Until the End of the World).
Um, and being a science-fiction bookstore owner for more than half my life (26 years and counting) _isn't_ about being a pusher?
((Just had an encounter that was the flip side of my magic-realist life -- I was in Seattle, and I'd pulled out a bunch of books to sell. I needed to find some protection to carry the spiral-bound KNAVE OF HEARTS [_the_ Maxfield Parrish book] back to the Bay Area on the plane. Went into a college bookstore -- found a manila envelope of appropriate size. Got pushed to find cardboard to add to it; the person who took me into the back room was recently researching Parrish, and asked very politely before taking the book and looking at pages.... Timing, as they say, is everything.))
An Open Thread Question -- what event in your life convinces you that Magic Realism is actually a description of the real world?
Magic Realism: I don't really read in that genre, and have only the faintest idea what it's like, but I'll take a stab.
My now-husband has a t-shirt, bought about six months before we met, that has a Kazantzakis (sp? Greek novelist) quote on it in Greek, in a handwriting-style font. I don't recognize enough of the stems to translate it with my rusty Homeric Greek, but when I first saw the shirt, a year or two after we were A Couple, I read it off for John phonetically. I realized the word in the center of the shirt was pronounced 'Eloise,' or close enough for creep factor. :->
Off topic (of magical realism) but worth looking at:
Spiffy pictures of the oncoming storm. Even loops (if your browser is somewhat less antiquated than mine).
This is your tax dollars at work and well worth it, I say!
Teresa: I missed the Paleographic Atlas Program, so many thanks fot the pointer. And sure, add it to the queue. Lots of interesting stuff there.
Is it particularly geeky of me to wince slightly whenever anyone mentions that 'CHIN-ko-tig, Virginia' is in the path of the current hurricane? Early reading of Marguerite Henry taught me that that island is pronounced 'SHINN-ko-tooo.'
Tom Whitmore said, I'm totally curious why each word on the Disraeli and his wombat link leads to the same image -- I'm used to seperate links leading to separate bits here.
I'm just going to come out of random-stranger-lurkerhood for a moment, here. Try clicking on the spaces between the words--I discovered this by accident.
Combining subjects - hurricanes and when I used to be a boy:
My inner Cassandra tells me Cape May, NJ. Not 'CHIN-ko-tig, Virginia'.
Tom W.: I'm totally curious why each word on the Disraeli and his wombat link leads to the same image -- I'm used to seperate links leading to separate bits here.
You should pay more attention to subtext, Tom.
The movie Until the End of the World isn't recent - it came out 12 years ago. The movie itself is a strange and problematic one, but the soundtrack is good.
I've been a Dar Williams fan for a while. After wrapping up her Beauty of the Rain tour (title of her most recent album), she's now on tour with Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, and Patty Griffin.
I have never seen the movie--know nothing about it--but the soundtrack is full of marvelous music.
On life amd magical realism... possibly any time when I spend a sustained moment looking at the sky. My life's actual events are quite dull. :-)
I loved the Uplift books but am not sure about RPing in them... will have to look for that one though.
First Dar Williams song I ever heard was the one with "...the Christians and the Pagans sat together at the table..." I heard this at a Pagan gathering at a camp run by Christians. It helped relations between staff and attendees, I think.
Can someone define Magic Realism for me? I know it's supposed to be Spielberg's style, but I've never been sure what the definition is.
This is a very strange request, but does anyone know where to buy 'BookChecks' online? I've searched Google, Amazon, and the Barnes and Noble website, but to no avail.
They're really the only thing I'll ever need in my library apart from a comfy chair, a cup of tea, and good light.
Basically they're a way of letting you know who has what book you've borrowed; a combination of check and bookmark.
Look for bookchecks here.
"Can someone define Magic Realism for me? I know it's supposed to be Spielberg's style, but I've never been sure what the definition is."
Hmm. Can't say I'd agree about Spielberg, but here's a stab at it:
It's form of literature -- usually associated with Latin American writers -- that, while firmly rooted in an everyday setting, has fantastic elements . . . but that is *not* "contemporary fantasy." (It lacks the traditional tropes of genre fantasy.)
The actual fantastic or surreal elements may be very limited and subtle, but are all the more powerful for it.
