Magic Realism / SERIES

Magic Realism vs. Magical Realms #2

UnknownBackground

Literary magic realism originated in Latin America when writers traveling to Europe were exposed to the art movement of the time in cultural hubs like Paris and Berlin. The term seems to have originated in the writings of the German art historian Franz Roh who considered magic realism an art category. It was later adopted by Latin American authors like Borges, Márquez and Cortazar. Literary magic realism has seen its fair share of controversy; because Westerners are more detached from mythology than non-Western culture, they tend to hold a more critical perspective of the form. Ever since One Hundred Years of Solitude by García Márquez drew the world’s attention, some have applauded the fictional style as a significant international literary movement while others either see it as no more than Latin America’s ‘authentic expression’ or refer to it as a postcolonial style per se. Today, thanks to novelists like Salman Rushdie, Ben Okri and others who consider themselves citizens of the world, the international popularity of magic realism cannot be disputed.

You can read more on the history of magic realism on the website of
Columbia University in the City of New York
(Department of English and Comparative Literature).

While novelists exploring magic realism enter the spirit world via their stories, in many cultures across the globe intermediaries like shamans and sorcerers use special abilities or powerful drugs to journey from the mundane into other worlds. In my previous post I introduced you to author Ian Mathie and his upcoming book featuring his experiences in the magical realms of African traditions: Sorcerers and Orange Peel. Below follows his first installment of a four-part series about African sorcerers:

Magical Realms: an introduction to African traditions

In Africa there are three aspects of life that are important: the mundane physical here and now, the realm of spirits and those in limbo, and the world of the ancestors and ghosts. All three occupy the same space and time, interacting and influencing each other, but since humans have limited capacity and most are unable to reach beyond the mundane physical world, they need intermediaries to manage and mediate these aspects of their lives.

These intermediaries are special people, often bred to the role, but invariably individuals who have undergone years of detailed and secret training. They’ve been initiated in stages and inducted into their craft and cult through tried and tested traditional processes. Whilst very much part of society, they’re often separated from large parts of its normal activities, held in awe and often feared by everyone else. They become exceptional people with unusual abilities, capable of defying the normally explicable rules so that their activities appear illusory or even magical.

Even so, they perform an important role in society, being the bridge between daily life and the hidden aspects, harmonising these and seeking to calm and ease the upsets which any imbalance could cause by interacting with entities beyond the reach of normal humans. To fulfil this function, they must understand not only the human behaviour, but the ways of the spirits and the ancestors and also the darker arts. Some of their rituals and practices appear very menacing and dangerous. Indeed, some of them are very dangerous, employing as they do powerful drugs, poisons and physical trials. But they have developed the skill of using parts of the psyche still little understood by western psychologists and being in touch with parts of the inner being most of us are unaware of.

These men and women take many roles but are most commonly classified as witch-doctors, sorcerers or fetish priests and their skills often extend way beyond the spiritual with practical applications like herbal medicine, surgery and even practical things like building and mechanics. With so much variety across the continent, different cultures have different names, such as shaman, sangoma, ngyanga, inutmé, anyaji, Devil and many more. Whatever they are called, they all fall into this same grouping of arcane practitioners. Whilst all share common basic features, most have some expertise that makes them unique in their environment. Special abilities enhance their perceived importance in the society they serve, for they are, mostly, primarily human beings and subject to the same urges and motivations as the rest of us.

Magic realism as literary genre

Five sangomas in Kwa-Zulu Natal
Creative Commons License Image

The latest volume in my African Memoir series, due to be published at the end of October 2013, is called Sorcerers and Orange Peel. It’s about West Africa and features a number of interesting sorcerers I encountered whilst working there as a water engineer and development officer. The book is in three parts and begins with a man who was both expert in creating illusions and who served a vital role in the guidance of souls to the hidden worlds when their physical bodies died. He was a man whose name was not to be spoken except in the sacred place and his role included clearing up the physical debris their lives left behind. To achieve this, his alter ego was that fearsome creature the Spotted Hyena, an animal with an evil reputation, famous for devouring carrion in the bush.

