Magic Realism, Part 1

One speculative fiction genre points us to what truly matters, by refusing to draw a solid line between the everyday and the fantastical. Welcome to the world of magic realism.
on Nov 4, 2011 · No comments
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What do you see when you first wake up in the morning? How do the colors of the world come together—as they are, or as they aren’t quite? What about the shadows of night, or the short-circuiting flicker of an overtired mind?

Perception is broken. Nonetheless, it’s accurate enough that we are capable of recognizing the existence of truth. Somewhere between the brokenness and the certainty is something artists call a lost edge: a blending of the one into the other.

In visual art, this happens for a powerful reason: to bring the most important details into focus. The place where things begin to blur away is a frame of reference that points the eye to what matters.

In fiction, one speculative genre accomplishes this by refusing to draw a solid line between the everyday and the fantastical. Welcome to the world of magic realism.

Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the “real” and the “fantastic” in the same stream of thought. It is a film, literary and visual art genre.

From Wikipedia’s entry on Magic realism

Is this the same as when an angel steps into a Christian story to change everything? Not exactly. Magic realism offers no justification or explanation for its strange or even utterly implausible events, and that’s something that’s almost never done in Christian fiction. Our religious culture is so laden with crosscurrents, preferred emphases and paradigms, and even outright disagreements over How To Be Godly, that it’s de rigueur to express the supernatural with a fully realized context and definition. All the lines sketched firmly in place.

And this need for definition may indeed contribute to accusations of two-dimensionality in Christian fiction. In art, the lost edge is what makes things lifelike.

In Christian writing, supernatural fiction tends to define its events through overt statements or through very clear context. Christian fantasy in particular tends to lean heavily on the strict parallelism of allegory in order to ensure all’s interpreted as prescribed.

Magic realism? Forget the contextual requirements. Forget the careful definitions. Forget the rules. It just is, regardless of whether anyone believes it.

Those who define everything that exists as the natural haven’t told us anything of significance. I could just as easily define everything as hablabadaba. It would mean the same thing and deliver the same informational content. Customarily, the word natural is invoked to describe a realm of energy, space, time, and matter, and any other conceivable or unknown physical entity, whether it be a part of this universe, or a detached natural realm outside the spatio-temporal universe we inhabit. Anything outside the natural realm, as commonly thought, would be supernatural, preternatural, extranatural, or the like.

But perhaps those who do this are not offering a definition. Instead, maybe they are making a claim about the way things really are, as in nothing exists outside of the natural. Here, however, we receive a check…. Where does this leave our non-omniscient naturalist? In a state of agnosticism, presumably, though many will call it atheism.

From Less Real than we Think, More Real than we Want by Marc Schooley

Christians accept their sense of the spiritual realm as something that exists. It’s part of the Christian definition of the “natural,” in the sense that we don’t exclude it from our reality. In many ways, our sense of the supernatural is tidily codified into what Schooley refers to as “a detached natural realm outside the spatio-temporal universe we inhabit.”

This approach, while comfortable to the modern Western mindset, is both at odds with the original context of the Bible and also risks degrading the supernatural through an imposition of pragmatic naturalism. This is how Western Christians become practical atheists all the while invoking heaven and hell, angels and demons. Those things are somewhere out there, to be encountered according to the categorical rules we’ve invented for a detached natural realm—“the spiritual.”

Whether the rules are wild or tame, nonetheless we have rules for these things, and by the rules do we define our truths and lies. Nothing exists outside of that.

But this is not lifelike in its presuppositions about the lost edge of truth and perception. Magic realism presents a unique window on the epistemology of awareness and the unsterile mess within the human heart and mind. And then it conjoins that mess with the intrusion of the spiritual upon everyday life.

As t.e. George has discussed, there is much unexplainable and unexplained; there are many moments where the light shifts strangely as we wake or fall into sleep. Do we then acknowledge them, or shove them out of the box of religious naturalism to be ignored?

Was it not Blaise Pascal who said, le coeur a ses raisons, que la raison ne connait point?

The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing…this is a truth of the biblical paradigm, where hearts are deceitful and desperate, and yet can indeed ring true against all our tidy, self-serving rationales.

