Fantasy/Reality – what is it?
When I’m asked what genre I write in, I say “Fantasy/Reality”.
I think many people see these terms as opposites. Fantasy is not reality. Reality is not fantasy. However, when applied to stories, you can say that fantasy/reality is “fantasy with real people”.
“What does this mean?” I hear you think. Or is that, “Umm…?”
I’ll try to explain. Many fantasies have characters that just are. The characters are out-of-this-world tough, or beautiful, or brave, or magically powerful or even godlike. It’s true that some of these characters appear in my work too—the Dagda in Antler Jinny and the Raven is a god who doesn’t seem likely to change much in the future. The fantastic world is the what’s important to many writers and their readers and developing character takes a back seat to feeding the imagination.
For me, character is what it’s all about.
I like to choose as my characters, people who have a long way to grow, who must develop in human ways to fight their circumstances, and in doing this, help us to face our own problems. Jinny is a good example of the characters I like to write about: crippled by an accident, she must develop in strength, wisdom, and even love, to reach her goal of becoming Queen of the Dragons, and so dance again. (But was it an accident that took her leg? You will have to ask Grizel.) Even the Raven sees, too late, the mistakes she has made.
The fantasy elements—the dragons, Geordan’s bone, the Druid’s wizardry—these are there to illustrate the story, add interest, and yes, draw a humongous crowd of readers! But look more closely at the Druid. Although sometimes he surprises us in both Antler Jinny and the Raven and The Druid and the Bracelet, he is not your standard fantasy Gandalf-lookalike wizard. Druids in Celtic mythology could control the weather, to a degree. They could change the form of people and things—turn beautiful ladies into deer, and perhaps change them back again. The third expertise druids had, according to the old mythology, was glamourie. Using glamourie, druids could fool the eye, rather like ladies of today use glamour for a similar effect. Glamourie isn’t form-changing, whose effects are permanent, but a temporary way of encouraging people to see things not as they are.
Those three things, weather control, form changing, and glamourie, were the only three wizard powers available to the druids in ancient Celtic mythology, and so the only powers available to the druids in my books. Before you rush to comment, yes, I admit that Geordan showed far greater power in his battle with the druid Lailoken, but Geordan was possessed, and possessed by not just anything, but by Aengus the god. Aengus has no earthly limitations at all—he, like Erbert, can be in several places at the same time, is impervious to fire, death, even enchantment—and passes through time as if it was air. Aengus, first brought to the reader’s notice in Aengus Amused, a book which is a fantasy without an ounce of reality, is so powerful that I can use him only sparingly.
Fantasy/Reality stories have themes. There’s a take-away message hidden in all those words, maybe two or three or more. Pure fantasy, unlike Science Fiction (which often has a warning embedded for us to recognize) is often just a story. An entertainment. A . . . fantasy.
Of course, there are many writers who employ Fantasy/Reality. A good example is The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro. This is a story about real people who encounter fantastic things, yet the story hangs together well and delivers a thought-provoking theme.
I hope that, as you read my books, you find something in my reality-based stories that gives you a little to think about too.
Chris Dews July 2018.