That this extraordinary person, clad in animal skins and smelling like rotting carrion, really was a man could be in no doubt. He touched me and I felt the warmth of him on my skin; he took food that I offered, ate it and behaved like any normal man. Yet in the blink of an eye he transformed himself into that scavenger of the bush, a snarling, drooling hyena, to demonstrate his alter ego and explain its role—I only realised his reason for doing so sometime later; when it happened, I was too scared to think—I am not given to imagining things of great drama, being more inclined to an empirical view. I know from the tracks the animal left that it was as real as the man had been and as I am myself, even though recounting it may seem to many minds like something fantastical. Therein lies part of his illusion.

A hyena tracking a buck in Namibia

A hyena tracking a buck in Namibia

The presence and function of this sorcerer was later explained to me by another person with special powers. She was an old woman who’d seen great moments of history and who claimed the ability to foresee events. She and her aged medicine man husband, Ayenu, had reached a turning point in their lives and had been prepared for death. Due to my arrival and intervention their course was changed and both survived. They left the dying house and were returned to their community. Nasia told me she’d foreseen my arrival and knew this was supposed to happen. She also told me of other things, personal to myself, which years later and over a thousand miles away, came true exactly as she had predicted them. She also told me of other things that would occur locally, and they all happened as she had predicted.

On returning the two old people to their village, I encountered the village witch doctor, Etu Ikemongoutlou. A seemingly normal man with the hands of a hard working farmer, he could see into the other realms and talk directly to the spirits. He was to play an important role later in the story, but first he needed help from a sorcerer with very different powers.

My own upbringing in Africa exposed me not only to many people like these but to the underlying belief systems that give them their place in society. Growing up, I was privileged to participate in several initiation ceremonies along with my peers and friends. The fact that my skin was a different colour made no difference. These ceremonies opened windows in my understanding of people’s role in society and the worlds they inhabit and influence. Even things I do not understand completely, I’m usually able to accept and thereby rub shoulders and co-exist with them. As a western trained psychologist, I’m also interested in their ways, and I hope by writing about them I can open a few small windows in the minds of my readers.

Memoirs of African storiesAuthor’s bio

Ian Mathie was born in Edinburgh and grew up in Africa and the Far East. He has worked as a Royal Air Force pilot, rural development officer in Africa, high-tech irrigation project manager in the Middle East and industrial psychologist in the UK.

Today, Ian is known as a prolific author of stories about his experiences in Africa. His contact with the dark continent began whilst still a baby, and although he has lived in Warwickshire for the past 16 years, Ian has never been able to shake off his fascination with Africa. He can be contacted at website / Facebook / mailto:ian@mud-hut.co.uk.

Ian Mathie’s books are out as paperbacks and e-books—I suggest you go to his website to see ‘how to buy’ this remarkable series of African stories. His fifth memoir, Sorcerers and Orange Peel, will be published by Mosaïque Press in November 2013.

Please join Ian and me over the next few weeks as I explore magic realism as a literary genre and he talks about his upcoming book featuring his experiences in the magical realms of African traditions. Bruce Nicoll will conclude the series with a post about his interest in shamanism and w.i.p. YA novel on the concept of adolescent rite-of-passage.

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60 thoughts on “Magic Realism vs. Magical Realms #2

  1. Ian, welcome at My Rite of Passage. This is going to be a superb series and I’m very much looking forward to our readers’ responses. For those who might not know, I want to clarify that KwaZulu Natal is a region in South Africa, formerly known as Natal Province (referring to the image of the sangomas).

    You mention that some of the rituals and practices of the African sorcerers “appear very menacing and dangerous. Indeed, some of them are very dangerous, employing as they do powerful drugs, poisons and physical trials.” This is very true about the witchdoctors in South Africa as many of them practice ‘black magic.’ Have you ever come across a particular South African strand of sorcery? Do you know the term ‘muti?’ – I see Wikipedia spell it ‘muthi.’

    I see our tourism board website features an article about “The Shamans of Africa” with a link to visit one of these South African sangomas – how cool is that? Check it out.

    http://www.southafrica.net/sat/content/en/au/what-to-do/our-people-and-culture/culture/visit-a-sangoma-0/

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  3. Hi Ian. I am a friend of Wendy Reis, (also my editor). This was particularly interesting to me. While I am not personally familiar with the scenarios you describe it was interesting to see how some of these ideas have crept into my fictional fantasy trilogy. It was Rosanne Dingli who pointed me in your direction and also who first called my work ‘magical realism’. Too bad there is no such category among those available for publishing.