However, American evangelical writing has only just begun to make a place for the role of magic realism. We seem to be standing on the cusp of many things in Christian publishing, where either everything is growing, or everything is falling down. We are not sure which.

It could be both. There are things that happen. And anything is possible. These may or may not be truths; what’s certain is that they’re not exactly comfortable thoughts, depending on how one perceives them.

Sitting in my bed, I saw shiny black and rippling silver scales flash in front of me. I could see them clearly. In my joy of this miracle, I got out of bed and did not question where this creature was taking me.

I followed its beauty and compelling voice through dark hallways and out to the courtyard. Although it was winter, I did not feel the cold. The strange creature settled under the cherry tree’s naked branches.

The creature slithered and curled into the branches of the tree. “Come up here, Wen Ming,” it said.

“I will stay here, where I won’t fall.”

“Then you will miss a beautiful sight.”

“I cannot see. So I will miss it anyway.”

“What if I promised you that you would be able to see clearly all the way to where the earth and heaven join?”

I peered up at it. When I looked at it, I saw clearly. When I looked away, all was dark again. But I had not lived my life as an orphan for nothing. I did not give my trust easily. “Why should I want to see that?”

Lucky Baby, by Meredith Efken (Howard Books, 2010)

Cathi-Lyn Dyck has been a published writer and poet since 2004, and a freelance editor since 2006.

She can be found online at

C.L. Dyck is a freelance editor of award-winning Christian speculative fiction. She wrangles words on behalf of writers through Scienda Editorial.
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  1. Sherwood Smith says:

    A lovely, thoughtful article (though you might want to correct the spelling of de rigueur)

  2. Christian says:

    Cathi, that’s a quality article, thanks for sharing! Yes, Magical realism is writing the extraordinary as if it were commonplace.  I would love to see more of this in Christian fiction or even just fiction written by Christians’. One could argue that Dean Koontz ‘Odd Thomas’ series belong to this genre. Odd’s encounters with the supernatural are written in a low-key, everyday manner. Still, it’s very easy to sometimes forget that there is a truer reality beyond the physical world around us. I struggle with that sometimes but I think it’s a healthy form of doubt, one to be explored prayerfully. As for the French wordings you used, I don’t understand them and never have (yes, I’m looking at you, Agatha Christie!) Care to explain them? Cheers.

    • C.L. Dyck says:

      “Cathi, that’s a quality article, thanks for sharing!”
      Thank you, Christian!
      De rigueur – required, a social imperative
      Pascal – “The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing.” I first encountered that one in L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time when I was a kid.
      It does not surprise me to hear you say this about Koontz. I haven’t read much of him, but what I did, certainly had that feel to it. Tim George tells me the one I picked up was one of Koontz’s, er, least good, but still I thoroughly enjoyed that feel to the story.
      ” I struggle with that sometimes but I think it’s a healthy form of doubt, one to be explored prayerfully.”
      That right there probably sums up the Christian use of magic realism. Nicely said!

      • Tim George says:

        Now you have me trying to remember which Koontz novel I gave a thumbs down to.

        • C.L. Dyck says:

          Uhmmm….it was the one with the golden-eyed creatures in the mountains, that all the animals responded to. And the psycho brother with the farmhouse cellar. I think you told me you were sorry that was the first one I picked up, because he has others that are better still. It was a bit rough, but I still liked it nonetheless.

  3. Tim George says:

    Very good take on the genre of magical realism. I’ve been trying to put my finger on what is missing in Christian fiction and this is it. It isn’t the whole edgy debate over language or how much sex. Smoke screens in my opinion. Instead, what we followers of Christ seem to avoid in our writing is the absolute mystery and wonder of it all. 
    Cliff Graham does a great job with this in his new series about the life of King David. In Day of War there is a scene where an Israelite warrior is rescued from certain death by a warrior of a tribe he does not recognize. From our New Testament backward looking perspective we probably see this strange warrior as an angel. No such commentary given in the novel. Instead, we see this rescuing warrior through the perception of an Old Testament quasi-believer. It is what it is. Real or magical? Real to the warrior rescued. But, the whole incident is so mysterious, the saved soldier never relates the event to anyone else.

