Monday, January 23, 2012

Why do I Love Magical Realism and Alternate History

So why do I like Magical Realism and Alternate History type of speculative fiction?

First Alternate History
I love, love, love Alternate History. For me, it's like a game. I like Dr Who fooling around with time. I like redux, films such as Groundhog Day and Run, Lola, Run..Technically, Groundhog Day and Run, Lola, Run aren't really Alternate History stories but you get the idea. Alternate History stories are like a great game of "What If?" in an analogue earth. And "what if" games in the hands of minorities are fun, insightful, and satisfactory. "What if the Civil War had turned out differently?" What if Thomas Jefferson --because of his love for Sally Hemmings-- had argued against slavery?" and the old "What if Kennedy hadn't been assassinated?"

In my novel Wind Follower, I tried to do an alternate history but it turned out to be more an analogue Africa because I had to admit that while I understood the folklore and spiritualities of many African culture, my knowledge of African history was pretty limited.  

Much of Alternate History is about challenging the conceptions found in history books or repairing the past It's a  hard thing to do. Sometimes writers of Alternate History fail because they don't consider certain aspects of history important. For instance, I was reading Steven Barnes' Lion's Blood, an alternate history world in an analogue Africa. In his novel, Christianity didn't rule the world and Islam reigned. I was willing to go along with that but then he made a very crucial error and I couldn't finish the book. (I can finish almost any book but when a crucial error is made it makes me lose my faith in the author's research. I've been known to lose faith in a movie within ten minutes because the screenwriter made some crucial historical error. Yeah, I am a bit of a pain like that.) In the book, he somewhat snidely says something about a small religion whose adherents worshiped some carpenter they thought was the son of God. The trouble with that is that Islam considers Jesus Christ a great prophet, and the one who will judge the world. So in his effort to diss Christianity by showing a totally Islamic Africa, he had ignored one of the great tenets of their faith. I realized I was dealing with someone who didn't understand what he was writing about, so I put the book away. It's no fun when you're dealing with someone who doesn't know history.

Secondly, Magical Realism (or Natural Supernaturalism)

I like it because, for lack of a better word, it is the closest fiction to real life. Real Life is full of odd happenings. Magical Realism Stories are like those stories told by the old folks on the family's back porches.  Or like the testimonies one hears in churches. As a Christian writer, as a Black girl growing up in Jamaica, one hears magical realism all the times because the world of christians (or any religion that hasn't lost itself in rationalism) is a world peopled by angels, demons, djinns, coincidences, signs, omens, family curses, and inexplicable stuff that can never be utterly defeated by mere human rational agencies. Latin American fiction is full of such things: For instance, Julio Cortazar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Borges, and others. American fiction should have more of this, I think. And, definitely, African-American fiction should have more of it. Sadly, Christian fiction doesn't have as much of it as it should because many Christians equate the imagination, fantasy, dreams, ghosts, and such like with sin or -- for the Christians who are much too indoctrinated with rationality-- plain "untruth." That is not to say that this type of speculative fiction is utterly forsaken by some modern authors. "Living with Ghost" by the English author Kari Sperring is a great example of Magical Realism. Peretti's "The Oath" is a good example of Christian Natural Supernaturalism. And Nalo Hopkinson, a Canadian-Caribbean author writes excellent Magical realism. I've been trying to experiment with the form and I did manage to do a kind of fantasy story for Warren Lapine's "Fantastic Tales of the Imagination" but as yet I don't quite have the form down. I'm hoping my graphic novel "My Life as an Onion" will be a good entry in this field when I'm finished with it.

Please post the link to this article to twitter using any of the following hashtags. Pass the word on about Blackscifi.

Twitter hashtag: #blackscifi2012 #blackscifi #christianspeculativefiction #fantasy #blackfiction

Other participants

Check out the other members of this Online Black History Month Event:
Winston Blakely, Artist/Writer-- is a Fine Arts/Comic Book artist, having a career spanning 20 years, whose achievements have included working for Valiant Comics and Rich Buckler's Visage Studios. He is also the creator of Little Miss Strange, the world's first black alien sorceress and the all- genre anthology entitled - Immortal Fantasy.  Both graphic albums are available at Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and other online book store outlets. Visit him: or

L. M. Davis, Author--began her love affair with fantasy in the second grade.  Her first novel, Interlopers: A Shifters Novel, was released in 2010, and the follow-up Posers:  A Shifters Novel will be released this spring.  For more information visit her blog or her website

Milton Davis, Author – Milton Davis is owner/publisher of MVmedia, LLC . As an author he specializes in science fiction and fantasy and is the author of Meji Book One, Meji Book Two and Changa’s Safari. Visit him:   and
Margaret Fieland, Author-- lives  and writes in the suburbs west of Boston, MA
with her partner and five dogs. She is one of the Poetic Muselings. Their poetry anthology, Lifelines is available from  Her book, "Relocated," will be available from MuseItUp Publishing in July, 2012. The Angry Little Boy," will be published by 4RV publishing in early 2013.  You may visit her website,

Valjeanne Jeffers, Author -- is an editor and the author of the SF/fantasy novels: Immortal, Immortal II: The Time of Legend and Immortal III: Stealer of Souls. Her fourth and fifth novels: Immortal IV: Collision of Worlds and The Switch: Clockwork will be released this spring. Visit her at: and
Alicia McCalla, Author- writes for both young adults and adults with her brand of multicultural science fiction, urban fantasy, and futurism. Her debut novel, Breaking Free will be available February 1, 2012.  The Breaking Free theme song created by Asante McCalla is available for immediate download on itunes and Amazon. Visit her at:
Carole McDonnell, Author--She writes Christian, speculative fiction, and multicultural stories. Her first novel is Wind Follower. Her short fiction has appeared in many anthologies and have been collected in an ebook, Spirit Fruit: Collected Speculative Fiction.  Visit Carole:  or
Rasheedah Phillips,Author--is the creator of The AfroFuturist Affair in Philly. She plans to debut her first spec/sci-fic novel Recurrence Plot in Spring 2012. You may catch her ruminating from time to time on her blog,
Nicole Sconiers, Author-is also a screenwriter living in the sunny jungle of L.A. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Antioch University Los Angeles, and she recently published Escape from Beckyville: Tales of Race, Hair and Rage.  Visit her: 
Jarvis Sheffield, M.Ed. is owner & operator of, & Visit him:

Thaddeus Howze, Author
-- is a veteran of the Information Technology and Communications industry with over twenty-six years of experience. His expertise is in re-engineering IT environments using process-oriented management techniques. In English, that means he studies the needs of his clients and configures their offices to optimize the use of information technology in their environment. Visit him: or

Balogun Ojetade, Author
—of the bestselling “Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within” (non-fiction), “Moses: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman” (Steampunk) and the feature film, “A Single Link”. Visit him:


Alicia said...

Carole, I love your post today. Minority writers do have a wonderful oppoortunity to share alternate histories and interpretations of historical events. I also love Magic Stories. I would love to do an Black Woman's Magic Anthology, soon. Let's talk!

Anonymous said...

History is told by the conquerors, or so they say. One of the things that I love about the way that many people of color conceptualize fiction, is that they see it as a space to tell the story of the conqueror--frequently in a way that calls into question which is which.

Carole McDonnell said...

Would definitely love to do an antho if you decide on one, Alicia.

So true, Shifter. -C

Blog Archive

Popular Posts