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Old 07-04-2012, 02:27 PM   #151
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I'm not a fan of pigeonholing - it divides and excludes when we should be including, and it may stop people from finding books they'll like (though that'd be their own fault I suppose for not trying a book that has a different label on it. But still) And of course, as noted above, many books fall into more than one sub genre. So if you label your book magical realism, when it's really that, plus lots of UF, plus a bit of S&S, well someone who doesn't like magical realism won't even try it, even though they'd love it if you called it UF.

Where we seem disagree most, at this point, and which I think you got at only subtly(so I hope I am not reading you wrong), is whether or not Magical Realism is a sub-genre of Fantasy or not, and whether this matters.

I don't think it is. The roots and influences are different, the styles are different, the readership is different, expectations are different. A sub-genre of a genre is a spin, or reaction to it, or even a focusing. Urban-Fantasy, High-Fantasy, Low Fantasy, whatever you want, they are clearly derived from 'fantasy'. It is rare to see Magical Realism influenced from Fantasy. I would argue Sci-Fi is far more influenced by Fantasy, and is rightfully placed next to Fantasy, when compared to where Magical Realism is placed.

Magical Realism runs in parallel to Fantasy, distinctly. They both came about around the same time, but born from different places. Kafka was an early precursor to Magical Realism, and then later the South American authors came and essentially (re)created it. It's about examining the modern world through allegory, through tradition, through history. It's what I consider a 'searching' genre, more interested in a reader looking for something, as opposed to a reader who wants to be taken somewhere.

Fantasy(modern I guess) came from Tolkien, and a sense of creating a new world to escape to within literature, where seemingly anything can happen. They are like fairy tales, meant to pull readers out of the every-day. It's goal is, for me(obviously), totally different from the goal of Magical Realism.

So your argument about sub-genres over-complicating categorization, holds true; but I don't see how it can be an argument against Magical Realism. They sit at opposite ends of the book-store, in different sections, where-as in comparison Urban Fantasy(a true sub-genre) clearly has a place on the same shelf as Fantasy.

There is little cross-readership simply because the two genres are so different. Someone who reads Tolkien, will probably find more enjoyment going to Science-Fiction, or the Thriller section, than the Magical Realist section(if this section ever even exists). I encourage people to read all of them, but I think your argument for labeling Magical Realism as Fantasy, simply to spur on readers is hugely flawed. If they want to read Magical Realism, it won't be because they want more fantasy, it will be because of another drive or interest.

As for your issue with pigeonholing--that is something entirely out of our control, if a reader isn't experimenting because of over categorization, that is because of their own insecurities. Not really an issue worth talking about here.

Edit: I just re-read this, and I hope I don't come off as overly aggressive or negative; it is an interesting discussion for me and I don't want to come off the wrong way.

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Old 07-04-2012, 02:55 PM   #152
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No, you're fine I love a good discussion myself. Makes me think.

Hmm maybe expectations are different but...I'm not so sure about readership etc. I think there's a lot of crossover there and by shelving MR separately (do bookshops do that? Maybe they do...I'm pretty sure I picked up 100 Years in the SFF section*) you might lose readers you could otherwise attract. In a perfect world maybe they'd be shelved in both places....

And I'm not entirely convinced that influences matter that much - what matters is the story. To me at least.

I mean, technically maybe MR isn't a subset of fantasy, but does that matter if a lot of fantasy readers read it? Does it matter even if they don't? The whole point of a label, it seems to me, is to say 'If you like this kind of book, this is the kind of book you'll like', but then the label can be misleading as I said, especially given that many, many books can be categorised under more than one umbrella term, which is where the pigeonholing falls down for me. You label something chick-lit, for instance, I probably won't give it a second glance because most books in that genre aren't my cuppa tea. But if, in reality, it's chick-lit with elements of MR and UF and New Weird, then I'd be all over it, and you've lost a reader by labelling it in just one category

Ofc, in the end, it's all about marketing, innit?

I'm not really arguing against Magical Realism, as such. I'm sure it's a useful term for many books (although it may work against you too) Perhaps against genre labels being too rigid? Hmm.

