The Last Time Magic Was Real

I think it’s interesting that genre fiction such as science fiction, fantasy and horror used to be thought of as ‘trash fiction,’ the low quality rubbish that people turned their nose up at. But then, didn’t fiction (in general) have this same quality once-upon-a-time,—something that only women read? Although I have read a lot of fantasy fiction, I’ve read a lot of other genres too, and for me, I’m drawn to the hook, the character and their story. If there’s an intriguing, brilliant character on some path that’s full of interesting journeys, risks or problem-solving, I’m usually hooked. It really is about character, plot and language.

I went to several interesting talks at the Hillingdon Literary Festival a few weeks ago, and during one on genre fiction, the panel was discussing why they had set their novels in a particular time period (between 1880 and the First World War). I really liked one of the answers given—that this was the last time that people really believed in magic, where ghosts for example, were explained by science and widely held to exist. I thought this was a really interesting point. So many fantasy novels are set in worlds and cultures that are medieval-like in so many ways, without technological advances (although there are many novels that don’t fit this). I’ve always liked the simplicity of that, getting rid of the un-romantic techology, bring it back to people, and things that are special about them. Magic often involves the manipulation of nature, and I like that, because the fantasy I love often has a rich world and creatures that roam it. I like that special quality of magic. It has a romance to it that technology does not. And again, that medieval period was a time where magic really did exist—people were afraid of witches and superstitions.

I like that in fantasy, anything could happen. That’s why I like writing it, I can create a world, its history, its culture, the animals and landscapes, the way nature works, how magic works and who can use it, the pitfalls and advantages of it. I find it really freeing. Of course there are conventions and rules to some extent (magic can’t be unlimited and without consquence, or it’d be boring!), I don’t feel constrained by time or place or reality.

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