SF Subgenres: Magic Realism

Magic realism was first described in the world of art by a German art critic, Franz Roh, in 1925. Much of it is associated with Latin American and Caribbean artists.

magic realism

Magic realism defined

Whether it appears in art or in fiction, this genre weaves magical elements into real elements as if they were ordinary occurrences. In other words, if it weren’t for the magic, the story could be considered ordinary or mundane. This genre stretched the definition of reality to include things this side of impossible. Magic becomes ordinary.

Separate from Fantasy

This sub-genre is generally considered as separate from fantasy because of its strong tie to reality. Fantasy fiction is definitely separate from reality. For example, although The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever (Stephen R. Donaldson) and the Dragon Knight series (Gordon R. Dickson) have aspects of the real world and fantasy, they are considered fantasy because the real world and fantasy world aspects are clearly separate and don’t overlap. With magic realism, magic is tightly integrated into the real world. As some have put it, this style is often heavy on realism and light on magic.

Examples of magic realism



  • Chocolat starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp
  • The Shape of Water starring Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer and Michael Shannon
  • Amélie starring Audrey Tautou and Mathieu Kassovitz

For more terms defined, visit the Glossary of Terms.

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About the author

Carma Spence has been a science fiction fan since childhood. Her father first introduced her to Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury when she was about 7 years old. She's never looked back. YesterYear's Future is a passion project inspired by a class she took in graduate school called "Science Fiction and American Culture." She is now volunteering as Co-Web Director for the Science Fiction Research Association.

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