    • C.L. Dyck says:

      ” From our New Testament backward looking perspective we probably see this strange warrior as an angel.”
      I suppose it may even be a flaw of that retrospective perspective, the tendency to lose the mystery. We assume we have it all in terms of completed biblical revelation. But without deep engagement in the Bible, there’s no mystery–just a book that sits on a shelf gathering dust, while we go about our comfortable lives.
      “But, the whole incident is so mysterious, the saved soldier never relates the event to anyone else.”
      And this is certainly a part of my own personal spiritual experience: there sometimes are unexplainable things that happen, that I never do relate to anyone else. That, to me, seems more real than what too often happens in Christian story (imho): the author editorializing to the reader that, yes, this is an angel; yes, this is a supernatural experience of such-and-such kind; and then the POV character remembers Example X in the Bible which was just like this, and that makes it all kosher. This is what makes fiction feel like Sunday school, and I do think it’s a disservice to the power of story and the power of a life of faith–and doubt, as Chris so eloquently says.
      We are taught so heavily by the theology of sin not to trust our own perception. There’s some validity to that…but taken too far, we cannot trust at all that our faith in the theology of sin and salvation is a correct perception in itself, so the very concept of epistemology becomes self-defeating. There has to be room for mystery in the gap.

      • Cat, I enjoyed this article, but I’m going to disagree about this whole postmodern mystery train of thought. I’ve written on this on my blog to some extent. There is a difference between mystery and transcendence, between knowing and understanding, and I think we’re getting these ideas scrambled in our 21sy century mentality. Part of the problem is the way we look at language, to be sure. But I think we need to take a breath and let words actually mean something.

        So we read all throughout the New Testament that God has revealed “the mystery.” Look at Colossians 1:26-27, for example: “[the gospel] is the mystery which has been hidden from past ages and generations but has now been manifested to His saints to whom God willed to make know what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in us, the hope of glory” (emphasis mine).

        There has to be room for mystery in the gap.

        While this certainly sounds reasonable, I think it flies in the face of . . . Jesus Christ. He came to reveal the Father. Those who know Jesus know Him who sent Him. Again from Colossians: “He is the image of the invisible God …” (Col. 1: 15) and “In Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2: 9).

        If there’s any “gap” as you say, it has to do with our understanding of how, not our certainty of what.

        I could say more on the subject, but will leave it at that. How does my differing view of “mystery” affect my thoughts about magic realism? I don’t think they do. God surprises all the time (let’s start with a virgin birth, for instance). I know (no mystery) that He can do the impossible, so I believe I don’t have to answer every instance with scientific explanations (because of God’s transcendence). But to pull such off in stories is not easy. Too often the impossible looks like the hand of the author, not the hand of the miraculous. I’m guessing that’s why the stories you mentioned may seem overly explained.

        Honestly, I haven’t encountered what you’re referring to in some time. Much less allegory, much less explanation, much more trust in the reader.



        • Tim George says:

          This would be the first time anyone has ever remotely thought of me as postmodern thought I see how it might appear that way. Long before postmodernism there were doctrinally solid voices that were also mystics. A.W. Tozer comes to mind first.
          I agree that Christ is the full revelation of God. And that mystery, as in Colossians does means a revelation rather than a hiding. At the same time, there is much that is left in gaps, at least in our finite understanding. The Trinity cannot be explained. It can be stated, illustrated and trusted in by faith. But, every human illustration that tries to explain it leaves all kinds of gaps. Paul also speaks of many things being seen only dimly now (1 Cor 13) and John points us to a time when we see Christ face to face and have all kinds of gaps filled in. I guess that leans toward your argument that problem is not with reality but with our understanding of it. 

          • Tim, I wasn’t intimating that you are a postmodernist any more than I am. But we are influenced by the thinking of our day, and I think this “God is a mystery” fad coloring the thought of so many Christians comes from the postmodern thinking. Nothing is sure, nothing is authoritative, all is seeking without finding because the real point is the journey, not the arrival.

