Magical Realism plus Medieval Fantasy equals what? Historical Fiction with Magic or something totally new?

It’s common for people to confuse magical realism with fantasy, but what, I ask, after understanding their differences, would they look like combined? Combined, would it simply be medieval historical fiction with some magic thrown in or would we be dealing with a whole new genre? You may find my conclusion very interesting.

First let me briefly describe what I find to be the extreme difference between the two genres.

Magical realism uses magic to bring the reader closer to reality, while fantasy uses the same to help the reader escape from it. Magical realism, in other words, brings us closer to truth. Fantasy, by its design, takes us away from truth. This is exactly why much magical realism is considered literature and why much fantasy is not. Literature, for reasons of academic growth, urges us to think in order to understand the meanings behind things in our own real world. Fantasy, though it may provoke thoughts now and then, wants us to escape from reality for reasons of pleasure.

fantasy vs magical realism - creating a new genre

I believe that in a “magical realism-esque fantasy story” there should be little or no explanation of the laws governing magic and spells because all the laws here are already governed by all the natural laws of reality.

Now, some may wonder, is something like this no different than historical fiction with some magic thrown in? The answer is no because we’re still stealing from fantasy here in the sense that the world our characters live in may be a different world than our own, so therefore all the nitpicking of names, locations and dates you find in historical fiction is unnecessary here. In historical fiction a reader would scoff if she saw a knight with a 16th century bascinet wearing a 12th century harness. The said technology is separated by 400 years! In fantasy, however, a combination like this is acceptable because it’s fantasy. Considering this, we also can’t forget that we are stealing from magical realism as well, and what that means is, though we may be able to invent our own locations and dates, we can’t, however, change the laws of reality. The fantastic elements we’re applying are all here to make the reader learn more about the very world she lives in and this would be difficult, but not impossible, if the world in the story was too different than our own real world.

the difference between magical realism and fantasy

Traditional fantasy, full of myths and misconceptions about history, can very well teach us a few things about our own world but that still doesn’t make it magical realism. Magical realism would be no different than fantasy if it didn’t pride itself in being an academic source for truth. So if they were to be combined would we get something very similar to alternate history or low-fantasy? Yea, medieval alternate history, with made up dates, a few fake locations, yet still holding true to the laws of our own universe, suggesting what might have happened if a bit of magic existed here and there for the purpose of learning more about our own world, is very close to “magical realism and medieval fantasy combined,” but we’re still not quite there.

What would the Battle of Crécy have looked like with dragons involved? What would be the most realistic outcome? What could this outcome teach us about our own world? These are questions an alternate history author might ask. And these questions also underline the one limitation alternate history has, the one limitation “magical realism and medieval fantasy combined” does not have–historical setting!

what is magical realism compared to fantasy

Fantasy worlds have very different historical settings than our own. For example you might call a fantasy author rather unimaginative if she named the two warring kingdoms in her story England and France because fantasy kingdoms should have their own fantastic names. And, indeed, the kingdoms in “magical realism and medieval fantasy combined” might very well have their own fantastic names as well. In fact, the whole planet the story occurs on may be different, BUT although the planet might be different, it still, in order to be “magical realism-esque,” has to exist in the same universe as our own planet and therefore must obey the laws of our own universe!

Do you know what this means? Do you understand how impactful this is? Knowing that my “medieval fantasy” is taking place on a planet very similar to Earth, in the same universe as Earth, I’m free to make up my own locations, dates and events while still being “ultra realistic,” and, unlike in alternate history or historical fiction, I can even invent a completely new historical setting as well. And although my world is “ultra realistic” no one can bash me if my characters are wearing morions with hourglass gauntlets (two pieces of armor which, when considering Earth’s historical accuracy, would never be seen together) because, lo and behold, technology here has transpired differently than on Earth because my whole historical setting is different… EUREKA!

