My Brand of Fantasy Magic

…isn’t really fantasy at all. Magical realism, perhaps?

I recently re-watched Constantine (starring The Man of One Face: Keanu Reeves), where the protagonist spends his life fighting to keep the balance between heaven and hell via magical relics, know-how, and insight into traveling to hell and back. He’s dark, brooding, quippy, and so self-destructive he’s dying of lung cancer. It’s a delve into what I consider magical realism: people, many people, believe wholeheartedly that the ability exists (even if it’s only for one person) to… insert random miracle here. Be it travel through hell, talk to the dead, turn water to wine, transform into a totem-animal, talk to rocks, converse with ancestors long dead, see auras, dowse, possess another person/animal.

A lot of people don’t. And that’s cool. A lot of people pursue religion as a form of self-government, so instead of spending the time to understand themselves, they look to religion: “This is bad (according to the Book), so I won’t do it.” It also kills multiple birds by creating a community of similar-thinking people, which reinforces the feeling of “this is right.” Which is cool. That’s what certain governmental bodies do. And we’re governed by many circles, be it personal, family, friends, religion, spiritual (separate from religion), communal, work, local, federal, world. And that’s just what I pulled off the top. This is a digression and I’ll stop it now. I’m trying to show how this also holds its own forms of power: any single one of these bubbles could specify “this is bad” and a person follow it simply because, well, someone says to. Even the “personal” circle. Which in itself is a form of mind control.

I had a simple purpose when I began writing twelve years ago: have fun, connect with people, share my thoughts. It’s still the same purpose, albeit a little evolved. My thoughts developed into something a little stronger: magic is real. Some magic is real. Not all. Magic Missiles and two hundred foot orc giants with enchanted tree trunks for armor isn’t. Science keeps trying to say it has all the answers worth knowing (while people touting Science as the new religion also try to say, like a marijuana enthusiast, Science has ALL the answers), but it doesn’t. Neil deGrasse Tyson recently said, “That’s what’s so great about science. You don’t have to believe in it for it to be true. It exists without your permission.”

Mostly.

I know enough about Science to know the importance of “observable” and “human fallacy.” I’ve been reading about human beings having more than five senses. More like nine. Pressure, balance to name two. It really doesn’t matter how often Science revises what truths it accepts as fact. What matters is it’s always changing in its definition, always updating its databases.

Next, to define science into two subcategories: hard science (physics for one) and soft science (psychology for two). I know too many well-meaning Science worshippers who put it all together. Soft sciences, the stuff our thoughts are made of, the stuff of our dreaming, of our extra-sensories, of our deeper knowledge, of our abstract pattern recognitions, is very wide open and mostly unexplored, despite the 100 or so years we’ve had to study it. Why? Unobservable. Or, difficult to observe. Assumptions based on calculations and patterns of tests.

Magic is a soft science. In fact, eventually, all that “magic” will fall into some sub-sub category of either a sense or quirk of one or two chromosomes in some errant mutative family line (or, you know, something a person develops through meditation and a proven set of practices). Since our realities are subjected to the extent of our senses, there is nothing–absolutely nothing–to say I can’t dream another person’s dreams, for example. Or travel a place constructed wholly of peoples’ thoughts, over time, like a great big living world placed overtop our own. Or fight constructs of modern religion with sheer self-certainty alone.

We all give off energy. That’s a fact. We exist because of it. Byproducts of processes going in in our bodies. We can’t see it. We assume the effect of said energy release is negligible to our surroundings simply because, since we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

I find a new awakening going on, in this culture. In this society. A long, long time ago, during the time of the birthing religions (200 BC to, say, 1000 AD), the understanding exploded of a second, third, and perhaps even fourth sublayer above the Real. This is the stuff of the new old religions. It is the backbone. Now that religion is failing so many people of this time of “Scientific Certainty,” they’re turning to Science and Atheism. Which is cool. They do their thing. As long as they aren’t killing in the name of Neil deGrasse Tyson, it’s all gravy.

The New Reformation, I guess, comes. Or a Second Enlightenment. I’m only sorry I don’t get to know it fully.

So the magic I use in my writing comes from a deep place, a sub-tonal to the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and the Gitas, and the Books of the Dead, and whatever else. It comes from a constructed place–a governing place similar to those I listed–where the reality is multi-faceted, science is currently too short-sighted to involve itself, and energy talks with the voice of long-dead preachers. The magic I use is energy, plain and pure, built up on the shoulder-plates of imaginative thinkers and socio-pariahs like Einstein and Twain and Jung who, in another century (or life), would be heralded as prophets or even gods.

