I've just fnished Geoff Ryman's novel WAS, and I'm baffled. Like all Ryman's work, this is beautifully written. And I know I said a few posts ago that category labels don't matter. But, nonetheless... What is this?
The novel follows three characters; one is the young Judy Garland before and as she films THE WIZARD OF OZ. This thread is a sort of dramatized biography, using real facts. The second character is a fictional actor dying of AIDS in 1989; here, too, there is fiction but nothing SF or fantastical (although the character is given to hallucinations and delusions). The third thread is an alternate (and much grimmer) life of Dorothy Gale, a different version of the life of somebody else's fictional character, presented as an actual little girl in 1875 Kansas with no fantasy elements in her heart-breaking life at all. Yet the novel was published by Fantasy Masterworks of Great Britain. So my question: Does something have to be different in some way from real life -- contain some element of magic -- for a work to be "fantasy"? Or is it enough to merely present the alternate reality of a fictional icon, stripped of all the original fantastical elements?
I ponder this as I prepare to attend World Fantasy Con in Saratoga, NY later this week. Stay tuned.