Tag Archives: magic realism

Women in Horror: Sandy Hunter

I’m still featuring Canadian women as they pop up. Today I have Sandy Hunter.

women writer, horror, dark fantasy, magic realism

Sandy Hunter

In common with many, I’ve always written…however, I’m a late-bloomer as far as submitting for publication goes. I’ve had a short story published in On Spec and various poetry in Gaslight, Stygian Vortex, Women & Recovery and Lynx. My most definable as “horror” short story, “And the Coyotes Sang”, is in the Spinetinglers 2011 anthology currently available at Amazon.com/.uk. My first novel Elanraigh: The Vow, an epic fantasy, was released by Eternal Press in February, 2012. Currently, I’m working on a sequel to Elanraigh: The Vow and looking for a home for my latest short story “River Wraith,” a fantasy thriller with ecological overtones.

SANDY HUNTER

1.  Why do you write dark fiction/horror? Some people consider it only a sensationalistic tableau. Why this genre over others or do you span the literary landscape?

 Anything I write has a speculative element in it. Be it epic fantasy, magic realism or paranormal—I love to stretch boundaries that way—does that makes my darker pieces more “dark fantasy” than horror? That precise boundary is always blurred… My stories tend toward female protagonists struggling against the constraints or conditions around them, who become empowered by either the revelation of an alternate side of their psyche or an actual channeling of some potent force/ entity. The victims in these stories are usually characters that I, and I expect my readers also, will little mourn. There’s something cathartic about doing them in…who hasn’t imagined themselves strangling that obnoxious petty bureaucrat, or arrogant and insufferable boss?

2. What dark themes do you explore in your fiction?

I’ve toyed with the theme of possession more than once. The antagonist in my novel is a
mage who uses mind control for his own ends; my protagonist has some defenses against
this and is horrified that one would so abuse their power, their gift. She sees the evil that
can be done. The thought of being compelled/driven against one’s will (or possessed by
evil) horrifies me. There are types of imprisonment beyond physical confinement. Perhaps
that’s why I find circuses disturbing too…bears in tutus, etc.—the distortion of a creature’s
natural behavior.

3.  Do you feel horror/dark fiction is an important genre and why; what does it bring to the table or allow you to explore? Who inspired you?

fantasy, dark fantasy, women in horror, Canadian authors

Sandy’s first novel Elanraigh is now available.

 Stories that take us to scary places, be it physically or psychically, have been with us since the times of myths and legends. Through the ages it’s human nature to desire to shuffle forward and spit into the abyss, never knowing what we’ll arouse…all the better, though, if we can live the experience vicariously from our favorite reading chair.

In my early days I enjoyed Ray Bradbury (especially Something Wicked This Way Comes), Edgar Allan Poe, and Ann Rice’s lush prose, especially her novels The Vampire Lestat and The Mummy.

3.  Do you feel women are under-represented in any way in the speculative arena or do you think there is more focus on them than on men? 

 A lot of us may remember how sf/fantasy of the 50’S, 60’s and 70’s was predominately male-centered. Even as a kid watching those terrible 50’s nuclear-mutant monster movies on TV, I’d get so annoyed at the scientist’s female assistant who when they’re fleeing the monster, would always trip and fall screaming shrilly and helplessly while he’s trying to haul her out of danger’s path. Why don’t the girls’ ever know what to do? I’d wonder.  Of course today, we have a huge roster of established female writers of both sf and fantasy and we have kick-ass heroines like Ellen Ripley (Alien film series).

Spinetinglers anthology

Spinetinglers anthology

4.  Abuse against women is worldwide: the gang rape of the Indian woman, women assaulted in various terrorist attacks or protests against regimes (Egypt, Syria, etc. throughout time), domestic violence and murder at the hands of boyfriends, father, families and husbands, sexist representation, being treated as second class citizens or possessions and made to dress in a particular way, etc. With all that’s going on, what do you want to say about where women are or what we can do to stem the tide?

