Perspective Shifts: From Agency into the Magic of Reality

Following on from my previous writing (as linked to the recent magic realism blog hop), I find myself delving deeper into the magic of the real world. Lynne Cantwell wrote a thought-provoking piece titled Urban fantasy and magic realism: a matter of agency, and it prompts me to reply here as a post (my attempts at a direct reply were thwarted by the convergence of hardware, systems, the forces that be — all in the moment).

Despite her advocation that ‘alternative realism is a better descriptive name for the genre, mainly because it takes the ‘taint’ of magic out of play’, she goes on to write that ‘the magic in magic realism is woven into the fabric of society’ where ‘no magical creature’ need intervene. She adds that ‘the crucial difference between urban fantasy and magic realism [is that] urban fantasy requires an agent to deliberately effect the magical change’.

It’s not my intention here to quibble at length over the differences in definitional stances; I intend to look into the magic woven into the fabric of society. It’s interesting to read another writer’s perspective that some external agency might be the cause of magic, in certain written forms. That the fantasy construct is dependent on the magic inherent in an object (such as a ring), or a creature, or a person, or a creature-person, suggests that ‘grafting on’ process I wrote about recently: an almost superfluous layer, an oil-slick on what we usually see.

Lynne goes on to write that ‘one of the conceits of urban fantasy is that the fantastic is happening right under our noses — it’s just that most of us either aren’t equipped to spot it, or are more than willing to explain it away.’ Cue the creatures with the higher powers, greater knowledge, wisdom, call it what you will?

I’m not altogether comfortable with the term ‘alternative realism’. I was comfortable with a description coined as ‘alternate poetic reality’, in depicting some of what I’ve written, so why not the former? Perhaps it amounts to the thinking that in the former there’s the suggestion that what is ‘real’ (i.e. real magic in our actual reality) is somewhat devalued; in the latter, in the alternate poetic reality, it is that our own perspectives of the thing we see (reality) shift, rather than the reality itself.

We aren’t usually equipped to spot the magic. Yet we don’t need external agency to be able to affect that change in perspective: we need only internal belief. Belief is, after all, all powerful. What we believe is true. This I know. This is the power of stories, of story-tellers, of myth and magic. There’s no way to believe these words here unless what they aspire to transmit is also felt in you, the reader, by personal experience. Go into the garden, or look out over the hills or the sea, or up at the clouds: what is that you feel?

In haiku it is that very sense of ‘now’, of almost absolute comprehension, of a ‘feel’ for what ‘is’ that is the essence to be captured. What is that essence if not the magic of the world? This is not something I can, or should, try to convince you of here: I would almost be external agent and that would be counter to my point. You should go out into the world that seeps around you and feel for yourself what is there: the flavours and the ripplings, the shifts in light and the different densities in gravities, all the ways your slice of the place we all live on ‘is’, not just could be.

Here, after a shortness of rain, the ghost of a cloud shreds in distant utter silence. It’s what I see and feel, and it’s the magic of the real: not tainted by the term but enhanced by it. It’s what I believe and what I know, here, now.

4 thoughts on “Perspective Shifts: From Agency into the Magic of Reality

  1. tyroper says:

    Best wishes as you explore alternative poetic realities.

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