First things first: introductions. On the left (your left) is Hannah the Porcelain Figurine. My father gave her to me when I was 10 years old, having picked her up on one of his rare business trips. On the right is Rosie the Metal LitBot. Rosie is a much more recent acquisition. She came courtesy of the incomparable Kevin Brockmeier, who makes a tradition of handing out robots on the final day of his Science Fiction and Fantasy courses at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. You might be wondering, why, in my very first blog post on my very first website as a published — well, soon-to-be published — writer, I would choose to feature Hannah and Rosie. The answer concerns one of my main projects as an artist — that of blending the elements of realism with those of fantasy, of unreality.
Readers of writers like Gabriel García Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges are familiar with this style. These two men introduced the reading public to the concept of magic realism, making almost mainstream the idea that the everyday could and did coexist with the fantastical.
Márquez’s assertion has always been that where he grew up in Colombia things happened that could not be explained with science or logic. One might wake up one morning to find that the roads had flooded with a woman’s tears or that a very old man with enormous wings had fallen from the sky. Márquez claimed he wasn’t inserting magic into his depiction of daily events. Rather, daily events unfolded in magical ways. He was merely recording what actually took place.
I’m from Indiana. Most people probably assume that it — and the American Midwest in general — is not a terribly magical place, but I would argue that geography does not alone determine one’s exposure to the fantastic. Odd things happen in Indiana all the time –bizarre, inexplicable things that would seem to defy reason — so it makes a certain amount of sense for me to mingle the mundane with the weird on the page. Even more important to my goals as a writer is the fact that employing fantastical elements can sometimes allow me to mine a greater truth than would be available to me if I stuck always to the strict confines of realism.
Regardless of where I happen to be working each day, I am careful to keep Hannah and Rosie in plain sight. They serve as visual reminders to include in my fiction not only bunnies in baskets and button-up boots but also wind-up keys and metal breasts. Traditional thought would relegate Hannah and Rosie to very different worlds, but I’m interested in a world where they’re friends, confidants, even BFFs. One of the most exciting parts of being a writer is the permission we’re given — by teachers, by other works of art, by ourselves — to create those wonderful worlds and even live in them for a while.