It’s a sad commentary on society today and throughout history that women are controlled and suppressed by male members of their family unit. In medieval times we had the witch trials and the Malleus Maleficarum (the Hammer of Witches) sanctioned by church authorities. As long as men fear female “power,” as they perceive it (and on some deep level many do still equate it with evil) women will continue to suffer violence. I’m no sociologist, and I don’t know the global cure—certainly equal education for men and women, and efforts by society to move beyond despotic regimes whether in the state or the household.

Thanks again, Colleen, for the opportunity to ponder out-loud your great questions. I enjoyed reading these blogs and spending time with “Canadian Women of Horror.”

 www.sandrahunter.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/pages/S-A-Hunter/

http://www.amazon.com/Elanraigh-The-Vow-ebbook/dp/B0075XGQSU/

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What is Fantasy?

In the world of writing and reading there are genres and sub-genres. Some (though possibly not all) of those genres are: romance, literary, horror, fantasy, science fiction, thriller, mystery, mainstream, slipstream  (or cross-genre),western (though mostly defunct these days) and a host of others. There are many sub-genres and some people will debate that they are genres in their own right. It gets confusing and there is a grey line between some.

For the world of fantasy, some of the sub-genres are: dark fantasy, magic realism, mythological, sword & sorcery, high or medieval fantasy, heroic fantasy, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, etc. Your mileage may vary. First fantasy is a story written in a world or time that is not now or historical. However, it also has a fantastical element, something that is more than the world we know. It could be magical creatures (vampires, fairies, hobbits, unicorns) or it could be a form of magic or a system/organism that works differently. Angels, people who can disappear at will, who move faster than normal, who must eat rocks, who can transform themselves or others, sentient planets, mystical vessel, curses and blessing, gods, carnivorous trees, firebreathers, aquatic being, winged creatures, etc. All these are fantasy. But fantasy can also be a bit less than this. It can be the world of today but there are ghosts and that’s it. I’ll briefly define the sub-genres.

  • Dark Fantasy–this could really be any of the above elements but with a darker mien than the regular tropes. In other words it has a horrific or tragic element. Now many of the fantasy novels being published could also be labeled dark fantasy, and really dark fantasy is the new label for horror. Horror fell out of favor with mainstream publishers years ago and it was better to label something fantasy or thriller. So dark fantasy will deal with the shadow side of the world and its characters far more. Beings might be abused and die and inevitably there will be dark forces that can prevail. Lord of the Rings could be dark fantasy but is usually just labeled fantasy. It falls in a number of categories. The Princess Bride would be fantasy or humorous fantasy if you need to define it more.
  • Magic Realism–often this is Latin American writing, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s works, but many other people write it as well. It is surreal and very much in the modern world that you and I live in. There may be no sense of wonder because the one aberrant thing is either hidden to most people or possibly known by everyone but taken as commonplace and their part of the world. It could be a woman having a conversation with an angel or one that I read, about a boy born a centaur who goes through his life trying to have a surgery to correct this condition. Magic realism will have a heavy focus on the human condition.
  • Mythological–this may take place in the historic past, the present or the future. It could involve gods or other mythological beings. It could be based on a creation or destruction myth. Basically all those ancient tales of gods are the first fantasy, except that the people of the time believe them and they were the religion. But the story of Gilgamesh and other adventure tales were pretty much your first fantasy stories.
  • Sword & Sorcery–pretty self-explanatory. Usually set in pre-industrial times or on other worlds, often medieval but could be Renaissance, Hun, Pictish or a hundred other times and place. S&S involved magic and fighters, and yes Lord of the Rings is sword and sorcery as well.
  • High or Medieval Fantasy–these will involve grand adventures and epic scale battles or fighting the forces of good and evil. High fantasy isn’t always medieval but it is often enough, Katherine Kurtz’s books are an example of medieval fantasy. It’s your basic feudal systems, rulers, battles and perhaps a few wizards and dragons thrown in though what these creatures or their abilities will truly be will differ. Yes, Lord of the Rings fits in here too.
  • Heroic & Epic Fantasy–I’m lumping these two together though they could be defined as slightly different, where the first could be about a solitary hero and the second would possibly cover years and countries and a group. But that’s not necessarily true. These two will have heroes, those who sacrifice themselves or their way of life for a greater good, who will battle against great odds and their actions will change much of the world as they know while changing themselves as well. Again Lord of the Rings is also heroic and epic. Robert Jordan and Terry Brooks write this style of fantasy.
  • Urban Fantasy–takes place in our modern world or one similar but could have bike riding elves, troll waitresses, fairies selling drugs or whatever. The example I gave is kind of cliché now but it all depends on the story and how it’s written. It can also involve someone who sees creatures feeding on the souls of others, or a particular breed of magical being living in Hawaii. But mostly urban fantasy is…urban.