  4. Hi Yvonne, I’m glad to make your acquaintance; I’ve made my way over to your blog and read some of the teasers to your books. While there’s, obviously, a clear differentiation between magic realism, fantasy and science-fiction, I can see how your writing seems to fall between fantasy and magic realism. BTW, thanks for sharing a link to this post. I look forward to staying in touch. Ian will be around sometime soon to take part in the discussion too. Best, Belinda.

  5. Belinda and Ian, A brilliant series that speaks to me in terms I can relate to. Twenty years ago when I was living in Mexico I became involved with sorcery and witchcraft to such an extent that they dominated my life and influenced my personal decisions. My experiences were very different from yours in Africa and seem tame in comparison, but they were mind-bending, What you saw – the shape-shifting Spotted Hyena – is not uncommon in the magical realm though most people in this reality-based world would say it was an illusion. In pre-Columbian Mexico tribes had shape-shifting spies in animal form enter enemy camps. Not just in Africa and Latin America. Black magic is common in Mexico, with spells and hexes that cause both material and emotional damage and loss. I learned that entering the magical realm had consequences and made a conscious decision to escape from it. What I have left from that time is a book that I wrote while under the influence, so to speak, that would be classified as magical realism but is based on fact. Look forward to reading yours, Ian.

  6. I was reminded last night that even in our increasingly secular western world, where people give less and less credence to spirits, we still hang onto the vestiges of ancient beliefs and have transformed them into entertainment for our children. For last night was All Hallows, popularised now as Halloween, when children dress in gaudy, gruesome costumes representing ghouls, ghosts and spirits, and tour the neighbourhood having fun scaring people (mainly each other) and harvesting treats from, bemused adults.
    But what’s it all about? All Hallows is the one day in the year when the positive forces that protect us from evil spirits are at their weakest . This allows all the disturbed and deranged spirits to congregate and occasionally reach across the dimensional divide, intruding into our mundane world. The next day is All Saints, when the positive forces regain control, banishing the evil influences back to the dark realms they inhabit, leaving the day after that clear for All Souls, when the saved and blessed souls shall receive their reward.
    I remember this same festival being celebrated in our village in West Africa. We called it ée’jéma’ani. On the day we now call Halloween, everyone was back in their own family compound before sunset. During the day our village witch-doctor had gone round and attached a protective fetish to every doorways and gate in the village. It was a busy time of year for him. Each family paid him a token fee of grain or other food for this service, the payment being handed over by the youngest member of the household with ritual words acknowledging the protection.
    As darkness came, we became aware of the spirits gathering and fluttering around the rooftops. Small gusts of wind came out of nowhere, spreading unfamiliar dust and debris. Strange things, not normal in our daily lives, began to fall into some of our courtyards; things like frogs, reeds, unusual leaves, and unfamiliar seed pods. In my neighbour’s compound, even a dead mouse landed. It was a species unknown in the area.
    Nobody knew where these came from and we were sure it was not a prank from the children, all of whom were confined at home. People called out to oneanother over the walls, telling neighbours of anything unusual and offering reassurance as the night wore on. If a family was severely afflicted by malevolent spirits, word would be passed in this way to summon the witch-doctor, who would then come and cast more protective spells to drive the spirits away. He took no payment for this as he was also protecting his own community (and his own interests), using his ability to reach into the spirit world to calm things down.
    Few families got much peace that night, and the following afternoon we had a village party, lubricated with copious quantities of millet beer and dancing to celebrate our good fortune. If anyone was unfortunate enough to have died during the night, there were special ceremonies that day to prevent their spirit from being left in limbo. Nobody wanted it to join with any lingering tormented spirits from the night before, so we ensured they made a full and peaceful transition into the realm of the ancestors.
    Magic was used that night, and the protection it gave us was very real.

  7. Susan, thank you for your contribution; I’m fascinated by your experiences and would love to know more. My husband has taken Ayahuasca and this series will conclude with an article by him on Shamanism. Has your book been published yet? I looked on Amazon, but couldn’t find your name.

  8. Ian, you’re so right about most people having no faith in the spirit world yet are ready to embrace those traditions for entertainment sake without even being aware of the irony of their actions or the fact that they are, indeed, passing these traditions on to their children. Maybe future generations will make more of it again … let’s face it: the world needs something new to believe in since the clerics and politicians are not delivering on their ‘promises.’ I think most people are too afraid to look inward these days, let alone look outward.

