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Category: The Affinities of Magic

The Technology of Magic

Posted in Fantasy, Genre, Science Fiction, The Affinities of Magic, and The Hounds of Annwn

Thomas Edison's lab
Thomas Edison's lab

The Fantasy and Science Fiction genres are distinct in several ways, but there is a certain degree of overlap as well. Both of them specialize not in things as they are but in things as they might be. They may differ in where the emphasis of the story goes — SF is notorious for typically making “the idea” and its consequences the point of the story, not necessarily the characters — but in this post I want to concentrate on what they have in common.

I’ve read SF&F all my life, and the two genres are cross-fertilized for me now. I like my SF best when it has moral characters as well as ideas, and I like my Fantasy best when its magical or supernatural elements are treated consistently, as though they were science.

It’s a truism in an SF story that you can change just one thing arbitrarily (time travel works, men live for centuries instead of decades, there are sapient aliens we can meet) and, if you can do an adequate handwave in the direction of scientific plausibility, the reader will accept it, as long as the notional basis is scientific (rational). For example, there may be religion in SF societies, and there may be powerful beings who seem to be indistinguishable from gods, but you can’t have real gods (supernatural entities) as agents in SF (though you can have a belief in them). That’s because god(s) may or may not exist, but science has nothing to say on the subject. That’s why they are literally “supernatural”, not “natural”.

What you must do in SF, however, is deal with the change consistently, e.g., if men live for centuries, there will be social and economic consequences. The story can be about those consequences, or they can be a background to the story, but they must be consistent, and a very great part of the pleasure of reading SF is the exploration of the consequences of such an idea.

Fantasy is a broader category. It accepts that those areas where it differs from quotidian reality may not be capable of rational explanation. Hence you can have supernatural entities (gods, elves, demons) as well as beings that might or might not be supernatural (vampires, werewolves, dragons).

Starting a new series when you don’t know the characters yet

Posted in Characters, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

medieval fair
I’m in the midst of the first book in my new series (The Affinities of Magic), and it’s a very different writing process from my previous book, which was the fourth in its series (The Hounds of Annwn).

I’ve gotten to know my primary characters in the older series pretty well. I know what they would and wouldn’t do, and a good bit of how they interact with each other. In other words, I'm comfortable with them.

In novels of adventure, the sort of thing I write, you need a good story, a sound plot, and it’s a good idea to have the basics of that in your head Wile E Coyote defies gravitybefore you begin writing. Perhaps the details are hazy — maybe you don’t know exactly how certain things are going to happen — but I find I need at least a sketchy outline of the key plot points before I can start. Some authors are comfortable just writing into the void, but I’m not one of them. (The lessons of Wile E Coyote are all too vivid.)

Plots in and of themselves don’t scare me. I used to be a serious software engineer, and what is that but the instantiation of a fully realized product where all consequences are knowable (at least, after debugging).

But story comes from characters, and that’s my current sticking point. Who are all these people?

Structures of Earth (excerpt) – Chapter 1

Posted in Fantasy, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Structures of Earth - Full Front Cover - Widget

CHAPTER 1

Were they following me or are they just guessing?

Rushalentar used his SIGHT to peek around the stone edge of the doorway he’d ducked into, without exposing himself. The two guild proctors lingered on the corner across the street, with an excellent view of the servants’ door in the next block that was his original destination.

If they catch me with it, there’s going to be trouble.

He weighed the thick book wrapped in his cloak, and considered his choices. Waiting in a doorway in broad daylight was not appealing. He could BEND light past him, but since he wasn’t very good at it that was only effective for night use. The best thing would be to go all the way around the city blocks to the far side of the one he wanted and work back up to the alley behind the stable, out of their sight.

Well, nothing else I can do. Interfering old busybodies.

He sloped out of the doorway behind the two men and walked noiselessly away from them, turning right at the first alley, and took an alternate route along the streets and cut-through lanes until he reached the far corner of the block that the proctors were watching. He strolled a third of the way along and paused at the entry of the alley that ran through to the next street to wait for the foot traffic to thin out. He looked up at the huge guild house that occupied most of the block, everything on the far side of the alley, and he shook his head.

Someday. I swear, someday the mother house will reopen. I just don’t know how.

His eyes passed over the shuttered windows, the barred gates, and the whole massive five-story stone pile, derelict now, abandoned. No one left to pay for repairs, to heat the place, to keep it running.

Final Cover for Structures of Earth

Posted in Artwork, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

I just wanted to show off the final version of the cover art that Jake Bullock completed today.Front Cover - Structures of Earth - 300x464

Here's the blurb…

MAGIC WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING, AND A WIZARD'S GUILD WITH NO MEMBERS.