These definitions are by no means complete or absolute. Others will interpret the sub-genres of fantasy differently. Some will count alternate histories and steampunk under fantasy and it may well have fantastical elements as well as historical and scientific. Hence why we have grey boundaries to the genres. I worked in a bookstore for years specializing in the speculative genre and I still couldn’t keep them straight.

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Writing: Revisionist Poems & Stories

A discussion of revisionist writing came about on another list when I mentioned that I had sold my poem “The First Taste” to Dreams & Nightmares. It is a revisionist poem about Persephone. I was asked what I meant by revisioning. A good question because the term is probably most often used in terms of history and politics. But on the other side are the revisionist myths or fairy tales. Some will come tagged with feminist revisionism but it goes beyond that.

I ran into revisioning somewhere way back, maybe first to do with the retold fairy tales, especially the ones that were in the Datlow/Windling anthologies. But I was also doing a course on children’s literature where we examined fairy tales right back to Perrault and the Grimm brothers. Angela Carter’s tales came up as some early revisionist fairy tales. I’ve also run into it in poetry but don’t remember when anymore. It could have been in the creative writing courses at UBC or in the world of speculative poetry.

I guess the basis for any revisioning poem is that instead of a third person or narrative tale of a hero’s or god’s deeds, the tale is now told in first person, though third person is also used. It might also be in the voice of the lesser being/mortal/bad guy who traditionally was fairly two-dimensional. This is not always the case with stories, which may also be in third person, but all tend to delve into the psyche of the person and how they feel.

This is sort of what happened to SF when it evolved past the embryonic stage of BEMs (bug-eyed monsters) and started to become more realistic; or magic realism, set in today’s world with just a small twist of otherness. (Is this the bastard child of canlit and spec fic?)

Like all genre labels, revisioning is just another fancy word for categorizing what we write. 🙂 In my revisioning poems (which really is just a classic tale, whether fairy tale or heroic myth, from another point of view) I’ve written on Dionysus, Kore/Persephone, Athena, Leda, Psyche, Demeter, Aphrodite (though the last really doesn’t fit the same way as the others). I’ve also written one story on the oracle on Pythos before it/she became the Delphic oracle.

In stories, I’ve taken various fairy tales and rewrote them as well, from the Princess and the Pea, to Snow White, to Dorothy after Oz.I’m sure there are other takes on revisioning but this is pretty much how I see and understand it. One well-known child’s story done in a revisionist mode is the about the three little pigs but from the wolf’s point of view, pointing out how he was framed.

Classical fairy tales are fairly thin and two-dimensional, offering very little depth into the whys and wherefores. Many fairy tales were cautionary tales, and others were, what academics now presume, tales to show/train young women for their eventual separation from their parents, and subsequent marriages. It is the purview of fantasy and speculative fiction to take the regular world and twist the what-if. If we’re looking at old, tried and true  tales, then it’s turning the story on its edge and presenting a new view.

Whether called revisionist, speculative or just plain fantasy, taking the classics and showing a new perspective is part of the evolutionary process. Fairy tales, myths, fables were once passed down, word of mouth from person to person. The oral tradition actually kept the story current to the times as the teller would adapt or change aspects to suit the understanding of the listeners. The constant evolution means many stories have passed over the lips of humanity to be lost in the trails of time. With the newer tradition of taking those now codified tales, whether Sleeping Beauty or the tale of Eros and Psyche and telling a new story, the process continues to bring evolution to the myths and fairy tales of our ancestors.

Here is a lesson plan on revisionist fairy tales for anyone who teaches about writing and reading: http://www.readwritethink.org/lessons/lesson_view.asp?id=992

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