Bruce Sterling made a stab at magical realism in _Zeitgeist_. A character searching for his long and thoroughly lost father finds him by losing himself, moving to the most obscure place he can find; he "finds" his father in a seemingly randomly picked chicano, who speaks in palindromes. Other characters vomit up things that obsess them: Money, bullets, technical gear.
1. In short fiction, Magic Realism tends to get you more cents per word, but at novel length it tends to sell fewer copies.
2. Magic Realism is literarily respectable. You can write it without becoming genre scum.
3. In Magic Realism, you never have to explain how things work. You can just say that something was a metaphor, or that you thought it was a powerful image.
4. Saying you're writing Magic Realism means never having to acknowledge your genre sources and predecessors.
I'm probably missing a few. And here's a tentative one:
N. Magic Realism is to genre fantasy as erotica is to porn.
Magical realism is any fantasy book published by Knopf.
In my life? First you have to know that my married name is Jane Yolen Stemple.
When we moved back to the States having spent a year camping through Europe, Greece, and the Middle East, we bought a house in Massachusetts. No furniture, new baby--went to a lot of homestead auctions. At one I bought a chest of drawers for $7. Got it home--it was ugly. Looked through the drawers (full of the old man's underclothes) found a steel bank. When David got home from work, he chiseled it open. It had $15 in bills (so we made money on the deal!) some Indian head pennies, buffalohead nickles, a liberty dime--and a newspaper article. Seems the old man's father had been in the theater when Lincoln was shot. Interesting....I turned the clipping over. There was an obituary for someone named Stemple.
(Sound of spooky music here.) Magical realism.
Anyone familiar with literary works, especially classical works, that have the same theme as the Bill Murray movie GroundHog Day, i.e. a single day being repeated again and again?
Please contact me with any references that you are aware of, thanks.
p.s. Please do so before midnight tonight, or it won't do any good. (joke)
re: Magical Realism - if it helps then I would say:
Jonathan Carroll = Magical Realism
Neil Gaiman = Genre Fantasy
(I love both writers, btw)
Magical Realism does tend to get run down by SpecFic fans as being a sort of ersatz fantasy where the writer lacks the moral fibre to step out of the closet and declare the love of elves and bogus feudalism that dare not write it's name.
There can be an element of that, but there are differences between the two styles - how overtly the fantastical elements intrude in the plot, as opposed into the inner experiences of the characters, for example.
Done badly, Magical Realism is just pretentiousness in a funny costume. Done badly, Fantasy is safety and coddling barely hidden behind shopworn magic.
What distinguishes Magical Realism from other mainstream fiction is that the people writing it are trying to hit home runs. No bunts, no singles, no sacrifice flies.
Theme of Groundhog Day, Ken Grimwood's Replay.
Magic Realism: we had a great panel on this at Minicon, at which I formulated the idea that Magic Realism is literalised metaphor, and that's why the magic isn't worth remarking about. It's the things happening that you'd remark if they didn't happen. For instance, a wedding cake that the mother cries when she mixes, makes everyone cry when they eat it. If that didn't happen, you'd say it should have happened, where the emotional reality of the story literalises itself in a way that is irrelevant to conventional reality. It's its own thing, it's just not a good thing to get mixed up with fantasy (unless you're a genius like Terry Bisson) for reasons of genre expectations.
Oh, and can I recommend a terrific post on what genre is distinct from a marketing category from LJ, http://www.livejournal.com/users/truepenny/185847.html#cutid1
Jane -- exactly the type of thing I was looking for, and Thank You.
I'd actually put your letter from Thurber into the same category, for me.
I've had enough weird experiences that I can't explain (the Crowley ms being the most public, but not the least explicable) so that I believe the world is not only stranger and more connected than I imagine, but stranger and more connected than I _can_ imagine. And I like collecting similar anecdotes from others. Which is why I asked here -- anecdotes collected here are likely to be on the edge of the fringe. And yours is evidence for same.
Xopher, Spielberg may attempt to use it, but I find his manipulativeness reprehensible. When I'm at a Spielberg film I often enjoy it -- when I walk out the door, I feel slimed. Which is why I no longer go to his films. (DUEL is an exception. Matheson's story shines through.)
And since this is the Open Thread, _nothing_ is off topic....
