Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Hispanic Fantasy Heritage

With today being the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge some of the prominent Hispanic writers in the fantasy genre who have helped to pave new roads in our genre and open up more opportunities, perhaps, for writers like me. I made these posts two years ago on the writers' forum I participate on,, and I thought it would be nice to share them here. These features are just an image (when available) of the author and a bit about them from their Wikipedia page as well as some assistance from my friend, Nyki Blatchley, whose blog can be found by clicking his name. 

Isabel Allende 
 A Chilean American writer whose works sometimes contain aspects of the "magic realist" tradition, and is famous for novels such as The House of the Spirits (La casa de los espíritus, 1982) and City of the Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias, 2002), which have been commercially successful. Allende has been called "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author". In 2004, Allende was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2010, she received Chile's National Literature Prize. 

Rudolfo Anaya
Rudolfo Anaya is a Mexican-American author. Best known for his 1972 novel Bless Me, Ultima, Anaya is considered one of the founders of the canon of contemporary Chicano literature.Anaya’s use of Spanish, mystical depiction of the New Mexican landscape, use of cultural motifs such as La Llorona, and recounting of curandera folkways such as the gathering of medicinal herbs, gives readers a sense of the influence of indigenous cultural ways that are both authentic and distinct from the mainstream.

Leslie Marmon Silko
Leslie Marmon Silko is a Native American writer of the Laguna Pueblo tribe, and one of the key figures in the First Wave of what literary critic Kenneth Lincoln has called the Native American Renaissance.Silko has noted herself as being 1/4 Laguna Pueblo (a Keres speaking tribe), also identifying as Anglo American and Mexican American. One of her more successful books is the collection of poetry, short stories and photographs, Storyteller.

Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. His work embraces the "character of unreality in all literature". His most famous books, Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (1949), are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, animals, fictional writers, philosophy, religion and God. His works have contributed to philosophical literature and also to both the fantasy and magical realism genres.

Laura Esquivel
Laura Esquivel began writing while working as a kindergarten teacher. She wrote plays for her students and wrote children's television programs during the 1970s and 1980s. Her first novel, Like Water for Chocolate, became internationally beloved and was made into an award-winning film. Her other titles include The Law of Love and Between the Fires.

Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel García Márquez started as a journalist, and has written many acclaimed non-fiction works and short stories, but is best known for his novels, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Love in the Time of Cholera (1985). His works have achieved significant critical acclaim and widespread commercial success, most notably for popularizing a literary style labeled as magic realism, which uses magical elements and events in otherwise ordinary and realistic situations. Some of his works are set in a fictional village called Macondo (the town mainly inspired by his birthplace Aracataca), and most of them express the theme of solitude.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The "Aha" Moment

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what types of things I look for when I’m reading just about any piece of fiction. I believe that folks who enjoy reading and do it as often as they can for the sheer joy of it do so for many reasons, but a key one is because reading makes us feel a little smarter for a while.

While reading nonfiction and non-prose writing (like academic stuff) does this just as easily, readers are already coming in expecting to grow as a person and be a bit wiser as a result. We aren’t necessarily or actively looking for this effect when it comes to reading literature for fun. This is why I am especially delighted to get that same feeling when I read in genres that aren’t typically meant to exercise the analytical side of my brain.

© 2005-2014,

As many of you probably know, my preferred genre is fantasy, which isn’t reputed for its ability to make us turn on our thinking caps. However, one thing I do find fantasy works well with is those “figuring out” moments. Fantasy introduces us to whole new worlds, or at least new situations, which we don’t see in our everyday lives. This one unifying theme of less than probable things occurring in these stories that wouldn’t normally occur in the real world leads readers to have to make a lot of assumptions. We assume the people in your world look like humans, that this eternally dark land is where the villain lives, that your fierce and fanged beast feeds on the blood of the living.

Because readers are constantly guessing at things when it comes to fantasy, the fact that we get something right based on the context writers have given us tends to bring us great joy and excitement in the prose. We’ve managed to “figure out” what the author was trying to get us to figure out. Sometimes we even get to solve puzzles the author may not have even consciously considered. How many of you caught the ring motif in A Dinner of Onions by Nora Harmony Wallace, which she claims she never intentionally included (bonus points to anyone who gets that reference)?

The danger, however, in writers offering up foreshadowing and other clues and Easter eggs for the readers is spelling everything out. At that point, readers feel like the author no longer trusts in their capabilities to figure things out and that the information is now being handfed to us. As a writer, I want my readers to be like, “Wow, I figured that out,” rather than “Dude, I totally saw that coming.”