Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thought for Thursday: A Need for Magic

Do you remember a time when you played “Let’s Pretend” or a similar game as a kid?  You would pretend to be something different, sometimes something ordinary (like a dog or a horse) and sometimes something ferocious (like a lion or a dinosaur) and sometimes something fanciful (like a fairy or a unicorn).  My group of friends at daycare loved this game, and it was especially fun to play at recess after watching a movie during “nap time” (well “nap time” for those who were sleepy and “movie time” for those who wanted something to do in the darkened room).  After seeing The Last Unicorn film, all I wanted to pretend to be was a unicorn, something so beautiful and magical that it could only exist hidden secretly in some wood far away from people. 

Now my dear readers are probably wondering how this moment of nostalgia relates to books.  ^_^  It regards the most-read and most-present genre on my bookshelves: fantasy.  For the longest time, that was the only genre I ever wanted to read, and I read many fantasy books back in school as I still do now.  Anne McCaffrey, Robert Levy, Tanith Lee, so many other authors that I can’t even recall all their names or even the titles of the books I’ve read.  I still love that genre most of all as I’m sure my readers know by the books I review.  But the fantasy genre has really branched out under many different labels.  Paranormal, supernatural, and speculative fiction are just another way of saying ‘fantasy.’  Books falling under these labels still have the fantasy element of magic.  It may not even be explained in the books instead just an underlying and understood presence involved in the story, and perhaps that is what really draws so many readers. 

It’s hard not to notice the rise of paranormal/supernatural/fantasy books in bookstores and libraries, and I think it’s great.  Not just because it’s my favorite genre, but because I think there is an unconscious need for magic in the populace today.  True, a lot of the books have to do with the extraordinary being found in the ordinary along with familiar elements of romance, mystery, and action.  But you could find those elements in novels listed under any of those separate genres or even in general fiction.  What is different about a paranormal book such as Aimee Carter’s The Goddess Test, Carolyn Turgeon’s Mermaid, or Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches?  Magic, as simple as that. 

I think people need magic and that they need to see the extraordinary and the special in the everyday.  Science and doubt have a way of taking away what people once thought of as magic.  Don’t get me wrong, I love science and technology and learning new information, but there is a certain spark that comes with the belief in something magical.  Think about a time when you saw a magician performing his trade either at a carnival or a daycare or library event.  Did you sit there, thinking that what the magician is doing can be proven using scientific facts?  Or were you so transfixed in awe by the idea that the magician is doing what was thought of as the impossible? 

As we get older, our childlike faith and belief starts waning, and we have to look at things logically and with fact.  The everyday world is just that, every day is another ordinary day.  I believe we get tired of that train of thought, and there’s some part of us that seeks out magic again even if it’s through the eyes of a storyteller.  We read and we escape the ordinary day by living the life of a sorceress, a werewolf, a vampire, a dragon, or even a human being taken into a fantastic realm.  Maybe we see ourselves in the familiar human elements, especially of a human being made to see the surrounding magic that they never noticed before.  We can remember that belief we once had and hopefully smile at the memory of how we not only wanted to chase unicorns and dragons… we wanted to be them. 

Think of this as a big ‘thank you’ to all old and news authors of paranormal, supernatural, speculative, and fantasy books.  Keep the magic alive within your words, and help future readers to see that magic, too. 


  1. Awww... I can just see a pint sized DJL prancing around like a unicorn or was that me? Keeping the magic alive everyday!

  2. lol I think it was probably both of us, Karen. ;)


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