I was thinking, schlepping the laundry up and down the basement stairs, about the panel at Minicon 38
on magical realism, which--as it happens--papersky
, and I were all on. I realized two things more or less simultaneously, as I negotiated the laundry basket around a corner: (1.) That was a really good panel and really smart things were said, and (2.) I was already losing the details, and if I didn't write down what I remembered right now
, in a month or so all I'd have was, Yeah, dude, that panel was excellent.
So these are my notes.
I no longer remember who said what, although my memory tells me that most of the really clever things, like the neat chiasmus of "magical realism vs. realist magicism," were Papersky's. Papersky and Peg, if you remember attributions, please tell me.
Also, I'm going to be extrapolating into new pieces of argument (i.e., things that weren't
said on the panel); those bits will be blockquoted and in italics.
The main thing I remember was the definition we managed, that in fantasy, magic is systematic and active. It's something people do
. In magical realism (MR), magic is something that happens
; no one understands why and the story doesn't have to explain it, either. I remember the example I was using was James Thurber's story about the man who finds a unicorn in his garden.
Magic in MR is about exposing and exploring character. In fantasy, it's part of the world-building
and often I think a major part of the structure of the plot. Magic isn't an intrusion in fantasy; it's part of the furnishings. In MR it isn't necessarily an intrusion per se--the characters seem to accept the inexplicable happenings without fuss--but it is out of the ordinary. The point of magical realism is that something fantastical happens in a recognizable, veristic world. A version of the "real world" with an explicable, coherent, and consistent magic system is not veristic.
I think we talked a little bit about "real world" stories vs. secondary world stories, but I no longer remember what conclusions we came to, aside from the obvious fact that the two oppositions do not map onto each other.
War for the Oaks is fantasy, not MR. Some of Ursula K. Le Guin's stuff comes extremely close to secondary-world MR.
I remember Peg talking about the book she's working on (which sounds fascinating), and then my memory dries up. I feel certain there were other things we talked about, but I don't know what they are. Anyone want to help fill in the gaps and/or continue the discussion?