    As I mention in my memoir, this is my very first memory: “Although I had embraced the concept of soul awareness only late in life, my fascination with the ethereal body had started in childhood; I would make eye contact with myself in the mirror, wondering about my inner being, hoping it would show itself if I held my gaze long enough.”

    • Gaazing into your own eyes to look at your spirit is something taught in a number of African societies. The mirror is usually a dish or bowl of water, and part of the experience is achieved by holding it so still that the surface remains still and clear. When you have mastered this level of self control, the other elelments of self exploration come relatively easily.
      It is a technique that should be tried by all those interested in introspective meditation, and it does work. To the horror of my fanatical Shi’ite guards, I used this technique to calm myself when I was held briefly in an Iranian jail during the frevolution. They gave me a severe beating for heresy, but that’s another story.
      Try it, you may surprise yourself by what it can reveal.

  9. I was somewhere between 5 and 8 when I developed this awareness. But then you grow up and all seems silly. Hmm, I need to get back into meditation, so I’ll give it a go. Seriously, you were held in an Iranian jail? Is this another book in the making?

    • Yes, and possibly, if I can bring myself to write it. It was nine days of hell.
      I was working just outside isfahan at the time of the revolution and got picked up coming back into the city. My local colleague and i were separeted when the dragged me off to a lock up. He was syuspended from a crane – their preferred way of hanging people – because he was a very minor member of the royal family (about 2,700th in line he said). Anyone like that was disposed of and those they associated with were arrested and interrogated – or shou;d that have been interroregated?! I was lucky to get out of there.
      But that is definitely another story and not one for this blog.

  10. My Word Press account is Susan P. James. See if I can change it.
    I’m not on Amazon yet. Book 1 in Recognition series, which I wrote during that period, should come out next year. It’s taken me many years to get it off the shelf and in shape for publication.
    Penelope J.

    • Penelope J – Spring cleaning, even in autumn, has its benefits when onre discovers manuscripts set aside long ago. Apart from bringing back the memories from when they were first drafted, they provide a whole hew opportunity to revamp yourwords and get another book out there for your readers to share. I have three such manuscripts waiting for ‘the trreatment’.

  11. Pennie, I finally got to your website/blog. I think it’s because this time you commented on mine from yours; in other words, being logged into WordPress; so, all I have to do was click on your name. What a story; I can’t wait to read the book! Everything you describe about the advertising world, are the gremlins that stalk my husband’s dreamworld … he’s hanging in there by the skin of his teeth. The need for reinventing himself will have to be faced sooner or later. You story will make a difference in many people’s lives, because so many of us will be able to relate to it.

    • Belinda, thanks for your kind words. When I read in your book, your observation that here in the US advertising people rely heavily on research results made me laugh. I know that world as well having made a second career in Hispanic research in the US for eleven years. As for advertising, we are always hanging on by the skin of our teeth, and in the end it’s a matter of how long we can play the game and outlast the others of our generation who are also hanging on as best they can.

  12. From for last comment, Belinda, I conclude that the world of American advertising is in fact Real Magicalism.

    Going back over previous comments, may I pickup on a few points?
    Muti I have definitely encountered, both in its South African forms and in varients all over Africa. The concept differs little between cultures, only the detain and viciousness with which it is applied. It represents one of the least desitrable aspects of African magic, having little or no good in it.
    I haven’t bothered looking it up on Wikipedia as i find so much erroneous material on that site it is seldom worth consulting.

    Yvonnes’s comment that there ought to be a category or genre in literature for Magical Realism is a good one. Perhaps we ought to band together and start one. Who defines and names genres anyway? Why not the people who do the writing?

    Susan’s comments on shape shifting interest me. It is quite common in African mythology and also in the spiritual traditions. Going right back to the beginning of time when the earth was first populated by living forms, there has been transference. And at the beginning men and beast were able to cross dimensional barriers too. Some elements of these ancient beliefs still persist quite strongly and it is pleasing to know that similar things occur in traditions from other parts of the world. I hope you will tell us more about your book, Susan, so we too can read and learn.

      • I suppose one somehow has to persuade the people who run the genre listings. Would that be the same as whoever runs the ISBN/ ASBN listings? If enough authors demanded a new category, even alongside existing ones, who knows what might be possible. My books, for example, might fit several categories, but those who control their registration have them firmly branded as Memoir only. No mention of Africa, development, adventure, travel, different cultures, spiritualism or magical realism.
        I think this is something that has hung over from the old days of the pub;lishing industry, where the publishers set the groupings and these got adopted and taken over when book numbering was introduced. That seems wrong to me, and I think authors should have more control.Perhaps now, with the brakes taken off the publishing industry by the internet, a change may be possible.After all, a few years ago, ‘Young Adult’ didn’t exist as a genre, but now it is very firmly established.

