I asked Heidi to talk a little bit about magic and the supernatural in science fiction, and how she approached that in her book, which sounds (on a quick skim) like a fantasy book, but after further reading turns out to have nothing magical or supernatural about it at all. I’m actually a big fan of all kinds of sci-fi and a lot of fantasy, even those full of magic and those that become blocbuster movies, like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. I don’t have any problem with magic in fiction, because I generally assume that most adults, like children, can tell the difference between reality adn fantasy. (I know, what a silly thing to assume, especially with fundamentalist Christians trying to get Harry Potter banned because it might cause children to become real witches!)
Back to the book of the moment, I think it’s interesting the way Heidi made her book sound like a magical fantasy but it’s really something quite different.
Here’s what Heidi said:
Gormglaith has no magick (or stuff one might think of as “paranormal”). For example, the words and notions taken from Norse myth show up here and there in Gormglaith’s world as cultural echoes applied to a very modern, naturalistic (or scientific) outlook. On that thread, the language in Gormglaith in itself builds her world and I meant very much for the culture shock of the first two chapters to be startling. Some readers take to it like ducks to a pond, others have no time for it. I knew that would happen, by the bye… a trick to reading Gormglaith is understanding (and trusting) that there are no made up words.
Meanwhile it’s true, some readers may not grok straight off that this is hard science fiction, since the characters don’t muck about much with gadgets for example and there’s no space flight. The former’s because their technology is so far forward it’s wontedly transparent (which let me zoom in on the “cultural science fiction” I wanted to write), the latter because their ancestors long ago learned that for them, most kinds of space exploration weren’t worth the burn, so to speak.
The tale is five days and nights close by Gormglaith’s side (but for a few lines when thousands of screaming girls think someone else is her)… as she botches up her life, then deals with it. There are no internal monologues, not a shred of Latin and anyone called a witch has been way schooled at something helpful. I guess I did do a lot of research in writing it, anthropology and biology along with some physics and chemistry, never mind the linguistics, to make the setting both tight enough to bear what we know yet loose enough to carry what we don’t.
For those sci-fi and fantasy readers among us, how do you feal about magic and the paranomral in fiction, and what’s your favorite sub-genre?