            And I mean no offense to A. W. Tozier (though I have a hard time believing he was a mystic from what I’ve read) or any other Christian from the past who might be considered in that category, but their beliefs prove nothing. The Church believed in selling indulgences once upon a time, but that doesn’t mean we should return to selling indulgences.

            What we need to do, and can do so easily in our time and culture, is search the Scriptures and adhere to what they say.

            And yes, you’ve illustrated beautifully what I mean about knowing and understanding being different. I can know God is Triune, but I can’t understand it, not really. Nothing else in my experience, nothing else in my cognitive awareness can truly be described as one but three.

            And there are a host of things like that — things which need to be discerned spiritually rather than explained rationally. The cool thing is, like any relationship, ours with God can grow. Things I didn’t understand ten years ago, I’m finally getting a handle on today. I suspect there will be more things in the next year and more in the next ten. As I see it that’s so opposite of pursuing an unknowable mystery, or worse, a mystery I can figure out on my own if given the proper meditative circumstances.

            It’s really not up to me. God’s truth is a constant, whether I believe it or not. Okay, rant mode took over there for a while. Sorry about that. 🙄



          • C.L. Dyck says:

            “Nothing is sure, nothing is authoritative, all is seeking without finding because the real point is the journey, not the arrival.”
            No, that’s certainly not my perspective. That doctrinal strain is extremely prevalent in the more liberal-leaning evangelical churches in my area, and I’m well familiar with its problematic nature. My husband and I spent a lot of time trying to correct postmodern epistemology in our previous church.
            When I say there’s no mystery without the Bible, I mean that it brings us into contact with things we can’t fully explain. Atheism, by contrast, is very much about limiting daily reality to the known–the unexplained is relegated to a lesser status, in contrast to the higher status the Bible allocates to the transcendent unknowable.
            When we fail to immerse in Scripture, we tend to lean instead on a tidy box of manmade explanations that don’t allow for a God bigger than our own thoughts can conceive. Hence we lose the reality of unknowable transcendence in the gap between human perception and God-given absolute truth. Does that help clarify?
            At the risk of being spammish, the first issue of Scienda Quarterly e-magazine next February is pretty much dedicated to both magic realism and dismantling the fallacies of postmodernism. One of my writers has a degree in the field and writes from a Christian perspective. She’s done a magic realism short story that revolves around key fallacies of deconstructionism (and yeah, it’s an honest-to-goodness story–she’s amazing).
            “If there’s any “gap” as you say, it has to do with our understanding of how, not our certainty of what.”
            Correct, that would be my position also. I’m not sure where you’re reading in the postmodernism from…
            God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery”
            Right. But I’m not talking about the gospel specifically, or even the content of the New Testament; I’m referring to the fictional presentation of experiential phenomena that we have no explanation for, and what makes people uncomfortable with that. This, to me, would fall more under “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)
            Hope that helps clear it up. 🙂

        • Jeremy McNabb says:

          Humbug. We’re never told how it was that Ebenezer Scrooge came to be visited by a dead friend and three short-lived personifications of Christmas chronology. C.S. Lewis never stopped to explain how there might be a bus traveling back and forth to eternity, or why demons might be writing letters. Nor did Dante explain how a spiritual realm such as Hell could be reached through a cave, or who carved the words “Abandon All Hope…” Isaac Asimov never explained, through spiritualism or science, how a miniaturized demon named Azazel came to inhabit the pocket of a human. None of the above are considered any more postmodern than G.K. Chesterton or John Wesley (unless you’re nuts, of course).

          Now, I hate it when people use a blog post to plug their own writings, so I won’t do that, but I’ll say than an unnamed manuscript of mine dealt with a bit of magical realism, and though I didn’t finish writing it, it really caused me to chase down certain aspects of God that I never would have considered otherwise.

          The first time I heard of magic realism, it was referred to as fantastical (as opposed to fantasy) fiction. This is one of the best treatments of it that I’ve seen on a Christian blog anywhere. Thank you Cathi-Lyn. I hope to see more of your posts in the future. 

          • C.L. Dyck says:

            “This is one of the best treatments of it that I’ve seen on a Christian blog anywhere. Thank you Cathi-Lyn. I hope to see more of your posts in the future.”
            Thank you, Jeremy! I think we have three more installments to this MR series. I love the “fantastical” term. That’s about it.