And well, I want to have more readers. I'm sure we all do, and any way to get that is surely worth exploring.

I'd love to get away with just calling my books 'Some weird shit I made up'


PS: I read MR cos I like the fantastical elements of it - I want more fantasy - soo this:
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If they want to read Magical Realism, it won't be because they want more fantasy, it will be because of another drive or interest.
may also be flawed. It might be why some people read it, but not all. And that's the problem. Kinda.




*Note: I'm in the UK and the main bookshop, Waterstone's has very few fiction categories that are separated out, at least the local ones. SFF, Crime, MG & YA. Everything else is just shelved under 'Fiction' which is a help and occasionally a hindrance if you are looking for something very specific.
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Old 07-04-2012, 05:30 PM   #153
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I personally would consider magic realism being more related to fantasy than any other genre. In fact, in my mind the line between magic realism and urban fantasy is a pretty hard one to define (the main difference I've heard is that urban fantasy is about the magical elements while magic realism more just has them there but I wouldn't say that it completely covers it or that I completely agree with it).

Alternatively, and to take a more "genre is a marketing tool" approach, it could be to fantasy what "speculative fiction" is to sci-fi: a way to keep a book from falling into the dreaded genre section of a bookstore and instead keeping it on the general fiction shelves.
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Old 07-04-2012, 08:22 PM   #154
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I personally would consider magic realism being more related to fantasy than any other genre. In fact, in my mind the line between magic realism and urban fantasy is a pretty hard one to define (the main difference I've heard is that urban fantasy is about the magical elements while magic realism more just has them there but I wouldn't say that it completely covers it or that I completely agree with it).
I feel like we are going backwards .... Though, I do think it is interesting you see a strong connection with Urban Fantasy. I would be interested to hear why you think they are so closely related. To me they couldn't be further from each other.

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And I'm not entirely convinced that influences matter that much - what matters is the story. To me at least.
Story can be done three different ways, in three different genres, it isn't a useful metric for comparison here.

Influence is extremely important when making this type of comparison however, it shows why things are different. To me Why is far more important than What. I mean people keep trying to look at Magical Realism based on 'magic', and fantasy based on mythical beings. To me it shows a complete misunderstanding, and it makes having this sort of discussion like pulling teeth. I believe if anyone actually reads Pedro Paramo, they will realize it shares nothing with Urban Fantasy, even though its full of ghosts and supernatural beings in a small town. Why?

The most important thing, beyond actually having everyone read all the novels being discussed, is explaining what the novels feel like, and why they feel like that. To do this, we have to talk about influence, we have to talk about what the authors intent was with writing. Like I say earlier, a fantasy author wants to take you away on an adventure. Gabriel Garcia Marquez wants you to witness a murder from a dozen different angles, and question each one. Why? Because the authors come from different backgrounds, have different influences, and ultimately have different goals.
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Old 07-04-2012, 09:12 PM   #155
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I'm still not convinced about influences tbh. I mean, hell I've been influenced by all sorts of things, by writers from Dick Francis to Carlos Ruiz Zafron, but does that change what I'm writing? Not really. Joe Abercrombie has said he's hugely influenced by westerns, yet is clearly writing fantasy.

Now how a book makes you feel, yes (for me MR has a dreamy feel to it mostly) but influence doesn't automatically play a part in that. It might, of course. But just as easily might not, and so using it as a guide is problematic.
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Old 07-05-2012, 07:45 AM   #156
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I'm still not convinced about influences tbh. I mean, hell I've been influenced by all sorts of things, by writers from Dick Francis to Carlos Ruiz Zafron, but does that change what I'm writing? Not really. Joe Abercrombie has said he's hugely influenced by westerns, yet is clearly writing fantasy.
The authors and things that influence you do change your writing, you didn't develop in a vacuum.

Now those authors you listed, they probably didn't influence you greatly, or perhaps you don't notice their influence as greatly. But you write the way you write because of what you have read and what came before you. And it's not always other writers that influence you either. Tolkien was influenced by fairy tales, mythology, the war, his children. Gabriel Garcia Marquez was influenced by Colombia's history, politics, Kafka, Hemingway, Faulkner. And it all shows.