        • I think those changes may come sooner rather than later because of e-books, self-publishing and authors finding and using their own key words. What i think needs to be added to that thrust is a more direct approach with publishers and distributors, possibly beginning with Amazon.

          I am NOT a lobbyist so i don’t know how to go about making ourselves heard by them in an effective way. I do think that if we can get Amazon to listen others will need to take note. After all, it is to the sellers advantage if it results on more sales.

  13. While I side with the ‘rebels’ of the book world, there are ‘rules’ I defy and some I’m in favor of for the sake of literary standards and professional opportunities. I paid a lot for, and worked hard at, my MFA and I hope to be taken seriously as a writer and teacher of creative writing. That does not imply that writers don’t first and foremost come at it with inherent talent and hard work, but there’s a lot to be said for academic standards and professional approach. I say this now because, after a two-year stint in the book world as an indie publisher, I’m horrified at the amount of crap out there and it’s saturating the market to such an extent that it’s become impossible to ‘separate the wheat from the chaff.’ It has screwed up pricing too, because a lot of these people who throw a book together in 3 – 6 months think nothing of selling that work at 99c for an e-book. Thanks to our freebie culture, readers go for those (and the free downloads, of course) rather than ‘value’ good writing by respecting its worth.

    Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now! Ian, I do appreciate that you’re proposing a workable solution in terms of expanding the ISNB listings, so my rant is not aimed at your response.

    Strictly speaking, Yvonne’s writing seems to fall in the Fantasy genre since the settings are otherworldly; what happens within these settings seems to be the thoughts and actions of ‘normal’ people. From that point, it seems to be a reversal of the magical realism genre. In my humble opinion, having your writing ‘classified’ as Fantasy is good, because it’s one of the most popular genres of the time.

    • Strictly speaking categorizing my work as Fantasy is correct. However Fantasy is such a broad genre and there are so many different types of it, none of which clearly identify what I do, that the my books get lost. Yes, Fantasy is popular. In my case that is a disadvantage. Readers have specific expectations for that category that my books do not meet. Even my settings, while not historically accurate, are Earthly, not truly ‘otherworldly’. Categories need to help searchers find what they want. While Fantasy may be the best of a bad bunch it really doesn’t work.

  14. Would you say the film industry has a more expansive acceptance of cross-genre scripts? If so, you might want to try your hand at turning one of your story’s into a film script. In the meantime, don’t give up – keep ‘talking’ it via your blog and book descriptions. Seek out other writers who do the same so that you can band together. That’s how change happens – sometimes quickly and unexpectedly, sometimes slowly – but nothing ever stays the same, so you might still see yourself as a pioneer in the future. If you want to add a blog post to this series on that topic, I’ll gladly run with it. Let me know; if you can have it ready to go live in those first couple of weeks in Jan., 2014, it’ll be great.

    • That’s an interesting idea. I wish I knew more about the film industry and their approach to genres. I do have contact with a screen-writer how liked my first book well enough to take notes with a goal of writing a screen play for it.

      Still, I think some kind of focussed group pressure could also be helpful.

  15. Also, bombarding the book distributors like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, etc., with request to at least expand their category tags is valid and you’ll have a lot of support and trailblazer peers there.

    • For myself, I’d like to see Magical Realism added as a category – likely within Fantasy. It is not listed as even a sub-category at the present time. Another thing I have long wanted is to see Fantasy and Science fiction separated. The industry lumped them together for convenience before they each became so popular but it is not valid to do so. Ideally I’d like to see Magical Realism as a category on its own, apart from Fantasy but I think that is too much to hope for.

  16. One of my MFA peers teaches screenwriting, so I could ask her. What would your expectation be, exactly? To see more categories within the magical realism and fantasy genres? Or to have a new genre created to suit your writing?