          • Cat, replying here to keep all the “mystery” comments together.

            I do think we’re aiming in the same direction. My quibble, I suppose, is with language, but I really do think “mystery” and “transcendence” mean two different things. I’m not all that certain about “unknowable transcendence” either, given that God has told us His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (See Isaiah 55:8-9). We ought clearly to know He is transcendent, so I’m uncertain how this would be considered unknowable. And of course we can’t know God’s transcendent thoughts or ways, being as they are transcendent, so in that regard adding “unknowable” seems unnecessary. 

            The latter is significant, I think, because of all the things a certain religious faction believes we cannot know.

            I’m not sure I can divorce experience with Scripture as you seem to suggest. What’s true is true. If someone writes a speculative story about a character who encounters God and finds Him to be evil, it doesn’t matter to me that this character came at this revelation from a dream or a vision or the meeting of a being on the road to L. A. The how isn’t important because the what isn’t true.

            Give me any truth and then express it in whatever magical way a writer can imagine, and I think that will be a great story. But if we stop writing about truth for the sake of mystery or magic, I find that problematic.

            And yes, I realize this is an unpopular stance to take with speculative writers who want to be outside the box and off the map. I happen to think truth gives us necessary boundaries — or ought to.

            But as I said in my first comment, I don’t think that means our imagination needs to be stunted. Look at all that God did that was miraculous and surprising and unexplainable and I think we get a glimpse of what we can write.



          • ‘Twould appear, Jeremy, this is a response to my comment to Tim, am I right? And that this time, you aren’t agreeing with me? Just checking. 😉

            Even though I might have those details right, I’m not sure what point you’re disagreeing with because I certainly have no issue with any of the writers you mentioned (the ones I’ve read anyway). I think Lewis’s Great Divorce and Screwtape Letters were brilliant and certainly need no “explanation.” (And they, The Great Divorce especially, had profound impact on my spiritual life). Dickens, too.

            Dante might be the most problematic, to be honest, but I haven’t read enough to know for certain. I say that because many people consider him to be writing truth, not a representation of truth. People did that with Frank Peretti’s work, too.

            BTW, Athol Dickson writes magic realism. Have any of you read The Lost Mission? I’d be curious what you think.



          • C.L. Dyck says:

            “Give me any truth and then express it in whatever magical way a writer can imagine, and I think that will be a great story. But if we stop writing about truth for the sake of mystery or magic, I find that problematic.
            And yes, I realize this is an unpopular stance to take with speculative writers who want to be outside the box and off the map.”
            {handshake} Count me in with the unpopularity party. 🙂 This has long been one of my biggest difficulties in engaging with the Christian SF community. I vividly recall sitting in on an agent panel at ACFW 2010 where someone asked about expansion in speculative. One agent answered, “There are a lot of writers out there doing speculative. There are not a lot of them doing it well.
            Doctrine (or the messing with it) is a big part of the definition of “well” in the CBA. It is a niche market, and there are other markets for other types of reader. I mean, the Canadian literary market is also a niche market that caters to a certain type of reader. That’s publishing.
            And that would be one of my personal rants. 🙂 I suspect the other points you’ve brought up will get answered as we go forward in the series.

          • Jeremy McNabb says:

            For whatever reason, the reply feature is being spastic.

            ‘Twould appear, Jeremy, this is a response to my comment to Tim, am I right? And that this time, you aren’t agreeing with me? Just checking. 

            Correct. I was disagreeing with your assessment of this entry. But in a broader context, I’m responding to the notion that fiction containing magical realism, fiction that breaks the fourth wall, and fiction which tests the boundaries of theological explanation needs be labeled as postmodern. Lewis’ Great Divorce needs no explanation, but we are still at a loss as to how a magic bus travels through eternity. We aren’t ever given a scriptural or theological explanation of A Christmas Carol. The same follows with the other stories. One movie, Stranger Than Fiction is about a real life man who finds that he is living out a novel that a woman is writing. He meets the author writing his life and tries to convince her not to kill him off. This is an ideal example of magic realism, and it certainly fudges the boundaries of reality, but I don’t think we need to fear that it’s the harbinger of our post-modern doom.