This in an essence, having a medieval setting (which happens to have magic) on a different planet than Earth while still being in the same universe as Earth and so therefore still adhering to the same laws of reality as our own universe, is “magical realism and medieval fantasy combined” because, like fantasy, our story is taking place in a different world than our own, but, like magical realism, our story is also obliged to follow the rules of reality and bring us closer to truth. The only thing we must do now is create a name for this exciting new genre. What do you think?


It’s nearly time to begin the Great Crusade to bring Truth to the Medieval Fantasy Genre

I chose the title for this paper very carefully. A few months ago I might have said “time to begin the Great Crusade against Misconceptions in the Medieval Fantasy Genre,” but I’ve learned, through comical experience on Reddit, that in order to win this holy war we must not fight against what we hate–lies and misconceptions–but rather save what we love–truth!

When first becoming a self-published fantasy writer I did all kinds of research into “how to sell e-books” and even joined forums like Kboards to ask for help and advice. In my search I came across a popular strategy called “write to market” which has helped many authors on Amazon sell thousands of books. I would have tried this strategy for myself if it did not work against my ethics and against my vision for the Medieverse. You see, in order to implement this write to market strategy I must learn all the popular fantasy tropes that fantasy readers love and, yea, copy them, copy all the tropes which are essentially misconceptions (like the hero wearing a sword on his back, or medieval cities having no surrounding suburbs or farmland because it looks pretty). In other words I must be a “John Doe” and write what the majority wants to read. I call that a short-term strategy. Now I, after dear and sincere studying, have instead decided to make a grand, public long-term strategy very similar to the Crusades.

the crusade against medieval misconceptions

Like the great Latin barons of the first military Crusade, not the People’s Crusade, I’m not warring for myself or for any material gains; I’m warring because I truly believe it’s wrong to pump misconceptions into young people’s minds so that they then go on to take it all as truth! Like Peter the Hermit, I’m appealing to a subconscious need, one inherent in many of us, that may take several decades to ripen into material life, and as things like HEMA and Lindybeige become more popular my quest will become easier. I see Lindybeige as one of the great Crusader barons bringing truth to the Holy Land, and each and every HEMA practitioner, every Matt Easton fan, as one of the many knights, footmen, auxiliaries and camp-followers who are making this Crusade possible. And I don’t mind if other authors see my ideas and steal them. In fact I want as many authors as possible to follow this much-needed calling and join me.

How many people do you know believe that knights in plate armor were walking tin cans that could barely run and jump? How many people do you know believe that you can hold back the drawstring of a war bow at full draw for as long as you want in order to threaten someone with dialogue? How many people do you know believe that cannons weren’t around in the Middle Ages? These people have been lied to, arguably unintentionally, and they don’t even know it yet. It’s our duty to “wake them up” so to speak.

Now I could go on for hours and hours about all the things that every fantasy author is doing wrong but in the long-run that would only damage myself. In order to truly see a change I must talk about all the awesome things the medieval fantasy genre should be showing and why they’re so important. I say that it’s “nearly time” to begin our Crusade because frankly I still have much, much learning to do before I can become the man I need to be in order to lead our crusading armies to victory, and perhaps you yourself are already ready and can lead your army past the emperor at Constantinople (traditional publishers) without me. Yea, I see a bright future with movies that show HEMA techniques and picture books that make children want to learn more about the real truth of the Middle Ages rather than about orcs and goblins. Welcome to the early days of the Western world’s second Renaissance where instead of gaining inspiration from our Roman and Greek predecessors we are doing so from our true national histories (Americans falling in love with their ancestors’ Franco-German traditions for example). I highly thank you for reading, for reading this and just reading in general. I promise we will be victorious. Truth will, metaphorically, thrive within the holy places, within each and every one of us.

PS, if you live in Victoria BC, Canada and are interested in custom leather book binding or collecting rare vintage books I highly recommend Period Fine Bindings in Oak Bay. There I recently got my hands on a A New Dictionary of Heraldry printed in 1739 and will soon be using it to design the coats of arms for many characters in the Medieverse.