  17. This has indeed provoked some interesting and lively discussion. There are a number of points I’d like to pick up:
    Firstly, Belinda, we do value your MFA. it is one of the things that makes this blog stand out from the mush by presenting quality topics, well thought out and explained and then opened to mature discussion. This wouldn’t have happened had you not taken that training and applied what you learned. I’m sure we’re all grateful for that, as we benfit not only from your wisdom, but from the standards you set.
    Yvonnes’ idea of addressing Amazon (and, presumably Goodreads ,who are now owned by Amazon) is a good one and might well be a good route in. However, after your comment about Yvonne’s writing being correctly classified as Fantasy, it makes me wonder if this isn’t jumping the gun. Perhaps we should spare a few moments clearly to define what should be classified as Magical Realism.
    What qualities would you reauire for this? Should it be entirely on-Fiction, or can NF and Fiction blend successfully to make this new genre? How do we draw the distinctions between this new form and Fantasy? Because people’s understanding varies so widely, this may be a hard one to define, and that may be why nobody has yet attempted to do so.
    I may know a little about magic and the some of the facts pertaining to the reality of magic as practised in Africa, but i wouldn’t consider myself well qualified to decide such things. Maybe panel discussions like this and the emergence of a consensus needs to be the first step.
    Meanwhile, does anyone know how one goes about enquiring how Amazon and Goodreads decide their genres / categories?
    As a last point, I too would favour seeing MR established as a category of its own, but definitely not withoin Fantasy. Alongside, maybe, but not within; it would just get lost there and not be seen.

  18. Ian, those are good questions, especially about fiction versus non-fiction. It does muddy the waters considerably. My tunnel vision had me lose sight of the non-fiction side to this. Do you think it is possible to have both fiction and non-fiction in the category if it were created? I do see it as possible but each book would need to be clearly labelled. It might be a challenge for readers unaccustomed to this. There would definitely be a learning curve.

  19. Anything is a challenge to readers when they foirst encounter vit. Read a little and learn you like it, and the challenge falls away, leaving the pleasure and fulfilment.
    I see no reason why the genre can’t be listed as MR(N-F) and MR(F) to accommodate both. That could show the distinction (once the demarcation ;ines had been decided) between MR(F) and Fantasy. I would suggest the former should be confined to Earth bound tales whilst Fantasy could include other worlds and quasi dimensions.
    It works for me.

    • That makes sense to me – to keep MR(F) to earth-bound tales. When setting become too alien they definitely cross into the realm of fantasy. So – shall we begin to harass – er -ask Amazon to add those two categories: Magical Realism – Non-fiction and Magical Realism – Fiction? And if so, what is the best way to do that and get noticed?

      • I haven’t a clue about how one goes about this or who to ask, but it occurs to me that it might be useful to begin by compiling a list of books that might fit the category. the, at least, one has something to show in justifucation for the need to have this group recognised.

        I think we should also ask to allow books to fall into more than one category and to have both listed. Some of mine, for example would fall into MR(N-F) and also they are Memoir. They stand a better chance of getting noticed if ;listed in both categories.
        Does anyone else have any ideas / suggestions?

    • Possibly – but readers don’t want to click any more than they have to. Since it is not yet recognized as a sub-genre it makes more sense to me to set it apart entirely. The purpose is to have readers able to find what they want as easily as possible.

    • I definitely do not want my books to be aligned in any way with Fantasy. They all happened! It’s fact, not imagination, so please don’t suggest that MR should ever be a sub genre of Fantasy. The other way round, might be more appropriate as Fantasy could fall into MR(F), but i believe there is enough of a distinction for them to be kept completely separate..

      • I certainly see that a separation is necessary. Which brings us back to the puzzle of how do do this in a way that readers will understand and that gives them what they expect. I also think it best so have a totally separate category but we still need to distinguish fiction from non-fiction.

        Compiling a list makes sense – I just don’t know where to find examples of those in the fiction side.

        • Would it be cheeky to suggest that when it’s ready, Belinda’s novel might fit the fiction group? I’m sure if everyone puts their mind to it a list will soon emerge. I’ll go and trawl my bookshelves and get back to you.

  20. Amazon, for all their faults, is super efficient, so I’d start by getting a discussion going via their ‘author central.’ I put in a request for something yesterday, had a response within hours, and by this morning they’d complied with my wishes.

    • Can you give us a link to your Amazon discussion so that we can all join in?
      And where is everybody else who reads this blog? Why aren’t you all joining in this discussion? Surely you have opinions and ideas?

