The other day on Twitter somebody said (or rather, “tweeted”) something that didn’t make sense until she explained it. She made a distinction between “fantasy” and “magical realism” by suggesting the former had established tropes and the latter didn’t.
You can argue about whether those are the best labels (don’t do it here please), but I think it’s fair to say that in speculative fiction there are definitely two routes to take: entering well-trod ground or forging new territory. The latter sounds more adventuresome and challenging, but in some ways it’s the lazy way out. Take on an established fantasy scenario (vampires, werewolves, fairies, zombies, etc.), and you have to know the canon of those works and all the expectations an audience will have for it. You can challenge those expectations a bit, but you better know what they are. If you’re a magical realist, you can make it up as you go. That’s what I do.
I’m not exactly developing my own elaborate cosmologies, but I’m not inclined to enter one that’s already picked over, either. I actually consider myself to be a realist. It’s just that real realism concedes that there’s some crazy stuff going on in the world. Or maybe I’m too lazy to be a realist and too lazy to not be a realist. I’m glad somebody came up with a smart-sounding label for it.
I think another reason I’ve never taken to that realm of speculative fiction as a reader or as a writer is because I don’t like crowds and I’m not that extroverted. Those seem like social genres; there are cons (i.e., conferences) and clubs and cliques and klatches. If there was a big conference every year for meteorological or reptilian fiction, I’d beg my publishing company not to send me. If there were one for fungal fiction, I might go, because I like to be alone anyway.
Those are my deep thoughts for the day. A hundred mudmamba points to the first person who comments on the relevance of the attached image.