Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Introducing the Sensational Character Find of 2019



Hey folks! It’s been quiet - Patreon readers have gotten an explanation, but I’ve been holding off on posting anything here. This is at least partly due to the recent death of my laptop, meaning the only internet appliance currently in my life is my phone. 

Guess which interface is really fucking awful when you have to do it on your phone? Thank you, Blogger. 

But I’m still here. And today for the first time ever I would like to put some of my fiction up here for y’all to try. Below you will find the opening chapters of Dan Magic, the fifth book in my fantasy series, The Array. 

Now, you should be able to hop right in - every volume is more or less independent of the other. Dan’s kind of a distinctive guy, he can speak for himself. (My god can he.) But if you like what you see here, you should know that I just put an Omnibus edition of the first three volumes up on my Patreon - that’s right, A Darkness in the Time of the First, The Book of the Loam, and Beyond the Farthest Star, all between two digital covers. It’s available instantly for the nominal price of a $2 subscription to my Patreon, alongside every extant chapter of Book Four, the ever tardy Balthasar Foeman, still appearing in every issue of The Hurting Gazette

Now, if you like what you see of Dan Magic? Well, you can read a little bit more in issue 12 of the aforementioned Gazette, also available now for $2 subscribers. It has a subscriber-exclusive essay on Captain Marvel entitled “A Few Words About Carol Danvers.” And if you really like it? The entirety of Dan Magic is available right this moment for $5 subscribers. 

(Also: Just $1 a month still gets you an ebook of Tomorrow Is Always The Best Day Of My Life, as well as collected editions of the first two sections of Galaxy of Zeroes and Whistling in the Dark: A (Very) Short Book About They Might Be Giants. And of course, The Hurting Sampler is always free.)

Every dollar helps and makes a difference. So does every reader, so if you like what I see pass it along and give your friends the hard sell on my behalf. Thank you so much for your patience, maybe I’ll put up a comic book review or something. 


Dan Magic

Preamble

Hi, I’m Dan Magic, and this is my grimoire. 
     
Bet you weren’t expecting that! 
     
First of all, let’s talk a minute about just what a grimoire is and what a grimoire isn’t. I mean, sure, you probably might think a grimoire is a book of magic spells and potions and various other bits of technique and lore. I’ve read a few of those. More than a few of those. I mean, basically – I’ve read all of them. That’s kind of the point. I’ve read every grimoire I can find. And I’ve found a lot. 
     
But it’s been a long time since I’ve bothered because it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything new in the spell racket, at least anything I thought was more than just purely derivative. A few nice touches here and there, maybe. Some planets still have a pretty decent magical culture but the best minds are in archaeology. Obsessed with ruins. That’s sort of the mindset I’m trying to fight, I guess you could say. 
     
I recognize that I’m sitting here talking from a position of genuine privilege. I can tell you that most grimoires are terrible because I’ve had the pleasure of endless – often literally endless – afternoons cramming my eyes with every spell and rune I could find, gorging myself on the best libraries in the galaxy. 
     
But growing up I was also that kid who could only afford a crappy used spellbook that did a lot more harm than good in terms of things like proper form and psychic hygiene – I mean, if you have to teach yourself how to summon the wills you’re going to emerge with scars. People who had private tutors aren’t going to have those scars. I’ve come up from nothing. I’ve been nothing. 
     
I had to be nothing to want everything. And then once I had everything I realized the only thing of value I’d ever had was . . . nothing. 
     
Holy shit, I’m sorry, that probably sounds like completely useless metaphysical garbage. Trust me: it’s all going to make sense eventually. 
     
So here’s the thing: the thing is, this isn’t a grimoire with a bunch of spells in it. This is a grimoire dedicated to one spell. And not just any spell, mind, but the most difficult single spell I’ve ever attempted. It’s going to take pretty much everything I have to be able to pull it off. 
     
And if you’re paying attention in the course of performing this spell I will teach you everything you will ever need to know to successfully cast any kind of spell in your own practice. Any kind. 
     
More important than how, though, is what. If you want to know how to cast a spell, you need to understand what spells are. What magic is. All those big ideas that you’re just not supposed to think about when you’re learning the basics of – well, whatever magical practices are considered “basics” in your local culture. It changes. All these big ideas that you’re not supposed to think about when you’re a kid and, honestly, you’re not really encouraged to challenge as an adult, either. 
     
That’s how you cast the big spells, though: you understand how and why magic works the way it does. 
     
It’s not about formulae or math or ingredients, it’s about knowing where the levers of power in the universe are and how to push them. If you’re going to be more than a weekend warrior, if you ever really want to, ahem, “run with the big dogs” and cast real spells, you really need to understand all the stuff they usually try to gloss over in school.  
     
There’s a reason why they gloss all that stuff over. There’s a reason why most magic cultures teach magic very badly. Magic serves many uses but it’s also very dangerous and most stable societies work to limit its effect on public life. One of the best ways to do that is to teach kids wrong and harmful shortcuts that they will never be able to outgrow. The kids grow up thinking they are perfectly functional master wizards, barely able to do more than maintain seasonal rainfall for medium-sized agricultural basins. You know, genuinely useful things that don’t actually do a lot to upset the balance of power in world relations. 
     
I can’t honestly say that’s a bad thing. No one has a right to be a wizard. No one is born having more or less right to access magic than anyone else. People who want to learn magic – well, it is a privilege, and also dangerous. Stable societies usually figure out that the best way to remain stable societies is to heavily regulate magic use, with an eye towards eventually eradicating the practice altogether. I can’t honestly say that’s a bad thing. 
     
