Rebecca Day

Magical systems, generally

Posted by rwday on October 28, 2007

A couple of form rejections, one from Strange Horizons for “Mourning Jewel” and the other from ASIM for “Stepchild.”  I’ll get them sent out again tomorrow, but honestly, it’s depressing as hell sometimes, and short stories are, right now, a distraction from the novel I ought to be working on.  I’ll keep sending out the finished ones, but unless I get knocked upside the head with an idea that won’t leave me alone, I’m not going to write any new ones for a while.

We were in Ohio for family stuff this weekend, and as usual, I planned to write in the car, and as usual, I really didn’t.  I polished a bit, edited some, fiddled with ideas, and worked on organizing some files, but no actual writing was accomplished.  I really hate burying myself in my laptop while my poor husband drives in silence.  He’s not a big music listener, doesn’t do audiobooks, so my conversation is pretty necessary when the road gets long and boring.

I did go over my current project with him, basically making sure the way I’m handling the magic seems logical and consistent to him.  He’s read a lot of second world fantasy and has definite thoughts on magic, so it was very helpful.  We both agree that too often magic is either inconsistent (i.e. your wizards seem to be able to do pretty much anything, and yet Voldemort is still running loose  there are all these problems that could easily be solved by a couple of well-placed spells) or worse, the fantasy reads like a bad D&D adventure with people hurling magic missiles around willy-nilly.  Besieging a castle?  Why bother with trebuchets and starving them out?  Just zotz them into the stone age with your Awesome Spell o’Doom.

No thanks.

The thing about magic in my world is that it’s largely considered part of the past – like in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, there was once a time, an almost mythical past, when magic existed, but that time has passed.  Of course, that’s just the perception of most of the common people, which doesn’t necessarily reflect reality – magic is still there, it’s just kept quiet.   It’s the Middle Ages, after all, and their world has a Pope and will soon have an Inquisition, and besides, one guy with magic generally isn’t much good against ten thousand peasants with scythes and cudgels.  Magic is an ace in the hole, a last resort, so you don’t get people conjuring up chairs out of thin air a la Dumbledore.  My magicians get their chairs the old fashioned way – the make their peasants build them.

We also talked briefly about me doing a romance, just to see if I can.  I have a pretty decent plot developed for a futuristic romance, and when I finish Fim and set it aside to season, I may give it a go.  I know fantasy romance is what’s selling these days, but vampires bore me and I don’t see that I have anything new or original to say about werewolves, really.  Though neither does anyone else, from what I can see. Seems like half the books on the romance aisle have the word ‘Moon’ in the title.  Makes me want to write one called Arse Moon, about Bradley Barebutte, a ruggedly handsome cop who turns into a wolf when he drops trou. Somehow I don’t think the literary world is ready for that…

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4 Responses to “Magical systems, generally”

  1. haydenthorne said

    The thing about magic in my world is that it’s largely considered part of the past – like in Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, there was once a time, an almost mythical past, when magic existed, but that time has passed. Of course, that’s just the perception of most of the common people, which doesn’t necessarily reflect reality – magic is still there, it’s just kept quiet.

    I’ve always thought that to be a fantastic angle to use when it comes to breathing new life into the genre of magical-reality/historical-fantasy/whatsitsname. Consigning magic to the past gives it a more mythical status as well as a more mysterious and much richer tradition. Reading Jonathan Strange grounds that home again and again, and Clark’s footnotes are to die for.

    Sorry to hear about the rejections. I can commiserate, most definitely. I’m no longer writing new short stories and have a folder of unsold ones waiting to be sent out when the right call comes my way. Good luck with future submissions! I’m sure you’ll find your babies some homes someday.

  2. rwday said

    I suppose I’ll find a place for them, or else give up eventually and stick them in a file. Short stories can be fun, but they’re certainly not going to put my kids through college.

    Jonathan Strange, I think, has to be one of the richest and most well-conceived books I’ve read in ages. It’s one of the few books set in the first part of the 19th century that actually reads like it was written in the period.

  3. Hayden said

    Jonathan Strange, I think, has to be one of the richest and most well-conceived books I’ve read in ages. It’s one of the few books set in the first part of the 19th century that actually reads like it was written in the period.

    Isn’t it? If I were given a choice, I’d rather put out a book as thorough, clever, and wonderfully written as Jonathan Strange once in my life without anything else following. Better leave one masterpiece for my literary legacy than an endless series of forgettable books.

  4. rwday said

    . Better leave one masterpiece for my literary legacy than an endless series of forgettable books.

    I agree. A year or so ago I got into a discussion with an e-book author on one of those romance writers lists where that subject came up. I used the example of Harper Lee, who wrote only one book of great impact. E-book Author thought I was nuts. She was just thrilled with her string of forgettable books because they were making money. I have no objection to money (obviously!) but if I have to choose between cash and literary impact, it’s no choice at all.

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