Repurposed Realism

In the crowded world of fiction genres,  it may seem pointless that to suggest there is a need for another genre, but the definition of creativity implies that genre-bending or genre-expanding is part of the artistic process. I introduce to you today what i am calling “repurposed realism”.  Repurposed realism is a little different from magical realism. It is not about fantastical elements co-existing in a realistic universe like our own, but more like an environmentalist’s fantasy. In fantasy, you have exotic materials and creatures that you can’t find on this earth, or at least in the country, and need to travel to places like New Zealand to find (LOTR). In repurposed realism, the environmentalist writer is more interested in using domestic props and recycling tropes and characters in a parachronistic period and in a location that would be classified as “invasive species.”

A whale cannot inhabit a swamp, in a realistic setting. But the boundaries on logic should be tested and suggest that by not compromising the aspect of water, (not writing a novel where pigs fly-also a cliche- in this case, a whale hovering/crawling and struggling over a desert would be too unbearable and insensitive even for a fantasy reader), the elasticity of plausibility continues to hold true in a swamp. A whale could have navigated by mistake or by necessity into an estuary, and, if this estuary happened to be connected via a brackish waterway to a swamp further up a river, then, it would be not entirely extraordinary for a whale to be found in a swamp. It is also a more a tolerable form of temporary suspension of disbelief- whether it be for a short story, a poem, a chapter, or even a novel, and thus, exploring the new limits of plausibility should serve as the raison d’etre for expanding upon this genre. A whale in a swamp can survive a novel, but not a human life time. However, the point of repurposed realism is not to emphasize the crises of reality (endangered animals in captivity), but to enjoy a lightweight or vegetarian form of fantasy- one that doesn’t require the exotic medieval armor on loan from the metropolitan museum or the Game of Thrones set, or the CGI of Industrial Light and Magic to inspire the reader of a greener/better world. A whale in swamp is not “better,” but it should incite the imagination to some sort of positive action, or further creativity.

There is plenty of the ethereal in the existing world that it would be a bit wasteful to depend solely on stock products, imitated galaxies far, far away, and the tradition of the social guild. Realism is thus an established social order, even if it is tiered as in first world, third world, etc. Fantasy as a literary genre usually has more of a self-sufficiency prerequisite – completing a book on one’s own, rather than watching the news with reinforced social narration and validation. Realism in literature reflects society but does not overtly seek to change it. Repurposed realism is, in many ways, a practical fantasy, much like philosophy. If this does not convince you, let’s not forget the reality of fish farms as an apt metaphor for irregular habitats. I’m not entirely opposed to fish farms, but I feel like we should appreciate similar imagery in fiction if we are willing to remain blind of our food sources, and the conditions they live in.  Giving a whale a more visible presence, even if in an unnatural setting, only makes us more aware of our actions.

I compare this genre and am inspired in part by the applied art’s great schism from fine arts in the late 1800s/ early 1900s: It’s also a pursuit of the uncanny- the capture and expression of, and transformation into something more familiar and friendly, domesticated, or at least documented (as in a sighting of the Loch Ness monster.) Another way of putting this is, I am interested in “a fiction stranger than fiction”. If it is plainly fiction, then it either successfully redefines the genre with recognition(suggesting fiction hasn’t been strange enough, and that it should be) , or it remains unrecognized and obscure or an outsider work by the paradigmatic kingmakers.