I’m excited to announce that you can read the beginning of my horror short story “Autonomy Bleeds Black” is available to read on Vocal!
If you like psychological horror with some Kafkaesque elements and magical realism, you’ll enjoy it!
“Since there was nothing at all I was certain of, since I needed to be provided at every instant with a new confirmation of my existence, since nothing was in my very own, undoubted, sole possession, determined unequivocally only by me — in sober truth a disinherited son — naturally I became unsure even of the thing nearest to me, my own body.” – Franz Kafka, “Letter to My Father”
Modernism: “The term applied to a certain group of tendencies in literature and the arts since the late 19th century, including breaking away from established rules and traditional values, experimenting radically with form and style–sometimes even denying the need for form–and focusing on the subjective, often alienated, consciousness of the individual.” – NTC’s Dictionary of Literary Terms (1991)
You know… I think I’m going to invest in a more updated dictionary of literary terms because this one doesn’t have “postmodernism” in it and that makes me sad.
My Take On Modernism In Literature
First, I just want to let you know that we wouldn’t have had Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats (1980) with T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939). Just thought that was a cool fun fact. Even posted it on Instagram.
Anyway, modernism was an age I didn’t pay much attention to in college because I was more in love with the romantics. Studying it now, holy crap did I miss a lot. As someone who loves psychoanalytic literary critique, I would’ve had a blast deconstructing James Joyce (my birthday twin, by the way), Virginia Woolf (this lady, omg), Franz Kafka, and Eliot. I remember reading Kafka’s Metamorphosis (1915) and vaguely recall discussing perception and trying to process an unstable identity with my fellow peers. Reviewing the existential turmoil and radical thought in modernism now kind of reminded me of some films from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. My mother and I enjoy watching Hitchcock’s works, especially Vertigo (1958). There was also Whatever Happened To Baby Jane (1962) and honestly, take your pick of any Joan Crawford movie. Of course, I can’t neglect The Twilight Zone (1958). Modernism certainly had an impact on media that I personally feel, led more to a spiral of one’s personal voids than ground themselves with what is relative to them, like postmodernism sort of does (even though postmodernism is quite paradoxical, the acknowledgement of subjective/multifaceted views can help someone ground themselves a bit, I would say).
I read brief biographies on Kafka, Joyce, Woolf, and Eliot, some of the few who are seen as the pioneers of modernism. Woolf, Kafka, and Joyce had very apparent struggles that somehow polished, or perhaps unraveled, their art according to The Broadview Anthology of British Literature (2007) that I have. Like I said, I didn’t pay much attention to these guys in undergrad, but I’ll be reading their work now. I want to spiral with them and see for myself how postmodernists look back on their work and are proud of themselves for not letting their dreams and nightmares ruin them (but they’re not perfect either, tbh. I would write about postmodernism, but that’s not what the post is about… If you are interested in the comparison of modernism and postmodernism, I found this article to be pretty neat).
So, I just shared an article I posted today! It was a very enthusiastic review/recommendation of S. Kelley Harrell’s Runic Book of Days, which I strongly recommend to baby witches or pagans on the rise in norse shamanism, but ultimately, this is a blog about my progress as novelist and I’d like to discuss my thought process and construction of magic in my fantasy/scifi story. Rune magick has helped me with my confidence as a person, but definitely gave me inspiration as a writer.
Primarily there are two magic systems in this genre: hard and soft. My novel, Spirit Strings: Initiation, actually fixates on these systems because one is praised while the other is considered dangerous and I have my protagonist decide the truth of these magical systems for herself. The use of rune magick in my story, although they aren’t the Elder Futhark (yet? lol), would be considered part of the hard system, I think. Two videos immediately came to mind and I think if you’re reading this as a fantasy writer, you’ll definitely benefit from watching them. A YouTuber known as Hello Future Me made a concise video on the soft and hard magic systems. If you’re trying to figure out what direction you want to take with your magic system, I recommend giving them a listen. He’s quite silly, but I think he explained the systems wonderfully.
Anyway, conflict, cooperation, and consequence are essential in a story’s plot; if your story has magic, following the Sanderson laws is a good place to start. For my story, I really wanted the use of magic to be a controversial and stressful topic because the ability to wield it lives in everyone and facing the responsibility of using magic can be twisted into either oppression or empowerment. That is commonly seen in fantasy, of course, but I’m striving to go beyond character development. I want a psychological shift in my characters and I want my audience to wonder who’s going to snap, this way, as I reference Sanderson’s first law, my audience’s understanding of magic won’t bring a detrimental effect to the plot whether they want or expect hard magic or soft magic. As an Edgar Allan Poe fan, my knowledge of the supernatural, paranormal, and psychology wasn’t expansive when I was introduced to his work, but I was still allured by his writing because I connected to his commonly used first-person narrative voice. He wanted me to be right beside him while he experienced what terrified him. Audiences understand fear, stress, and other very common human instances. So when it comes to the magic system, yes, it’s important to have those foundational laws and thorough world building, which I’m definitely aiming for, but as I write, I want the magic system to be fueled by strained perceptions. I want the “cost” in hard magic to feel like suffocation. I want the “sense of wonder” in soft magic to reflect falling helplessly into the dark unconscious, the abyss of the psyche.
I want this because maybe you and others have ventured there before. I certainly did while working with rune magick guided by The Runic Book of Days. In my article, I spoke about the springtime, but in my novel series, you’ll get a glimpse of my bittersweet winter. I’m not trying to be edgy; just being honest. I relish in the fact that I trudged through my cold unconscious and survived. I still visit from time to time enthusiastically.