"Dragons! Ever since he was two years old he had been captivated by the pictures of the fiery beasts in The Octarine Fairy Book. His sister had told him that they didn’t really exist, and he recalled the bitter disappointment. If the world didn’t contain those beautiful creatures, he’d decided, it wasn’t half the world it ought to be."
(The Color of Magic - A novel of Discworld by Terry Pratchett)
This is exactly how I always felt. And I was not only missing the dragons. What about vampires, werewolves, witches and wizards? Where were the shining queens, kings and knights? No monsters, no gods, no goblins to be seen. No resurrection, no epic battles, no magic. No magic!
Instead of Galadriel, we get a boring politician with a bad haircut, instead of Sauron a stupid liar with even worse hair. So disappointing.
But there have always existed magicians! They are the ones who take words and create worlds out of them with the pure power of their imagination. The story-tellers, authors, writers of the past and present.
I love music, dance and the fine arts. And movies! But literature for me is the highest form of art. (Please excuse my bias, my dear artist friends and even my beloved.) This is why I have been reading my whole life, why I started to study literature, why I did roleplaying-games, why I always wanted to write a novel - until a friend told me that I’d be crappy at it. Now I might be too old to complete my studies and too discouraged to write, but I can still read. So everything is fine.
But is it?
Where have all the magicians gone?
Don’t get me wrong, I always cherished the approach of describing our world and its inhabitants in realistic or sometimes idealistic forms as done by many important authors of the 19th century: Zola, Dickens, Jane Austin, the Brontes, Mrs. Gaskell, Henry James … Today there are great writers who follow in their footsteps and there are lots of good reads lying ahead. But I was from an early age very much attracted by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley and those others who created worlds full of mystery, monsters and magic. My true heroes are the fantastic authors of the 20th century: J.R.R. Tolkien, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Umberto Eco, Terry Pratchett.
(I am aware that most critics would not include Pratchett in such an illustrious list, but I believe he was a master.)
The problem is: now they are all dead and I’m seriously running out of fantastic novels to read. Most newer publications have rather disenthralled me. Sure, Steven King ist still living, but after having produced masterpieces like It or The Stand he has long failed to write another comparably compelling story.
(Again with the alliterations! I guess this is why I should not write!)
There is one magician left: Neil Gaiman.
Neverwhere, American Gods, The Ocean at the End of the Lane… Those are books that open windows to other worlds and by this make the most poignant observations about our so-called reality, our lives and our fears. I think he’s great. Also quite cute - in spite of the funny hair.
But I am beginning to fear that his fame might keep him from writing great books in the future. He is getting a little too popular and busy posting about his talented wife, his book signings and the TV-adaptation of American Gods. Yes, I am going to watch and like it. And yes, his latest work Norse Mythology was as illuminating as it was amusing, but dear Mr. Gaiman: I need a new world to discover.
Because the one in which we are living is getting more dreadful and boring by the hour. Someone has to help me get off the internet and read more about Brexit, Trump and the other evils in my work-free hours.
So please write another outstanding novel into which I can escape. Now?
I actually have in this room one of my favourite novels which I intended as a present for you last year and then forgot to take with me. I don't know if you will like it or not - it is historical, rather than fantastic - but it is basically optimistic, the characterisation is magnificent and so is the writing. I will try to remember it for Pequena - as it's a 20-novel series it would keep you going for a bit, IF you liked it, which you might not. Otherwise I think the options might be either sidestep into graphic novels, which are often of high quality, or reconnect with your inner child and start writing your own.
Sounds great! And as you know, I love historical novels as well.
You're so sweet, my dear! <3
Ah yes, Neil Gaiman, one of my favourites as well. I wonder whether you would enjoy the fiction written by China Miéville, a London-based author who writes, what can be broadly categorised as, weird fiction, with often a dystopian undertone.
What about China Miéville?
Try the Bobiverse books. A bit on the sf side but well written and entertaining. Or the Laundry series of Charles Stross.
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