I see a lot of sneering (with the exception of Jo Walton) at the concept of magic realism, as if it's more some slick, highfalutin version of classic fantasy. I don't really think this is so. Rather, I think that as practiced by Latin American writers, it is a response to growing up in a world where the fantastic is taken for granted as real. Modern science fiction, and the Unkown-style fanttasy that arose with it, are the product of a rationalist background, and their take on the fantastic is different as a result. You don't need to go too much into the machinery of the fantastic if it's taken as a given in your world.
Robert> The 'but fantasy is real to those people' argument reminds me of an old Religious Education teacher who tried to convince her class (we were about 10 years ol, IIRC) that those silly rationalist types who claimed that parts of the Bible shouldn't be taken literally were wrong because PEOPLE DIDN'T THINK THE SAME WAY IN THE OLD DAYS - i.e. there was no such thing as metaphor in the Ancient World.
I have never seen any convincing evidence that supports this theory (although there is plenty against it) and I can't help but think that applying it to modern day people from other cultures is a tad patronising. It smacks a little too much of dark mutterings about 'noble savages' and 'simpler, primitive folk' for my liking.
Stuart: I didn't read Robert's comment as patronizing. When he said "...the fantastic taken for granted as real," I thought, "Oh yeah, Dia de los Muertos." That's when the whole family goes down to the graveyard to have dinner with discorporated relatives. Seems simultaneously fantastic and mundane to me.
I second that, Anne, although I thought of author Banana Yoshimoto, and her stories of Japanese culture in which myth and fantasy are seamlessly merged with everyday modern concrete.
Tom, I feel about Spielberg exactly the way that Hazlitt felt about Richardson (in "On Poetry"):
... The interest is worked up to an number of little things, by incessant labour and calls upon the attention, by repetition of blows that have no rebound in them. The sympathy excited is not a voluntary contribution, but a tax.
Stupid Question regarding Magic Realism:
Is this different from what I would categorize as "Urban Fantasy"? I think of Charles de Lint as urban fantasy, but then I categorize anything that is real time/realworld with fantastic elements urban fantasy.
But to be honest I don't really understand how categorizing works. One chain bookstore here puts Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" and most stuff by Charles de Lint in the "regular" fiction section, but our local independent bookstore puts things like Skinner's "Walden Two" and most Michael Chriton in the Sci Fi section.
I had already assumed that I don't understand how the system at all, and now am convinced that is so.
And since this is an open thread and nothing is off topic...
The message subject, "What the World Needs Now" immediately made me think of 'Teen Angst (What The World Needs Now)' by Cracker, so that made the whole thread extra confusing.
Urban Fantasy is elves wearing leather motorcycle jackets and Doc Martens. Magical Realism is a young lady walking up the steps into the New York Public Library, hearing the stone lions roar, and then blushing.
Thx, Kathy Li! Good quote (and nice to hear from you -- Other Change keeps kicking along...)
Robert, I hope you didn't intentionally exclude me from the "magic realism bashing" you saw here -- I'll say again that I believe that Magic Realism best describes the life I've found myself living for A Very Long Time Now. And I'm really interested in finding others who feel the same way. Jane Y has shown me it's true for her -- any other takers?
Michelle -- nod noted and appreciated! I certainly hope nothing's off topic here....
Tom, what you said about the world being more connected than you can imagine I would take to be mundanely, rationally, rigorously true for all of us; the world is just plain old much, much larger than our heads.
There's a (recent, fragile) tradition of trying to make clear distinctions in our heads between 'fact' and 'fancy' (also supposition and inference) but that's not actually how our heads work, there are no labels, no distinction of biology between the emotional truth of fact and belief.
I would take 'Magic Realism' -- the narrowly defined Latin American Romance language stuff -- as arising very naturally from a literary tradition in which the pretense of an emotional distinction between fact and belief is not maintained.
It's very hard to do this in English; most of the word associations are not willing to support the necessary assumptions.
I was being sour-tempered. There is such a thing as Magic Realism. Trouble is, MR also gets used as code for "I'm not writing genre fiction."
Thomas, your life is not Magic Realism. Life is just life, its plain old everyday self; which is to say, full of strange and inexplicable events. A book about your life might or might not be MR, depending on whether or not it got things right, and how much it wanted to admit to.
Didn't one or more of the Latin American writers say that when they do their best to accurately describe what's going on around them, Magic Realism is what results?