  21. I think these discussions are marvelous for exploring alternatives, though I’d like to caution against creating confusion. First of all, you either write fiction or nonfiction. That said, the issues comes in after that, being the question of what class of writing does your story conform to most and what class to a lesser degree – if it includes even more identifiable – but minor in comparison – elements, does it really matter? Could that not be covered in the book description? Surely, with all that you’d have your writing neatly packaged and ready to go? That said, it does not mean I don’t share your pain. My novel is, of course, fiction, then magic realism (because of the large volume given to this, though an equal volume is given to psycho-drama; only, there’s no such ‘official’ class. If still think if only the distributors could expand the tags, it will ease the problem.

    • Yvonne makes a good point. the whole point about genre lisitngs is that it points potential readers towards books with common ground.
      My new book, Sorcerers and Orange Peel in absolutely non-fiction, yet it contains quite a lot about the doings and achievements of a number of sorcerers. Whilst to some people these things may appear fantastical, that is because they are either that wasy disposed, or they don’t understand the culture in which the events took place. There most certainly is an =apsect of reality that we, in the vwest, commonly call ‘magic’ and it is very real and demonstrable.
      In describing those events, I am using memoir, because my own dieect experience is what the whole book is based on. How then can one get other tag words regularly and consitently attached to the title to make it more visible other than by having it listed, as suggested in a new genre: Magical Reality(Non-Fiction) ?

  22. Thank you for those links. I’ll certainly take a close look at them.

    As for the book description covering things – that only works if that title has already been discovered by the person seeking a new read. What is needed is change at the beginning of the search so that they can then see the description. It’s that first category that is the important one.

  23. Thank you, Ian. That is exactly what I am trying to get across. The suggestion of genre for my work might be “Magical Realism/Fiction”, or “Fiction/Magical Realism” (which might work best) On the other hand, if we add to many new genres that opens up a whole new can of worms. It’s a puzzle that will take some time to work out. The bottom line is that we want readers to find what they are looking for – and what they expect – without too much effort.

  24. lol. I do think your choice of memoir, as you currently use it, might be one link as your work is based on your own experiences. But again, those looking for a cozy, (or not) life journey might find that misleading. Perhaps, as I thought for mine – beginning with Non-fiction might be best – then sub-category Magic Realism (as opposed to magical since it is already used that way).

    Which brings me to another question – do we want “Magic” or “Magical” and does it make a difference in this case whether it is for fiction or non-fiction? For instance would “Magic” work better for non-fiction and “magical” for fiction? It all comes down to SEO – what do readers actually type into the search bar.

    • Taking your last point first, Yvonne, I think it unlikely that many people would type in ‘magical reality’ until the genre was well established and known about. Even the word ‘magic’ might be unlilely. If I were searching i would be more inclined to put ‘sorcery’ or ‘witchcraft’, even ‘black magic’ or ‘supernatural’ as these are the words most commonly associated with the topics involved. It’s a bit like the length of a piece of string- there are infinite choices and no precise definition.

      As for Magical Realism, the more i think about it the less I think it fit my work. Rather it ishould be called Magic Reality, for that it what it is. At the same time, that giuve the impression of something slightly spooky and brushes aside the essential spiritual aspects, which make up by far the largest component. Inexplicable tricks, which people normally think of as magic, whilst present, form only a minor aspect of the subject.

  25. The term has been used interchangeably over the years. If I remember correctly, it was referred to as magical realism within the literary context to differentiate if from its visual arts predecessor. I prefer Magic Realism (double noun) as opposed to Magical (adjective) Realism (noun). But then, I do like to be pedantic.

  26. I agree, Ian; to refer to your work as magic realism would denigrate it to artistic style rather than honor the content, the traditions you’re writing about with due reverence. Personally, I would draw attention to the concept of shamanism; that’s what I intend doing with my book description, in addition to it abiding by magic realism (fiction) as a genre. Unfortunately – again – I doubt if that ‘tag’ is available to us, so the book distributors would have to take note of at least expanding the tag selections.

    • In pack ice new leads keep opening up, and some get quite wide before they close up again and the ice becomes a continuous sheet once more.It’s all part of the dynamic.

      Belind, you have a point. Shamanism is a word i shall adopt and add to my keywords lists.

  27. Matt Pallomary, author of “Land without Evil,” calls himself a shamanic explorer or shamanic author. His book deals with shamanism in Latin America and shape-shifting among others. Sorry that I can’t continue with this discussion but have deadlines to meet.

I welcome comments, and I always respond.

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