One of my very favorite genres is magical realism. I first discovered it when I was in college and my writing teacher informed me that my writing was more like magical realism than fantasy and encouraged me to write my thesis in the magical realism genre. Before this, I had never even heard of the genre, and I was extremely confused as to how it differed from fantasy. I remember at first being really defensive of my then-favorite genre, fantasy. In the world of literature, it has been my experience that academics tend to look down on sci-fi, fantasy, and horror as lesser genres that aren’t as complex as other genres in realistic fiction. Magical realism gets a lot more credit in the academic world because it isn’t as fanciful or escapist as fantasy. At first, I saw the attempt to push me toward magical realism as a dismissal of fantasy, but as I grew in my understanding of the genre I learned that they did very different but equally wonderful things.
But first, let me explain a little bit about the difference between magical realism and fantasy, as well as discuss some of my favorite examples of magical realism in storytelling today.
As much as I love magic and mythology, I also love delving into a character’s psyche. We have stories like Harry Potter, Final Fantasy, the entirety of the Marvel and DC Universes, among many others, where magic is an actual force of nature that the characters react with and use. But we also have plenty of stories where magic results from a child’s imagination. These are stories like Bridge to Terabithia or My Neighbor Totoro.
Within those universes, we are able to explore how children respond to tragedy or conflict through the imaginary world they create.
“I can’t believe this is the direction they are taking this show. Seriously, I’ve read fanfiction better than this.”
“This pairing in the show makes no sense. I mean in fanfiction authors would write novel-length fic developing their characters’ relationships, but the actual show just randomly hooks them with no development. It makes no sense.”
“Wow, this fanfic is amazing. The studio should hire this author to write for the actual show. It would be ten times better then.”
Chances are you’ve heard people say things like this, or maybe you’ve even said them yourself. I know I have.