If you read something, and it doesn't change you(I don't mean huge drastic changes) than it isn't really influencing you now is it?

And being influenced by westerns doesn't mean an author will begin to write westerns; influence can be more subtle than that(actually its very obvious if you know what to look for/Don't just look for cowboys with guns!). Kurosawas seven samurai was influenced by westerns, yet it is clearly a samurai movie, the influence is in the plotting and characterization.

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Now how a book makes you feel, yes (for me MR has a dreamy feel to it mostly) but influence doesn't automatically play a part in that. It might, of course. But just as easily might not, and so using it as a guide is problematic.
Yes but try to think about why the author is writing like this, why does Magical Realism make things feel dreamy(not always, but certainly that is something common)? Think about the reasons behind the choices.

100-Years of Solitude feels like a dream because of how Gabo is warping time in the narrative? Why is he doing this? Try to understand the reasoning. He has taken the tone of his grandmother mixed with Juan Rulfo, because he wants to present the history of colombia like a fairy tale. If you read his novels in order you can see his early novels draw heavily on Hemingway, and then when he begins to read Faulkner his novels writing also switches. Do you see Faulkners influence on 100-Years of Solitude, or Hemingways influence on No one Writes..?

Denying influences is like denying your family and friends and everything around you.
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Old 07-05-2012, 01:00 PM   #157
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I think we are at cross purposes here

I think

What I am saying is that influences are no more important in MR than in any other genre, and that what influences you has/can have little bearing on what you're actually writing about. It may well influence style, but the subject matter, what you're actually writing about? Not so much (and I thought we were still talking about what makes MR, well, MR. Or did that change when I wasn't looking? )

Actually I feel a post about subject divided by style equals genre (or somesuch) coming on...


Hmmmm



The fact that I care little for who influenced a writer as long as I like his work is neither here nor there really (especially as, unless he specifically states it, I'm only guessing anyway, same with intent)
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Old 07-06-2012, 11:39 PM   #158
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I go into reading magical realism with a vastly different set of expectations than how I go into reading a fantasy story. I would say they are quite different, with an enormous amount of superficial similarities.

I would also approach writing magical realism and fantasy quite different.

Which is not to say that you can't have a story that has elements of both fantasy and magical realism, or could accurately be described as belonging to both genres.
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Old 07-07-2012, 10:34 AM   #159
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What I am saying is that influences are no more important in MR than in any other genre, and that what influences you has/can have little bearing on what you're actually writing about. It may well influence style, but the subject matter, what you're actually writing about? Not so much (and I thought we were still talking about what makes MR, well, MR. Or did that change when I wasn't looking? )
We may be at cross purposes, and rapidly moving away from the topic, but I am surprised you don't think influence is important in shaping authors.

Influence controls everything, nothing comes totally out of nothing. Even content. If it weren't for Tolkien, I doubt Fantasy would have quite so many elves in it(or if it did, they would be there because of another influential writer).

But influence comes from everywhere, all experience, not just other writers. New ideas are pulled from many many little things tied together, sure it is 'new', but in many ways it is also old.

It is only important to this discussion, because we are trying to define two genres. That is difficult to do without understanding where they came from(the authors that is), and what unifies them, and what their goals are.
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Old 07-08-2012, 02:55 AM   #160
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I think it depends on what part of writing you're talking about, when you talk about influences. It may influence style a great deal, but it may not influence what you write about at all. Or vice versa perhaps. It depends on the writer, what they read, what they enjoy etc. It is impossible to tell, unless a writer specifically says 'I was influenced by X' to make a definitive statement.

Hence my comment re style / subject helping to make genre.

I'm still thinking on that but...

For a completely made up example or two

I may be influenced by the style of Ian McEwan, but I go on to write about dragons, well, he hasn't really influenced my subject

It may be, as Kuwi says, that the expectations going in are different (for instance I may expect different things from SF to fantasy) however those expectations, to me, are my own foible, not a constraint of the genre. The (fantasy say) genre in and of itself is limitless. Hence, splitting something apart due to expectations can be problematic because we don't all have the same expectations from a label, unless it becomes quite broad. I may expect something from the label MR that makes Kuwi go O.o for instance. And because those expectations are subjective to us all, it makes the whole thing very hit and miss.

