Our October CSFF Blog Tour features something new—the science fiction and fantasy e-zine, Dragons, Knights, and Angels (DKA). Such a publication offers stories and poems that can satisfy the speculative desires of the busy reader who does not have time for a full-length novel.
I thought it might be interesting to look at some of these stories in light of our discussion of types of fantasy. First, I need to complete the descriptions. I am using the categories established by Philip Martin, editor of The Writer’s Guide to Fantasy Literature. Last Monday we looked at High Fantasy, Adventure Fantasy, and Fairy Tales. There are two more.
Magic Realism. I think of this as Twilight Zone-type fantasy. Martin’s description: “Magic realism produces stories in which magical things happen, often unexpectedly, in the midst of very realistic, everyday settings and events … In these stories magic is more likely to act as an independent character than as a tool used by other characters.”
He points out the varied nature of this type of fantasy. Some stories infuse the ordinary with the fantastic, often crossing over into modern mainstream fiction, though they clearly depend on the central tropes of fantasy: good versus evil and magic. Some magic realism reveals the magical as good. In other stories, it is what causes the character’s downfall as he follows his base desires. Often the distinction between dreams and reality is murky at best.
In magic realism, abstract thoughts and concepts become real. Something intangible is given sudden visible form … One writer suggested that Tolkien fantasy is inherently Protestant, with its reliance on the profound meaning of each individual’s actions. Magic realism on the other hand is more Catholic, with its belief in magical transformation from outside, mysterious powers. In any case, magic realism is fantasy, but one in which the key rules are often invisible to the humans involved.
Dark Fantasy. Again, within this classification there are numerous sub-categories: horror, gothic, dark satire, urban, vampire, and ghost stories.
Martin makes an interesting statement about horror, that I wonder whether it applies to all the dark fantasy:
It’s roots lie in ancient tales wherein the matter of curses is closely linked t religion and taboos. Doing something wrong is bound to lead to awful consequences. These stories are morality plays: often the plot hinges on unraveling the mystery of just what was done wrong—and on discovering the manner in which this can be corrected or reversed. Horror explores the consequences of misguided action, just as the Old Testament of the Bible explores the sometimes horrific consequences of what happens to those who transgress the law.
Does any other genre offer such a varied tapestry? No two fantasy stories have to look alike, and I suggest that fewer and fewer Christian fantasies resemble the large successes of the past.
Take a look at the stories in the most recent issue of DKA, for example. In fact, it might be sort of fun to read these stories in light of Philip Martin’s classifications to see where you might place them.
If you’re game, why not start with “Cold Dragons,” by TW Williams. Read it, then come back here and leave a comment. I’ll enter your name in Mirtika Schultz ’s contest, with the winner receiving a free five-page critique from DKA’s poetry editor.
Which reminds me. Be sure to check out the other blogs participating in this month’s tour: