Reading in the dark - Readercon, magic realism, and Lucius Shepard
June 1st, 2007
11:12 am


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Readercon, magic realism, and Lucius Shepard
The reading group I belong to has decided to read some of the works by the ReaderCon GOHs, and to do some exploration of the term "magic realism." Farther down in this post are links to pages which include defnitions and literary criticism regarding magic realism, and even further down are links to Lucius Shepard stories online. I'm throwing in the following quote from Allan Moore because I think Moore's words on magic capture the mood of a larger movement of which magic realism is only one part, that is, a rejection of the idea that realism can fully describe personal experience.

block quote start
Also, to me, Magic is not a strange and alien planet that we visit, so much as a new set of eyes to look at this planet through, a new language by which our ordinary lives can be expressed more luminously. For a Magician, walking down the street to buy a pack of cigarettes at the corner shop is a Magical experience. Anything from the licence plates of cars to the candy wrappers in the gutter to the casual remarks of passers-by is a potential source of information or inspiration. The Magician is reading things according to the rules of a different grammer, but he or she is reading the same book as everyone else."-- Alan Moore, in correspondence with Dave Sim about _From Hell_

Magic realism resources

A Web site of definitions, discussions, and papers
A page of links to many definitions and resources, a number of which complicate or challenge the application of the term
Wikipedia entry:
Zamora, Lois Parkinson and Wendy B. Faris, eds. Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community, Duke University Press, 2003.
Book site:

I wanted to include one of my favorite passages from my favorite story by Garcia Marquez, because I think it captures one of the aspects that I find most appealing about works which are typically labeled "magic realism," that is, their whimsical but macabre depictions of death, disease, and violence. This is the opening paragraph of "The Handsomest Drowned Man In the World: A tale for children" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez Translated by Gregory Rabassa (1971).

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The first children who saw the dark and slinky bulge approaching through the sea let themselves think it was an empty ship. Then they saw it had no flags or masts and they thought it was a whale. But when it washed up on
the beach, they removed the clumps of seaweed, the jellyfish tentacles, and
the remains of fish and flotsam, and only then did they see that it was a drowned man.
block quote end

Lucius Shepard links

Wikipedia (includes links to many stories):

=LS' works are often categorized under the genres of science fiction/cyberpunk, fantasy, and magical realism, although the
gothic horror aspects of his work are rarely mentioned, despite the fact that his most recent book, _Soft-Spoken_, is, at heart, a Southern gothic.

Lucius Shepard has won several awards for his science fiction: in 1985 he won John W. Campbell Award for best new writer, followed in 1986 with a best novella Nebula Award for his story R&R, which would later become part of his 1987 novel Life During Wartime. His novella Barnacle Bill the Spacer won a Hugo in 1993. His poem "White Trains" won the Rhysling Award in 1988. [Note that many of these stories, including "Radiant Green," are available through Fictionwise and, if you purchase the stories in multiformat, you can convert them to plaintext using this app .]

Themes in Shepard's work often include culture clashes such as in many of his stories set in Central America or Vietnam, as in his the novella "Radiant Green Star." (Locus Award 2001).

There is also a distinct
"Heart of Darkness"
aspect to a number of his stories, the impression that sometimes there is a very fine line between the freedom promised by "lighting out for the territory" and the madness of going beyond the limits, of venturing too far beyond the known world only to lose one's way in a place where the compass points no longer apply.

Story posted to the Inferior 4+1,
A Walk In the Garden
Liar's House (3 parts)
Senor Volto
Emerald Street Expansions
Over Yonder
The Jaguar Hunter

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Current Mood: bookish
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