My brand of fantasy magic comes from the coupling of intelligent thought and passionate realization, of fever dreams and deep stillness. My brand of magic is the extent of the human condition, of spirituality that exists for itself, of ripe power sieved through governing filters. And that’s just in the reality.

In my writing, it collects the results of What Ifs and runs tests until the pattern is undeniable in its repetition.

Sorry. Magic is a lot of things. For me, it must stem from reality. It must stem from science and its branches are religion. Its fruits are you and I, the readers and writers, and it’s more than simply an axe-like tool. It’s a whole undiscovered place, like a continent with slightly different rules. It’s a way of breathing. It’s a way of bleeding. It’s a way of interaction.

It’s so. Fucking. Sexy.

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Genre-Hunting

I’ve been watching a lot of Supernatural on Netflix lately. It’s hokey and only the arc episodes are properly thought-out, but it’s quite enjoyable, nonetheless. Obviously it’s successful, or else it wouldn’t have 126 episodes. What makes it successful?

The genre requires “sexy” (gag me, anyone?) guys jumping around, doing sexy things while saving “sexy” (anorexic, anyone?) girls from violent supernatural things. Like ghosts. And demons. And Wendingos. And water wraiths. Anyway.

This brings me to my topic: genre-hunting. If you’re not writing about dragons besieging a castle, or vampires making out with werewolves, or private investigators invoking Solomon’s Ring on some demon, your genre might be a little more vague than you’d think.

I, for one, am rewriting a Supernatural-esque book. In fact, the closest I’ve seen my book come to, in comparison, is a movie I recently watched (but has been out Forever) called The Skeleton Key. Well thought-out (except for the ending), very well done.

This makes me happy. Why? I’ve spent a lot of time (too much, to be honest) trying to figure out what kind of genre my latest book falls under. I’m proud to announce it’s not Urban Fantasy, or Modern Fantasy, or Religious Fantasy… but Fantasy Thriller. Oh yes. That genre exists, too. Who thought this would be so mind-numbingly complicated? My MC is not an antagonist, though he’s pretty screwed up in the head (NOT ‘punk’), he’s not a private investigator though he does have to unravel a mystery (NOT ‘mystery’), and the story doesn’t walk the streets of a big city, though it involves an MC that accrues a lot of foot traffic (NOT ‘urban’). And it is a fantasy series (NOT religious fantasy), even though it focuses strongly on the religious, and the main enemy is le demones. What IS it? Strongly psychological (read: screws loose) mind-puzzle, filled with conflict and danger (and sexy girls all around him), and a race against time.

What does this mean? It means I have myself a thriller. “Race against time” is the clincher: my MC has to save people when he realizes things will constantly get worse until he stoppers the faucet, so to speak. People die. He fights himself as much as, or more than, the enemy.

Whew. I’d still file it under Fantasy. He talks to ghosts too much. He walks the Astral paths. He bows and says, “Namaste” even when he doesn’t have to.

What’s YOUR genre? Is it cut-and-dry? Or is it oddly obscure?

And a follow-up: What genre does Harry Potter fall under? Kid’s book? If you couldn’t use that as an identifier, would you go Modern Fantasy? Or High Fantasy (alternative world of magic/hogwarts/etc)?

Thanks for reading.

Real Life, Spun Fantasy.

My fiancee is an incredible person. She’s dynamic, dangerous, badass. She’s powerful. Sometimes scary.

I’ve never traveled the world. Never saw the towers of London or Pisa or India. Never drank the natives’ water. She has. Seven years of it, and before, a life of complex not-quite-reality. Hers is a story that would put Peter Pan to shame, that would decimate any horror movie you’ve ever watched, and threaten to tear the very seams of your understanding of the world.

Out of respect for her, I won’t divulge details. Out of respect for her, I put my work under Fantasy, because otherwise people would heckle, hate, and disbelieve.

I write fantasy because it isn’t. Turn on the TV, watch the presidential race, and look me in the eye and tell me people don’t believe in magic. Follow the brilliance of a disassociative personality that has constructed worlds with autistic-like dedication to detail. Follow any scientific discourse to its roots–any single one–and you’ll find the breath of the unknown. Study psychology to any degree: everyone has elaborate, constructed realities that are wholly different from each other.

We traverse worlds entirely our own, in this bubble of the senses, sharing with others only in limited quantities: sights, smells, sounds, tastes. But the things that come from behind the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands, inner ear are entirely our own.

From a psychological standpoint, her story is definable. Anyone dedicated to the debunk will find precedent elsewhere, play it up to her elaborate ability to follow non-verbal communication, spatially understand emotions in a way most haven’t honed, understand nuances in tone, pitch, word choice. From a psychological standpoint, my fiancee is a body-reader. From the standpoint of almost anyone meeting her, she’s a mind-reader.

