My Milieu

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.

8 thoughts on “My Milieu

  1. I’m posting this only for the magic mudmamba points.

    I recognize Tintin, but don’t know much about the stories in which he appears. It doesn’t matter, because this is about the established tropes. The image appears to portray a (archetypical) faithful friend who is one step ahead of his master and is trying to rescue him. (The couple of sentences I just read in Wikipedia seems consistent with that.)

    There was a TV show, in the ’80s, I think, about a dog with Lassie-like intelligence. My favorite scene was when the bad guy was standing near the edge of a cliff, and there was a length of rope stretched out behind him. The dog star and another dog each picked up an end of the rope, and they tripped the bad guy to fall off the cliff, with no human guidance.

    So the point is that the smart dog that saves the day is a convention in the genre, and it helps the reader (watcher) to suspend disbelief.

    • That’s a creative answer, Dan, but there’s a simpler stream-of-consciousness answer. I’m a big fan of Tintin; I discovered him and Asterix as a kid living in England.

    • Duly noted. I’ll give you fifty mudmamba points which can be redeemed at the mudmamba store for mud, mambas, or mushrooms. I’ll still give 100 to whoever follows the breadcrumbs of my own mental meanderings. It’s actually really easy for Tintin fans.

  2. I haven’t read any Tintin, but the relationship portrayed in that little cartoon reminds me of the one between your protagonist and his mamba, from the small bit I’ve heard at your reading at the Loft. That would mean the magical realism chosen by you is a similar one to that of Tintin stories.

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