Young Rush has bent the rules and managed to become an apprentice in wizardry to his uncle, but neither of them is qualified to revive the Torch & Scroll Guild, and there is no one else left. Neglected for generations, the mother house is in ruins, soon to be sold off by the Star Watch, the wizards' council, as the only guild to ever have expired for lack of heirs.

But this clever and deep-thinking young man may have puzzled out some of the fundamental principles underlying all magical practice, and this discovery will change everything, if only Rush can stay alive long enough for his plans to work.


What we're looking at is the servants' quarters behind the decayed guild house of Torch & Scroll. All that's left of the guild is huddled there, in a disgraceful building for an institution that has long fallen out of power.
Background painting - 600x457

Cover update for Structures of Earth

Posted in Artwork, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Draft before final painting
Draft before final painting

My cover artist, Jake Bullock, has been very busy running through draft versions of the cover for the first book in the new series, The Affinities of Magic. It's been great fun working through this with him, and I thought you might enjoy an update on the process as he moves on to the final version. My requirements…

  • The back covers of the novels will be the front covers for short stories and story collections
  • Every story will include a discovery in the study of bio-magic, so every story or book will include a vignette of an animal, plant, whatever, that is the basis for the discovery
  • There will be an internal illustration of the critter, plant, whatsis inside each story
  • Every novel cover will include the mother house of the Torch & Scroll guild, now fallen on very hard times with its last master. The rise of fortune (or its setback) will be reflected in each new novel.

For Structures of Earth, the vignette shows a burrowing rodent-like critter, the study of which will lead to some amazing insights, rather like Gregor Mendel's experiments with peas.

The cover illustrations in this post are intermediate drafts. The Author font will change to match all of my books, and many painted details will be added to both the background and the Title/Series text.

You can see more of Jake's work here.
Full Cover-2
Critter

Sigil for Torch & Scroll

Posted in Artwork, and Structures of Earth

Torch and Scroll Sigil
My first series, The Hounds of Annwn, uses a sigil that represents Antler Sigilthe entire series: the red deer antlers of Cernunnos. You see it inside the books, on the title pages and at the end, as a sort of frame for the stories.

Now Jake Bullock, my cover artist, has come up with a sigil representing the dying wizard guild for my new series, The Affinities of Magic. Each guild has a specialty and an emblem.

The guild that specializes in overall research, sort of the R&D arm of the guilds, is in terrible shape and has almost died out. Its once-proud symbol, Torch & Scroll, bears the nickname Ashes & Dust. The guild hall itself has been shut down and the few folk left are huddled in the servants' quarters.

But there are some who are determined to raise this guild from the dust and ashes and to revolutionize the understanding and practice of magic. Stay tuned for their stories…

You can see more of Jake's work here.

Cover Artist Audition Sketch – Rich Whyte

Posted in Artwork, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

CoverSketch-RichWhyte-karen1Here's the second candidate for cover art for The Affinities of Magic from artist Richard Whyte. He's taken a different approach to the academy building.

Both Jake Bullock and Rich Whyte are British, and I'm amused that, given encouragement to use any period in any region, or to make up something out of whole cloth, they each defaulted to more or less Victorian England. (Apparently you can take the Brit out of England but you can't…)

Is this the influence of steampunk, do you suppose?

I find that the sketch by Jake Bullock seems to capture more of the flavor of “fantasy” and more of the notion of the academy building as a “main character” in its own right, where Rich Whyte's has more of the flavor of a period mystery or of the aforementioned steampunk. Covers are very important for genre fiction — they should immediately suggest the appropriate genre, and I think Jake Bullock's is doing a better job of that.

What do you think?

You can find more of Rich's work here.

Cover artist audition sketch – Jake Bullock

Posted in Artwork, Structures of Earth, and The Affinities of Magic

Cover-Sketch-Crop-Jake-BullockI've asked two cover artist candidates to do a preliminary cover sketch for The Affinities of Magic, and a third is considering. I thought my readers would enjoy looking over my shoulder at the process of picking a cover artist for a series, and I'd be delighted to hear your thoughts.

Artist Jake Bullock has just sent me his preliminary sketch and I wanted to share that with you.

The cover for all the novels will feature an old wizard guild house, fallen into bad times along with its clan. Because of one brilliant young student and his systematic discoveries, the guild house will be gradually revived into an academy for a new school of magic. In each new novel you can see visible improvements, both to the building and to its surroundings.

The series background concerns a world that is moving from the biological equivalent of alchemy to chemistry, that is, from a mystical practice to a science-based one. Every story, short or long, will include a natural biological entity that produces an insight into how things really work, and that will be featured in a small vignette on the cover.

For long works, that vignette will be on the back cover. For short works, the back cover scene and its vignette will function as the front cover (short works don't appear in print and only need front covers).

You can find more of Jake's work here.Cover-Sketch-Jake-Bullock