She dreams of apartments before we visit them, drawing layouts and dimensions that match perfectly. She follows unseen things. She’s a walking Tarot deck. She’s the most spiritual person I’ve ever met. She is, sometimes, a conduit to God. Other cultures were absorbed by her: when she walked around in India, people would stop and thank her for helping them. She had followers without even speaking a word.

She puts fortune-tellers to shame. She sees ghosts but does not speak to them, becaues they aren’t welcome. She grounds and calms and heals from across thousands of miles. She knows when a friend is pregnant and waits for her call. She understands people on a subliminal level.

From a scientific standpoint, she’s just lucky. She feels storms as headaches, is incredibly sensitive to food, vibrations, electricity–she’s developed, created, endorsed, reinforced a complex, complicated reality through false positives that retroactively verify her notions.

She grew up in a family of salt-of-the-earth republicans: father middle management in UPS, mother a stay-at-home, both Catholic. She had two older brothers that saw the same things she did, but never spoke about it. She lived a story any person would label as urban fantasy. Anyone.

I’ve had experiences in my life. I know, without question, everyone has. Everyone. She is my inspiration. She is my verification.

She is a normal person, working a normal job, in the armpit of the United States. She does all the things other people do. She’s quiet about what she’s seen. Respectful, even, because nobody in this culture shares her religion, her spirituality.

If Jesus returned to this earth, walked into your hometown, would you celebrate him? Or would you do the same thing the Romans did two thousand years ago and martyr him a heretic, a blasphemer, a liar? The whole world knows this answer. We’d kill him, either the masses or the vigilante Christians. I’m not saying she’s Jesus, or even close. She’s prophetic, at times, and she spent a lot of time hating America–even though she’s born and bred–because of how they ostracized her. Why?

Fear, perhaps. Her life has been one long struggle; sometimes blissful, sometimes agonizing. She’s a violently passionate, incredible person. She’s met psychics and knows who truly understands and who’s playing. She touches a person, true to Stephen King’s Dead Zone, and sometimes sees their past, or their future.

She’s sometimes wrong. She’s human. She usually isn’t. I feel blessed to share her life. I feel blessed to have such a fountain of inspiration, of truth, and depth of character.

Forgive me if my books don’t fit, or if their themes are too controversial, for their cores don’t come out of another book. I’ll be returning to the unique reality, from time to time, my fiancee has. It’s too big, too fulfilling, too credible to ignore. I spent a lot of time considering whether I wanted to write this entry. I debated for a long time whether I should take ownership of the elements in my books, and I realized that if I am to respect myself, I must declare that, at least at the core, nothing I write is fantasy.

It is dreamed, it is lived, it is experienced; not in some belief system of a faraway God, but as a way of life, as a way of interacting, daily, with the world around her. In the world around me. In the world around you.

Hope I didn’t scare anyone off…

~x

 

Religious Fantasy is Apparently Taboo?

I know a building that reminds me of the sea. It takes up half a parking lot next to train tracks that lead to the university. Its brick is old, stained a draining white from internal leaking pipes, and ringed in dune-grass that is never mowed. Its paint is peeling, its wood planks are faded, warped, and aging, and someone, somewhere, repaints it once every three years.

But the wind hits it in its unhindered roll over the plains, scours and slashes and blasts ground train-stones against its walls. But not when the trains come. The trains protect it from wind, but howl worse, like sirens by the lighthouse.

Today it is raining. I paused at the building on my way into work and took a deep breath. I smelled the fresh growth of grass, smelled the mouldering steam-soaked bricks, and listened to the husky sound of dune-grass.

I sometimes imagine I am back at Coco Beach, and I am twelve years old, and none of this happened.


 

I spent most of my evening doing research on Religious Fantasy, a little-known sub-genre of Fantasy or, even, a subplot for Urban Fantasy. The use of religion and religious beliefs as a form of magic while also incorporating fictional characters are apparently frowned upon. Most publishers and most agents will avoid it like the plague.

This frustrates me because I’ve spent two years polishing a heartfelt work based on fact that, in the end, nobody’s biting because of the content: disillusioned boy discards ways of American life to travel the world, returns to realize all his ghosts (literally) are still around, and he must finally pick up the mess. In comes a priest, haunted by a demon. Soren puts his Dresden-esque abilities to use, hilarity ensues.

200 rejection letters from publishers, agents, and everyone in be-tween later, and I finally realize I never got more than a form letter. It could be the writing, of course: it might just suck. But the truer thing is most likely the lack of interest in touching fantasy elements in religious affairs.

I think I’m going to just self-publish it, or else release it to the internet via my wordpress site.

Thoughts?

~x