Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Fiction describes but does not shape. However, inasmuch as fiction describes itself, it does in fact also shape a competing world where positive revolutions (and resolutions) can be managed within the overall context of any single fictioner's spinning of that world.

The real world is either simply that (i.e. real) or indeed a fictioner's world in competition with all others. Within this context itself and inasmuch as the 'real' world is capable of being real, so may any fictioner's world be arguably real, neutralising evils by contextualising them.

Fiction as Magic

Separate to above, how far is it possible to see fiction as fiction that is magic rather than fiction about magic or fiction like magic? The last two are common in literature. But the first one is a giant leap. In Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (and, ironically, I can't currently find the relevant passage again!), fiction is used as magic itself - or thought about in that way. This is the first time (in print) that I've seen this concept starkly broached in this way. (I had coincidentally written (The Tenacity Of Feathers) about this myself before I read JS & Mr N).

This is as if fiction - when written 'properly' - can be in itself a book of spells that can change the world, ie. not just a fiction about characters using spells to change the world or not just a fiction about fiction as a book of spells. And I wonder if JS & Mr. N is the nearest any book (currently in print) has reached out towards making this giant leap. In fact, it has, arguably, indeed made this giant leap, feasibly allowing others to make the same leap if they are imaginatively muscular enough.

I've greatly enjoyed JS & Mr N and in many ways it is a flawed masterpiece - and I would not class it as one of my favourite books. Too much like 'Harry Potter'? However, what I'm saying - whether one enjoys it or not - I consider it to be the first printed book to be an example of (i) below as well as of the more common (ii).

(i) A fiction that is magic (a big claim and deserving of scrutiny by others).

(ii) A fiction about magic as well as about fiction working as magic.

I don't think I'm able to judge (i) properly because I have found myself preoccupied with such concerns when writing my own first novels (before reading JS & Mr N).

I see all other artistic activities as secondary to magic: ie. art as 'happening' or 'happening' as art. Art is not magic, although it tries to import magic as a symptom or ingredient, but an attempt essentially corrupted by a self-awareness that this is what is going on. Only magic is magic, I feel. And I had sense that JS & Mr N was nearing an unself-conscious (literal) equivalence to true magic as far as possible without risking counter-claims of literary (as well as literal) madness in thus claiming this to be the case. It's just coincidence that the book is also about magic (though it helps). This is something I've been trying to do without consciously trying to do it (whilst remaining hopefully unpretentious or unself-aware - and this is all very much in hindsight!): with my fiction and with 'Nemonymous' since 2001: and what Elizabeth Bowen did with her fiction ie. almost accidentally approaching the true state of magic without the intervention of pretension or of self-awareness or of gauche ulterior motives for art-for-arts-sake ("buried art") or even of a desire for success in doing it (so might as well throw it all away on a dele(c)table blog).

Furthermore, even if unintentional and a flawed masterpiece in itself (imho), JS & Mr N should be admired at least for evoking such thoughts (adjacent or noumenal as they may be in turn or simultaneously).

The Ominous Imagination

My greatest love in fiction is the 'Horror/Dark Fantasy' core that I find in most sorts of literature, old and new, literary and otherwise.

For me, this core should be and is being expanded by the current vogue in fiction genre-crossing and genre-betweening (Interstitiality), i.e. acting like a magnet, and making other fiction traditions conducive to the 'Horror' spirit or, as I would like it to be called, The Ominous Imagination. Indeed, I believe, most good fiction is (and has always been) imbued with and steeped in this type of imaginative spirit, in any event.

This is really what, when articulated, I have been trying to do in ‘Nemonymous’, especially if you ignore its radical aspects of Anonymity etc. for a moment. All issues contain stories each of which are representative of a different fiction genre/tradition as well as stories that, actually within themselves, contain various genres/traditions -- but all, inevitably, with the Ominous Imagination.

Those who publish genre-specific outlets in the Horror fiction field, for example, perhaps allow the hard-fought beach-heads of 'Horror/Dark Fantasy' to crumble and separate out, thus allowing these particles of fiction already gathered for the 'Horror/Dark Fantasy' core to escape from that core because such genre-narrowing outlets tend to crystallise that core AS a core rather than as a magnet.



des said...

On reflection, I feel 'JS & Mr N' is a masterpiece because it is flawed.

Paul Dracon said...

What you said about reality being just another competing fictioner's world brought an interesting question to mind: would you even want your own fictional world to become real? Fiction probably looks a lot different on the inside than it does from the Divine Patronizer point of view, just as it's normally more fun to watch a war movie than to actually participate in a war.

des said...

I wonder how real a situation needs to feel (ie using your war example) before it ceases to be a fictional experience (as one would expect a fictional experience to be) and becomes a really *real* experience with all the drawbacks that real experiences often entail!
It's at that very cusp where we are trying to establish a magic base for Fiction, I feel.