IF MR is a combination of subject and style, THEN that is subjective.

Hence my ambivalence.
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Old 08-05-2012, 05:28 AM   #161
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One thing I associate with MR is that it often veers into fantasy just when something painful, politically charged, and all-too-real is about to enter the picture. The black (here, South Asian) character in Satanic Verses who "invades" England in the form of a goat-man and is beat up by the police as an intruder. Eugie Foster's story "Biba Jibun" which is quite realistic but explodes into fantasy at the very end (she escapes into a supernatural world) just when it appears that the protagonist will be sexually molested by her uncle. I don't have the words to describe this affect on the reader, but it's a kind of disconcerting double vision: my brain wants to deny the intrusion of the fanciful and surreal, but the act of suppressing it makes me visualize and think about the sorts of nasty things that do go on all the time. So it winds up being a way to address everyday topics (police brutality toward minority groups, child abuse) but catching the reader a little off-guard so their usual defenses are down (no one says "oh, that's just preachy"). I'm not claiming that this holds for all MR, but maybe this side of it is one way to distinguish it from other genres / subgenres.
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Old 08-08-2012, 12:48 PM   #162
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Literary fiction with a little magic thrown in.
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Old 01-18-2013, 06:02 AM   #163
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Magical Realism

I've been writing in this genre for several years now without even realizing it...

Huh.

I never thought I was doing something original; just didn't realize there was a specific term for it.

Then again, I was in University before 'interstitial' became a term in academic circles. Oh well, it'll be a good word to throw in to the first agent I'm pitching to.
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Old 01-19-2013, 04:16 AM   #164
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Magical realism isn't fantasy, it is realism. It is literary fiction, not with some magic thrown in, but with deeper realism included. It provides a greater and a deeper insight into reality - an alternate explanation of reality that is just as valid as any other, including the generally accepted one. Thatís what literary fiction does; thatís what magical realism does. When I use those two terms, Iím talking about good literary fiction, about good magical realism, because I have to, because bad examples of either do nothing but possibly entertain. Which is not a bad thing, but life is too short for just that.
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Old 01-19-2013, 08:02 PM   #165
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We may be at cross purposes, and rapidly moving away from the topic, but I am surprised you don't think influence is important in shaping authors.

Influence controls everything, nothing comes totally out of nothing. Even content. If it weren't for Tolkien, I doubt Fantasy would have quite so many elves in it(or if it did, they would be there because of another influential writer).

But influence comes from everywhere, all experience, not just other writers. New ideas are pulled from many many little things tied together, sure it is 'new', but in many ways it is also old.

It is only important to this discussion, because we are trying to define two genres. That is difficult to do without understanding where they came from(the authors that is), and what unifies them, and what their goals are.
That's what it is for me. My tastes are far too catholic for me to able to say any particular author or genre influenced me.

My non-fiction interests - psychology, esoteric astrology, 'psychic energy', crime, conspiracy theories and so on - influence my writing far more than any fiction writer. As for style I'm still working on getting out of the 1800s
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Old 01-21-2013, 05:34 PM   #166
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As I understand it magical realism is simply that magic is part of normal life in the story setting and therefore all magical tools/events/happenings are simply accepted as such and neither questioned nor requiring of explanation, because magic is the norm to the story characters.
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Old 01-22-2013, 12:49 AM   #167
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As I understand it magical realism is simply that magic is part of normal life in the story setting and therefore all magical tools/events/happenings are simply accepted as such and neither questioned nor requiring of explanation, because magic is the norm to the story characters.
Not quite. That wouldn't necessarily be any different from fantasy.

Magic being accepted at face-value in an otherwise realistic setting is a common trait of magic realism.

What really defines it, though, is more how the magic is used. In magic realism, the magic is generally motivated as a representation of reality. The fantastic generally functions as a metaphor.

This is as opposed to fantasy, where the magic and fantastical elements are generally presented and explored in their own right.

