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At the Border of SF: Magical Realism

Last month I wrote about crossover YA-- speculative fiction written for a teen audience that adults would also enjoy.  This month, I'd like to take another stroll outside of the SF genre shelves and introduce you to a close cousin: magical realism. 

Magical realism is essentially mainstream fiction with a difference.  Unlike urban fantasy, which uses a version of our world as a setting for fantasy (with all of fantasy's tropes and magical rules), magical realism brings an element of myth and fantasy into an otherwise mundane real-world setting and treats it as factual.  The result is something as weird and startling as finding a half-burnt simurgh feather on the ground while you're out walking the dog: the wondrous becomes (sometimes uncomfortably) possible and close and real

Argentinian author and librarian Jorge Luis Borges is widely considered the originator of this genre with his A Universal History of Infamy, in which he blends a few fanciful details and villains of fable into an otherwise factual recounting of evildoers from history.  In fact, a lot of magical realism today still comes from Latin American authors (as you can see in the list below), but its appeal has definitely grown beyond its original borders.  Popular authors like Toni Morrison, Audrey Niffenegger, Salman Rushdie, Alice Hoffman, Joanne Harris, and Haruki Murakami all write in the genre.

Magical realism is a great crossover point both for regular fiction readers who want to dabble their toes in fantasy and for SF readers who want to try something a bit more mainstream.  (They make excellent book club choices, too.)  Whether you're a mainstream fiction reader or a speculative fiction fan, you're certain to find something here that's out of your common way.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Reading List Allende)
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (Fiction Allen)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (Fiction Bender)
Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (Short Stories Borges)
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (Fiction Bulgakov)
Outside the Dog Museum by Jonathan Carroll (Fiction Carroll)
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (Fiction Coelho)
Corelli's Mandolin by Louis De Bernieres (Fiction De Bernieres)
The Mistress of Spices by Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni (Fiction Divakaruni)
The Antelope Wife by Louise Erdrich (Fiction Erdrich)
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Fiction Esquivel)
Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer (Fiction Foer)
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Fiction Garcia Marquez)
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (Fiction Groff)
Chocolat by Joanne Harris (Fiction Harris)
Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin (Fiction Helprin)
Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (Reading List Hoffman)
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Express Fiction Ivey)
Train Dreams by Denis Johnson (Fiction Johnson)
The Green Mile by Stephen King (BCD King)
The Loves of Judith by Meir Shalev (Fiction Shalev)
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel (Fiction Martel)
The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller (Express Fiction Miller)
Beloved by Toni Morrison (LP Morrison)
1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (Fiction Murakami)
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (Fiction Niffenegger)
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (Fiction Obreht)
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Fiction Ruiz Zafon)
Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie (Fiction Rushdie)
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (Fiction Russell)
In a Town Called Mundomuerto by Randall Silvis (Fiction Silvis)
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind (Fiction Suskind)
The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa (Fiction Vargas Llosa)

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