          • I’m looking forward to your coming articles, Cat! 😉



          • Jeremy, my turn to do the head scratch. Huh?

            You may be mistaking my comments about mystery as disapproval of the fantastical. I’m not saying that at all. In fact, one of the reasons I am making such a big deal about the difference between mystery and transcendence is so that we can see how the fantastical can be incorporated with Biblical truth — fixed, authoritative, knowable truth.

            We have some people who think the fantastical is anathema because they don’t really believe in the transcendence. We have others who believe anything is permissible because all is a mystery — we can’t really know God, and all those other things I described in my first comment to Cat.

            Understanding transcendence allows us to express the miraculous and the invisible and the yet to be, all within the framework that God has said is True.

            That’s what Lewis did. I’ll say again, The Great Divorce is one of those books that had a profound effect on me. Another was Till We Have Faces and there are elements of magic realism in that one too, if you can use the term about the retelling of a myth. My point is, I am in no way disparaging this genre.



    • Kaci Hill says:

      Cat said:

      “We are taught so heavily by the theology of sin not to trust our own perception. There’s some validity to that…but taken too far, we cannot trust at all that our faith in the theology of sin and salvation is a correct perception in itself, so the very concept of epistemology becomes self-defeating. There has to be room for mystery in the gap.”

      I think he over-reliance on the human intellect is also partly to blame. Anyone who’s ever written a villain knows the human mind can make anything sound logical and justifiable.
      Miscellaneous comments:
      There’s also a Proverb that goes: “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.  As the heavens for height and the earth for depth,  So the heart of kings is unsearchable” (Proverbs 25:1-3).
      And there’s plenty in Scripture that just doesn’t have any explanation.  Ever wondered what the ‘deep’ was that the Spirit ‘hovered’ over, or what “The earth was void and without form” means if it hadn’t been created yet?   Ever wondered why Enoch and Elijah were swept into Heaven alive (much less that everyone seems to have understood it as that, and not as them going missing somewhere)?
      Ever wonder why the men and women in Scripture weren’t shocked by the existence of angels, but by the angel speaking to them? Or why the Hebrews were less concerned about whether or not the booming voice on Sinai and all the smoke was aliens or an enemy than whether or not they should approach the mountain? Or why “God listened to a man” and made the sun stand still for three days? (Cuz, really, he didn’t have to.) Why the witch of Endor isn’t freaked out that she summoned a ghost, but that the ghost was Samuel? No one questioned, in Jonah, that the storm was caused by someone’s displeasing their god; nor did anyone question the accuracy of the lots cast. 
      Ever wonder why Abraham didn’t question the source of the voice telling him to sacrifice Isaac, or why Gideon and Joshua listened to some of the most absurd battle plans ever drawn?
      Course, the ‘mystery,’ from Paul’s angle, in some respects, was also the inclusion of Gentiles as part of God’s people. That whole concept seemed to leave him perpetually in amazement.
       On experiences…. The character’s experience is that it’s true.   Let’s pretend there’s a character named Tim. Cuz we can. Let’s say that Tim was raised in a home in which to eat meat was evil (because I want to keep it simple). Then, he happens to meet Jesus, and Jesus invites him to dinner and makes fish and chips.   In that case,  Tim’s experience (Jesus eating fish and encouraging Tim to do the same) and his perception of the experience (Jesus ate fish, therefore he must be evil) is real. And, in a world where eating meat is sin, that would be true.  You first have to change Tim’s world–his perception of his experience– before you can make him see Jesus isn’t evil.
      But my understanding is magical realism doesn’t usually go that route. I read “The Old, Old Man with Very Large Wings,” which is about a family who discovers….you guessed it…an old man with wings. “A Curse Dark as Gold” might count, where it’s a real-world setting wherein the MC doesn’t question the odd Jack Spinner (although she resents him). They’re kinda cruel to him, if I remember.
      At any rate, the point is that the experience does matter, because each experience we have is bound by the lenses through which we see. Experiences color perspective; perspective in turn colors experience.