I have an extensive blog post on my own feelings about what defines magic realism.
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Old 01-22-2013, 02:35 AM   #168
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i'm not sure "magic" really is an element in "magic realism", at least the way it's come to be defined as a literature term. It is most directly associated with, and I think originated with, the work of Gabriel GarcŪa Marquez. I've read a lot of GGM work, and I'm hard-pressed to find any "magic" in it. It's dreamy, sometimes almost surreal stuff, but "magic"?

The other writer I associate most clearly with the term is the Nigerian novelist Amos Tutuola. His stories are derived from a folktale tradition based on his background of upbringing in a rural village. Wonderful stuff, for those unfamiliar with him, and sharing a lot of the qualities of GGM's work.

As an aside, I wrote an affectionate satirical short story loosely based on the kinds of stuff GGM has written, and I actually think it's not bad. But unless you've read GGM, it comes off as odd and meaningless. The humor was just missed by the three or four people who have read it. It's trunked, because I can't fathom a possible market for it. Maybe I'll just post it in SYW and forget about it.

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Old 01-22-2013, 02:53 AM   #169
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i'm not sure "magic" really is an element in "magic realism", at least the way it's come to be defined as a literature term. It is most directly associated with, and I think originated with, the work of Gabriel GarcŪa Marquez. I've read a lot of GGM work, and I'm hard-pressed to find any "magic" in it. It's dreamy, sometimes almost surreal stuff, but "magic"?

The other writer I associate most clearly with the term is the Nigerian novelist Amos Tutuola. His stories are derived from a folktale tradition based on his background of upbringing in a rural village. Wonderful stuff, for those unfamiliar with him, and sharing a lot of the qualities of GGM's work.
Well, it depends how you define magic. I tend to just say "fantastical elements."

My own experience with magic realism comes mostly from Japanese authors such as Haruki Murakami.

There are times when magic realism's "magic" more closely resemble magic as you might see in fantasy.

But yeah, it doesn't usually come in the form of wizards casting spells.
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Old 01-22-2013, 03:35 PM   #170
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There's actual magic in magical realism books like Isabel Allgende's The House of the Spirits (augury, telekinesis), Laura Esqueval's Like Water for Chocolate (emotion transference), and Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (transformation, angels, devils). Sometimes a cigar is just a magic wand.
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Old 02-03-2013, 08:42 PM   #171
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I don't know that magical realism requires actual magic...I have generally understood 'magical'to perhaps refer to the uncanny or mildly fantastical
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Old 02-03-2013, 09:48 PM   #172
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I don't know that magical realism requires actual magic...I have generally understood 'magical'to perhaps refer to the uncanny or mildly fantastical
This is something I've been wondering about. Can a work be magical realism if it's ambiguous as to whether anything explicitly magical actually took place?
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Old 02-04-2013, 01:09 AM   #173
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This is something I've been wondering about. Can a work be magical realism if it's ambiguous as to whether anything explicitly magical actually took place?
Yes, if you draw upon the philosophies of those who believe in actual magic, in which it is understood to be more of a stacking of the odds of an outcome rather than fire flying from one's fingertips.
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Old 02-04-2013, 05:34 PM   #174
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So long as the magic is used in the context of literary fiction it's magical realism, which means it can showcase "fire flying from one's fingertips" or whatever power its author wishes it to showcase. Gabriel Garcia Marquez has flying carpets in his One Hundred Years of Solitude. Salman Rushdie has angels and demons cavort in The Satanic Verses. Isabel Allende exploits an abundance of telekinesis, telepathy, and augury in The House of the Spirits. Et cetera.
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It was that bastard manís voice that woke my father. Papu found himself back in his cell, lying atop a lush bed crafted of various male and female organs and his enemy's passions. Strong with that bastard manís magic, the organs restrained Papu and sensually rubbed against him. Some xxxxxxx him and some xxxxxx with his xxxxxxx.

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Old 02-05-2013, 02:43 AM   #175
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So long as the magic is used in the context of literary fiction it's magical realism
No.

No no no no no.

It has to do with how the magic is used in the context of the story.

"Literary fiction with magic in it" does not magical realism make.
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