On the Borderlands of Fantasy ~~ by Raymond St. Elmo

On the Borderlands of Fantasy ~~ by Raymond St. Elmo

I write fantasy. I read fantasy. I suppose I love fantasy. But I do not live it. Nope. I cross no fingers, knock no wood. I change the smoke-alarm batteries yearly and disdain mutant clovers, blessed crosses and St. Anthony medals for protection. I buy Captain Crunch, not Lucky Charms. I rotate my tires, signal lane-changes and floss. I yawn at spilled salt, black cats and cracked mirrors. I stare up at the night sky and see no Man in the Moon; just craters and plains with Latin names. I am… Mr. Reality.

And yet my daydreams are of stone vaults where cloaked figures gather for the Ritual. When enemies duel on a cliff-edge, I am there, popcorn bowl in hand. As lightning flashes across the cemetery, it lights up my eyes as much as any vampire’s. My ears are tuned to the sound of a ghostly horse trotting down the midnight road.

I told my kids Santa was a fraud, the Easter Bunny a flop-eared construct. That the periodic chart of the elements had greater influence over their destiny than any Zodiac. Even as I read to them from the Hobbit, Narnia, Prydain, Goosebumps, and the tales of Mr. H. Potter. Sometimes I wondered: did this create a fault line that must, soon or late, shake their lives?

Which duality brings us to scrubs. If there is a spectrum of fantastical clothing, with golden armor and velvet capes upon one side, the dress-code for Reality’s far end is blue-green plain two-piece unisex cotton clothing. Scrubs, that maketh the soul to stand in the harsh fluorescent lighting of what is real.

My daughter is interning in nuclear-med imaging tech. She can recite the bones of the body as I can the kings of Numenor. List the interactions of human organs as I can explain the factions of Dune. And gives me advice on hydrating as though I lived on Arrakis. She comes home in scrubs.

It is not really a uniform. It is more like holy armor. It says the wearer has been helping cancer patients out of wheelchairs and back in again. Injecting strange potions into veins, scanning bones and soft tissues with magic devices that will reveal the ill within.

I ask how her day went, and she shrugs. For her, it was just another day in reality town: fluorescent lights and heavy traffic. She knows what is real. Things that leave weird stains on your scrubs. But now I’m not so sure I know.

I am not a person given to causes and quests. OMP’s chance to write a story for a charity tilting at cancer was mere opportunity to do a bit of daydreaming. And yet, and yet… I think I have wandered across the border I spent so many years mapping. I sit at the kitchen table and worry that the fantasy world is slyer than I gave it credit. It wants us to be heroes, or villains, or at least explorers in strange lands. To take the quest, tilt against the giants or the windmills.

Bah to fantasy fog! I’m sitting at the kitchen table in Reality’s sunlight, feeling proud and nervous. True, outside the window I hear thunder, and maybe the hoof-clops of a ghostly horse. Old stuff, old props I can handle. But…scrubs? Who would have supposed they could be the magic robes of fantasy?


OMP Admin Note:  Raymond St. Elmo is a computer programmer living in Texas.  A degree in Spanish Literature gave him a love of magic realism. A fascination with artificial intelligence gave him a job. His books tend to be first-person fantastical accounts with frequent references to William Blake, Borges and PKD.

Advertisements

Gays — by Akje Majdanek

Gays — by Akje Majdanek

I can’t remember why I was at Electric Lit recently, but I stumbled across “this post” from a gay reader who resents heterosexual women writing m/m romance novels.

I can see his point, but of course, these novels aren’t meant for gay men, they’re written for straight women. They’re not supposed to be accurate portrayals of gay men; they’re supposed to be portrayals of men the way we want them to be. All romance is fantasy, after all.

Speaking for myself, I first started reading m/m romance when I’d read one too many hetero romances with a bimbo heroine and it occurred to me, Why am I reading a book about some TSTL heroine who isn’t me having a relationship with a great guy she doesn’t deserve, when I could get two men for the price of one?

It just made more sense to read about two men coming together than try to live vicariously through some stupid cow I couldn’t relate to. Evidently, a lot of other romance readers feel the same way. (♯^.^♯)

But I can totally sympathize with gay men who get a rude awakening when they stumble across one of these books. I feel the same way when I buy a bookmarked literary fiction, only to find it’s actually pulp fiction that happens to have stream-of-consciousness, a navel-gazing character, or an emphasis on characterization over plot. Personally, I define litfic by depth, not by gimmicks.

What’s needed is a better way to categorize books so the appropriate audience can find them and others know to avoid them. The problem is how to do that when the Book Industry Study Group is slow to recognize new genres, and Amazon has even fewer categories than the BISAC listings.

Actually, pondering it now, I don’t think it’s ever going to happen. ˓(ˊᘩˋ⋆)


OMP Admin Note:  Akje Majdanek is a writer and OMP Network member.  Akje is a guest blogger for the One Million Project website whose creativity is evidenced in her work.  Akje’s books–Der Reiter and Adeline–are available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Akje_Majdanek/e/B00UZSTW74 

The Problems with History ~~ by John Nedwill

The Problems with History ~~ by John Nedwill

Normally I write short stories. There is a discipline to it, trying to write a story that is complete but compact. And there is definitely a challenge in writing something that makes sense and is engaging when you only have a certain number of words to tell it in. Besides, the short story form seems to suit my butterfly mind. It allows me to develop an idea, write it down and move on before I become bored with the whole thing.

This does have its drawbacks, though. I find it very difficult to sustain a story to 10,000 words – let alone the 100,000 that most publishers seem to demand for a modern novel! It’s not that I just stop writing, leaving my story hanging in mid-air. No. What happens is that I start to close down my story. I resolve the various plot threads, I try to give the characters their endings, and then everything is brought to a (more or less) satisfactory conclusion.

Still, I am trying my best to overcome this. I recently embarked on a project that I think might actually be worthy of receiving a longer treatment. While doing some research into the history of my family, I discovered an interesting but little-known incident: the Larne gunrunning of 1914. As I looked deeper into events surrounding the incident, I found myself fascinated by the personalities involved, the political machinations surrounding it and the actual logistics of smuggling guns into Ireland. The more I looked, the more I became convinced that there was a story here that needed telling.

That’s when I hit another problem. For those not familiar with the recent history of Ireland, it has been a rather turbulent two or three centuries, the events of which still have repercussions to this day! And some of the people of Ireland have long memories and can be very touchy about certain subjects. So, rather than risk the wrong sort of attention by dramatising the actual events, I decided I would write a story that was a fiction based on the events of 1914, with names and places changed to suitably muddy my trail.

Oh dear. If you think writing historical fiction is hard work, it’s even harder trying to disguise it! I have had to alter the details of the events, changing them so that while they are accurate, they are not accurate enough to offend people. I have had to invent characters who, while they reflect the people involved, are not the actual people themselves. I’m also trying to play up the farcical elements of the whole thing. A sense of humour can be a wonderful defense. In short, the whole thing is a minefield and I feel like I’m dancing around the craters!

Will I actually bring this project to a conclusion? Will I break through the 10,000 word barrier? Will my story even see the light of day? I have no idea, but I’m going to find out!


OMP Admin Note:  John Nedwill is a writer, OMP Network member, and a regular #ONeMillionProject Blogger.  His work can be found on Wattpad.com and in the One Million Project’s Short Story Anthologies published in February 2018.