But this isn’t a book about magic policy. What this is, at least in part, is a book about magic ethics, because magic without ethics really is the most dangerous force in the universe. If you want to be a magician you probably think you’re doing it for all the right reasons – but I realize that’s an assumption –  
     
You may already be a rotten little shit. If that’s the case this book really isn’t going to offer you much. You’re welcome to keep reading, but do so at the risk of actually learning something about the universe in which you live. 
     
If you want to understand how to use magic well you need to understand first of all that magic is kind of terrible. It lets people do things they shouldn’t. It’s extraordinarily easy to use magic for unscrupulous ends. It becomes difficult at times to imagine a wholly scrupulous use for it. It makes good people bad and bad people worse.
     
Again, that’s my privilege to say that, because I’ve already made the mistakes. I’ve already read all the other (boring) grimoires and done all the things they explicitly say you shouldn’t do, and I can tell you in most instances that they’re right to do so. 
     
But now that we’ve acknowledged my privilege I think it’s also important to assert my experience: I promise you there are some things that it is not a privilege to have learned. There are lots of spells I wish I could uncast. Lots of decisions I wish I could have back. 
     
Now, of course, you might be thinking to yourself, “well, Dan, if you’re such a great magician, can’t you just undo your mistakes with magic?” To which I can only reply:  
     
Keep reading.
     
Now for the purpose of organizing this grimoire – such as it is – I suppose it would be best to approach the narrative in terms of the topic headings we’ll be covering along the way. So, for instance, the first section after this is about the significance of names to magic history and practice, so it’s called
    
Names

and it begins like this:
     
The significance of names to magic lore and practice has been historically overstated. 
     
It’s not that names aren’t important. The first rule of magic is that everything is important, and everything is always important. But names aren’t really important in the same way that most people think they are and the reason why has to do with a pretty basic misunderstanding of the way that magic operates. 
     
Magic is the means by which humans can coerce the universe to go against its own better judgment for our benefit. That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. A magician is someone who learns, usually through years of study and practice and apprenticeship, how to bully the universe into doing what they want. And you can dress it up any way you like but that’s really all it is. Everyone has different ways of doing it, different ways, if you will, of expressing that bullying – but it’s still bullying. And it’s something that should only be done advisedly . . . 
     
. . . but if you’re reading this book I guess it’s probably too late for that! Anyway. If you want to know magic, essentially you want to know how to wield a certain degree of coercive authority over the basic building blocks of reality. That’s really scary. It should be scary. It should be something you do not undertake lightly. It really, really should. The consequences of magic put to frivolous ends are simply too great. 
     
Consequences are very important. The second rule of magic is that it is a lot easier to create something without cause than without consequence.  
     
So what does all this have to do with names? Well, I’m glad you asked! 
     
Magic is the means by which individuals can effect great change in the shape of the universe with nothing more than willpower. It’s very much centered in the individual practitioner and their understanding of reality. In a real way the practice of magic is the extension of the individual’s will into the universe by means of their aura, so they – we – are literally changing reality with our minds.  
     
I hope you understand just how dangerous that is. I hope your mind immediately jumped to whomever you believe the least responsible person on your planet to be. Imagine the worst person who ever lived, whatever genocidal dictator or cannibalistic serial killer is exalted on your world as the epitome of all evil, imagine what that guy (chances are good it was a guy, sorry fellow guys) would have done had he been able to bend the shape of reality with his will. Just for a second. I’m sure you’d rather not. 
     
If you happen to hail from one of those worlds where your epitome of evil could actually bend the shape of reality to his will – my most pressing sympathies. I don’t need to explain magic ethics to you. You could teach me, I am certain.
     
Names are actually a great example of this principle. Anyone can change reality directly with their mind simply by changing their name. People change their name every day for reasons both profoundly moving and deeply frivolous. It doesn’t matter why they do it so long as it’s a sincere change. Magic inheres to a person’s actual name, not their first name or given name or whatever bullshit some outdated source is telling you.
     
So there’s the answer to your implicit question: no, obviously Dan Magic isn’t the name mom gave me when I popped out the womb. Not only is it a fake name, it is the most explicitly fake name for a magician I could imagine. Which was the point. Because here’s the thing – and trust me on this, if you ever hear me say that you know I’m either about to blow your mind wide open or shovel a couple pounds of premium bullshit (or both) – I am all about telling you exactly what I want you to know. Nothing more and nothing less. My name is Dan and I do Magic. That’s literally my name. 
     
Magic is big on obfuscation and illusion, all in the service of distraction. A magician tells you to look over there so they can do something over here, presto change-o what the fuck-o there you go, here’s a rabbit. And certainly, I guess, that’s A Way of doing things. I don’t see the point. I don’t want to distract anyone. I’m kind of over trying to get anything over you. It’s not a healthy way to be or a good way to live. And I know that might sound kind of rich coming from someone named Dan Magic who is currently writing a book about just that thing – magic. But it’s the truth. Some magicians really like the power trip. That’s why they call it a trick in the first place, I suspect. 
     
It’s important that you know, first thing out of the gate, that your name is whatever you say it is. My name is Dan Magic because I say it is. My birth name doesn’t have any special power over me but I never particularly liked it. If you knew what it was I’d be fairly surprised, but you certainly wouldn’t be able to trap me in some kind of eldritch cage with the utterance or whatever you read about in a book once. So call yourself whatever the fuck you want. It’s up to you.
     
After traveling for a while I realized that Dan was a pretty common name on most planets. Also a pretty boring name in most languages, and there are lots of languages in the galaxy. Everyone knows a Dan . . .
     
And now you know one more.

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