A Cross-Genre Analysis of Gaiman’s Selected Works
One of the key features that marks the fiction of the postmodern era is the subverting of age old traditions and beliefs. This is most commonly done by proposing the existence of multiple realities. This trend has also given rise to what is now being called the transrealist movement. Transrealism is one of the major literary movements of the 21st century, that emerged by blurring the boundary between fantasy and reality. Many writers have written fiction about alternative worlds; Neil Gaiman is one of them. The study analysed three ‘alternate world’ novels namely; Coraline, The Graveyard Book, and Neverwhere by Gaiman as transreal works that address multiple audiences on social issues.
The research examined the social impact of the selected works across three genres of children, young adult and adult fiction, by employing a theoretical model based on Rucker’s Transrealist Manifesto, and Poststructuralist theories of Derrida and Lyotard.
The analyses revealed that the selected works of Gaiman with ‘alternate worlds’ have transreal elements and satirize social reality of the world by presenting an alternate reality. This alternate reality experienced by the protagonists of the novels, highlights social problems regarding parenting, family ties, teen rebellion, class division, poverty and lack of compassion for the underprivileged. The conclusion derived therefore proves that the works studied being transreal; subvert consensus reality by offering variety of world-views and embed themes pertaining to social reality.
Speculative fiction of the 20th century is best exemplified by the growth of new genres, it is difficult to determine where science ends and where fiction begins, the wildest fantasies of science fiction writers have a way of becoming scientific fact. Science fiction always worked hand in hand with fantasy and came to be called “science-fantasy” as well, but postmodern fiction being a blend of genres and techniques, added “realism” to this combination in order to construct parallel worlds existing side by side the author’s world. These fictional worlds offered an alternative view of social reality and became an instrument of social criticism. This is how “Transreal Fiction” emerged, which though has elements of science-fantasy, is rooted in realism and represents higher reality of our own life, and its problems.
The focus of the current study is “alternate worlds” which are built with transreal elements across three genres of Children, Young Adult and Adult fiction. Neil Gaiman is known for crossover fiction and as a cross-genre writer; his works have immense academic scope and are counted among postmodern classics. The researcher chose to work on Transrealism because it is a revolutionary form of writing that demands recognition and appreciation. Crossover fiction crosses over from one audience to another and cross-genre writing is that which traverses genres.
Author of speculative fiction Damien Walter, who also writes for The Guardian defines the emerging genre of Transrealism as; “It’s not science fiction, it’s not realism, but hovers in the unsettling zone in-between” (2014, para. 1). Additionally, another Australian critical theorist and Science fiction writer, Damien Broderick calls Transrealism “the unleashing of the fantastical and strange into ordinary life” (2009, p. 10). It has been found that Neil Gaiman can be considered as a transrealist, who has a way of highlighting realities of life through fantastic stories. This thesis focuses on Transrealist traits in Neil Gaiman’s three novels that have been chosen for study. The researcher has systematically explored how this mode of speculative writing and the literary devices associated with it bring out the social behaviours, attitudes and issues that the author has satirized.
Alternate worlds stand for looking at reality from a different angle and represent variety of world-views. The fiction which employs this approach can foster change in its readers, by letting them see an “alternate reality” better from their own social reality. Postmodernists being sceptic, and influenced by deconstructionist approach are concerned with the unreliability, uncertainty and imprecision of the knowledge that exists. This is why the contemporary fiction including science fiction, aims at deconstructing popular myths that are tools of mass thought-control. Postmodernism hence is all about possibility of multiple truths, alternate realities and possible worlds that man may not know of. Transreal approach to speculative fiction has a social value, because it addresses multiple audiences on themes concerning social reality, which is built upon certain repressive ideologies, and is questionable.
(I did my thesis on this topic, felt like sharing the abstract and introduction with those who are literature enthusiasts.)