  4. Galadriel says:

    I have read exactly one magic realism novel- -Bless Me, Ultima, by …Well, I can’t remember right now, but I really enjoyed it. The blurring of lines, so much fun

  5. Kessie says:

    Would George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind or other works be considered magic realism? Where the magic and the reality lay side by side and bleed into each other from time to time?
    I think the prologue in Lewis’s Perelandra really goes into this, with the POV character seeing the Oyarsa, recognizing it as an angel, and being completely undone. Because the reality we tamely talk about in church is nothing like the symbols we use to  grasp it, and if we could glimpse that true reality, we would go mad.

    • DD says:

      MacDonald’s fantasy works fit the bill. I’m amazed that so few know of them now.  Lewis cited them as an inspiration. MacDonald also encouraged Lewis Carroll and his fantasy. When’s the last time you’ve run across GM in a Christian book store? Not likely to see Tolkien there either. Or the Space Trilogy. Classics in fantasy, Christian or otherwise.  With such a legacy, I often wonder why fantasy and sci-fi so rarely figure into Christian publishing.  Hopefully what I am reading here and elsewhere are signs of change.

      • Christian says:

        I’ve never seen MacDonald’s works in Christian book shops but then again I’ve never seen them in any books shops. I’ve seen Tolkien’s works there though and The Cosmic Trilogy (as it’s called in Australia). But the quality magical realism books are few and far between.

      • Kessie says:

        Okay, good, I just wasn’t sure if I understood what magical realism was. Now I understand it.
        And it is a shame that MacDonald isn’t sold in Christian bookstores. I’ve heard that he wrote more realistic fiction (romance novels, I think it was?) than fantasy, and they’re great, but you can’t find them anywhere.  I always wanted to give them a shot.

  6. Kaci Hill says:

    I’ll say more when I’m coherent, but I wanted to say thanks for this.   It really helped solidify some things and put voice to what I’m trying to do with my current project. 0=) I’m open to a reading list if you’ve got one.
    Btw, Tim, the post she cited turns up on the front page when I run a search on ‘magical realism.’ Hehe.

  7. Marion says:

    The two of the most well known magical realism novels are:
    Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude
    Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale (one of my all-time favorite novels)
    Also, the works of Charles de Lint and John Crowley have been labeled as magical realist fiction as well.
    I must admit I have found this genre much more appealing than traditional fantasy (Christian and Secular) and to me it has a more realistic sense of the supernatural happening in every day life.

  8. MS Quixote says:

    We have a name for a being who encounters or knows no mystery: God.

  9. Further thoughts tomorrow, but I’m not content to let the emergents/liberals, that is, the abusers of the term “mystery,” hijack the term (next they’ll come after “transcendence” anyway). It would seem that we can definitely know a truth about God, a That, such as that He is Three Persons, one God, and yet not know the How of this That.

    And that’s a Transcendent Mystery, while still a Revealed Truth — a Mysterious Truth.

  10. Marion says:

    I have read Athol Dickson’s Lost Mission.
    Here’s the review from my blog:
    I enjoyed a lot and recently bought River Rising by him as well.

  11. Because folks seem to be mentioning it a lot, I thought I’d point out that Lost Mission is one of the books in the growing Spec-Faith Library of Christian-visionary titles.

    Thanks for your review, Marion! Somehow this title leaped out to me in the Library, and now I hope to check it out sometime — especially because it seems the topics you mentioned, anyway, don’t often get addressed (definitely not directly) in Christian fiction.

    Do note that we hope to have as many reviews, or excerpts from/links to reviews, in the Library as we can. 😀

  12. Marion says:

    Thanks for your kind comments about that review.  I had read awhile back from Becky (from her blog I believe) that Lost Mission was a must read.  So I decided to take a chance and was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
    I totally agree with Tim’s review that reading Athol Dickson is not a straight road to take in one setting.  It was definitely a winding highway! LOL!   Also, I appreciated the fact that he didn’t give any neat and pat answers for his characters and their issues in Lost Mission
    Tim, I just bought Athol Dickson’s River Rising and I will be reading it in the next few weeks. I have some other books I need to read first.  But, I’m looking forward to reading it.

What do you think?