I don't think I'm being patronizing toward Latin American culture. I'm aware that there are plenty of rationalist Latin Americans, as well as norteamericanos who live in worlds as full of superstition and the fantastic taken for granted as anywhere else in the world. I'm thinking mostly of Gabriel Garceda Me1rquez and his own statements about his own work. And grumble as much as you like about how it's marketed, the fact remains that One Hundred Years of Solitude and Autumn of the Patriarch are original and don't in fact have much in common with their contemporaries in the world of fantasy the marketing category. One shouldn't confuse literary movements or categories with marketing categories, though they may in fact have much territory in common on the Venn diagram. Incidentally, you could make a much better case for Jorge Luis Borges being marketed as literary fiction when many of his stories are much in the tradition of classic fantasy or even sf and are decidedly NOT magic realism. I don't think Borges was much aware of modern sf, but he definitely read some of the same writers who are the roots of medern sf/f (Poe, Stevenson, Wells) and thus it's not surprising he wrote in their tradition[s].
The trouble with a lot of magic realism is that it doesn't have nearly enough of either.
(Or has someone beaten me to that joke already? It's hard to keep up.)
I fear the same is frequently true of life.
Life has beaten you to the joke already? It's hard to keep up with life?
In a Magical Realist novel:
I would go out after posting in this thread earlier today and turn up a nice (if ex libris) first edition of Donald Harington's The Architecture of the Arkansas Ozarks: A Novel (which might as well have been named A Hundred Years of Hillbilly Solitude), come back here, post that it was from the Sweetwater Valley Library, and be unsurprised when someone in this thread knows that library.
Unless you've just now made them up, I expect someone reading this will know about one or the other or both.
Thank you, though I have to say I think I prefer my concept of what Urban Fantasy is to the reality, just because I like the way the words sound together, and the mental images those words together make for me, of walking down a busy city street and seeing something completely unexpected.
I love my local bookstore. But as much as I love the store, I'm worried that he's going to be in trouble, not keeping up with the times. I can get things faster ordering them myself that I can if I have him order him, so I end up using the bookstore for browsing and chancing upon books, rather than a place that serves all my reading needs.
Of course he still gets a substantial portion of my income, even if I occasion the two chain stores in town as well. (I'm all about instant gratification when it comes to books. I must have it NOW! even if I don't have time to read it for another three years.) There is something about going into a store where I am recognized on sight and have been for... er.... ten years, that just gives me a happy feeling.
Of course the fact that he has had a tendancy to hire really cute geek guys doesn't hurt either...
Oh, I expect someone here knows the book. But Sweetwater Valley Library? That's by no means certain. And if someone here were to tell a true story beginning, "The day I checked that book out of the Sweetwater Valley Library...", well, I'd write the author a note about it. Anyway, I've done my part, going out and finding the book (and if I could make up a book that good, I'd be an author)--anyone?
When I sold books for a living, back in the late eighties and early nineties, there were two novels which I conscientiously pushed on mainstream fiction readers and SF readers (how else could I develop customers who were both?): Life During Wartime by Lucius Shepard (in the Bantam New Fiction series) and Imagining Argentina by Lawrence Thornton.
The Shepard book went out of print during that period (I think--I know I couldn't reorder), but even up to that point, I'd sold about twice the number of the Thornton book. I think Shepard was a buck cheaper ($6.95 vs. $7.95) at twice the length and had the advantage of being in the New Fiction Series (which I admit didn't sell so hot for me, even the big titles), but Thornton sold better.
The Shepard book was, I think, a bit better a novel than the Thornton, in many ways. Shepard's was more a science fiction novel than a magical realist novel. I'd call Thornton's book magical realism, and might contrast it to maybe Briar Rose, which I think I'd call instead a fantasy--and which I'd also say is a bit more tough-minded in the face of evil than Thornton.
Somewhere, I had a point to make in all this--maybe that my customer base liked magical realism better than science fiction--but I have to go now to get oral surgery in Arkansaw.
'but fantasy is real to those people'
This reminds me of a thing, an impression I got from _The Lord of the Rings_ on rereading it after reading _The Silmarillion_ when it came out (bearing in mind that I had read Priest's _Inverted World_ by then)
[my apologies to Jo, who has seen this already]
Early in _The Two Towers_, Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli track the Orcs who have taken Merry and Pippin, having slain Boromir.
Legolas, being an elf, can see much further and more clearly than the other two, and this blended with a thing I had just read in the Silmarillion.
After the end of the Second age, when the Valar gave up their stewardship of Arda for a time, and Iluvatar remade it as a globe, the Elves were still allowed to sail the straight path to the West, and it came to me:
Legolas can see further than the other two because *his world is still flat*, he can see over the horizon that the others see as a limit.
Re-reading those passages in _The Two Towers_ since, it's clear that my revelation is wrong. Legolas just has supernaturally good vision: everything he sees clearly is seen by the others as a blur.
Robert: Sorry, I think I was a bit heavy-handed there. What I mean is that I sometimes think there is a bit of a subtext to this view of Magical Realist text that actually robs them of their literary merit. I don't think that you were doing it, but it does bug me. I think it is partly because tarring MR with the mysticism brush actually gives people who thin that SpecFic == bad, MR == automatically-better-because-it-is-slightly-beyond-our-ken more ammunition.
Stuart--Again, I think you're perhaps confusing how a book is marketed with what it actually is. Or, by extension, how it is passed around by people who don't read "fantasy." Just how and why the two diverge is something literary scholars can explain much better than I can.
Tom, i wasn't leaving you out. I know exactly what you mean, and I often feel the same way. I think the old Edward Eager book "The Well-Wishers" is somewhat in tune with my view of things--are they fantastic or not? I always try to operate in a way that will simultaneously staisfy the hypothesis that they are, and that they aren't...
" I think that as practiced by Latin American writers, it is a response to growing up in a world where the fantastic is taken for granted as real."
-- Robert L
Actually, I think that magic realism is what you get when Latin American writers want to write about politics without winding up dead.
RIP Galileo Orbiter, launched 18 October 1989, vaporized in Jupiter 21 September 2003. We sure had fun together.
Followed the Particles link to the Bean Bible, expecting those whacky Americans to be doing bible stories with beans dressed up as Moses and what do I get?
Bean recipies, bean ideas, more than you ever needed to know about beans.
Sue, I'm sure that somewhere out there in the dark fields of the Republic, someone is doing Bible stories with beans.
Come to think of it, have you heard of Veggie Tales? Bible stories reenacted by anthropomorphized vegetables? They're very popular.
Veggie Tales disturbs me for no good reason I can explain. I can watch one and be amused. Two in a row, however, starts hitting my creepout factor.
I think my life is complete without Veggi Tales, I was scarred at an early age by Tinger and Tucker (Bible stories via Koalas... no wonder I'm a witch).
Just Checking -- you do know about Liza Cody, don't you? If not, I strongly recommend reading her excellent mysteries (which fit your prescription) in chronological order.
- The Precision Blogger
Veggie Tales succeed in being entertaining, sincere, and even a little subversive. In a medium with no soul (by which I mean "Christian Kiddie Entertainment"), they have warmth and humor.
In related news, I once saw a good Christian rock video. Came to laugh, stayed to the end. You just never know.
I read the postings here about magical realism and thought stuff like that happens to me All The Time, and then couldn't think of a single example. Since then a pleasantly convoluted one has played out which, since it involves this blog, I thought I would share.
I was reading the archives when I came across Teresa's blog on 'cog', the Honda advert. That was 27th August and the campaign was at full steam in the UK. I had even got a free copy on DVD from 'The Guardian' which I had played a few times. Since a few people posting on the thread from countries where it wasn't running had expressed a desire for said DVD, I decided to offer it up to anyone who cared to send me their address. I wasn't sure anyone would still want it, but I thought that if they did it would be a small piece of altruism that wouldn't cost me much (in one of my incarnations I am She Who Tends the Franking Machine, so even postage was not an issue) and might increase the sum of human happiness slightly.
I should mention that I haven't travelled widely - a little in Europe, but the longest trip I've ever done was London - Winnipeg. I'm not proud of this, I know it's not a prime tourist destination, but it is where one of my closest friends went a) as an exchange teacher, and b) to marry the man she loves and have a delightful, if sticky, baby son (at who's baptism we were treated to a sermon on copyright).
Last week I received an e-mail from a guy asking if I still had the DVD. He lives in Winnipeg. On the same street my friend was living with her fiance before they got married.
I posted the DVD.
I came home & turned on the TV. The advert is running again in the UK.