In my last blog post I suggested that I would consider the subject of magick in my up and coming fantasy book ‘The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’. For those who might not be aware of it Magick is ‘the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will’. Magic, on the other hand, is the kind of thing that entertainers do. Is there really a difference? Well, it depends on your view of authenticity I suppose. I believe that the best examples of speculative fiction, that is anything that goes beyond the norm of everyday life, is actually rooted in that same everyday life. Fantastical things may occur, fabulous creatures may exist, but there is also a logic to the fantasy world that they occupy that underpins their validity within the bounds of the story. It is my experience that some authors really do not work too hard on establishing that necessary logic.
‘The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom’ is a fantasy book. It takes place in a world that does not exist but closely mirrors our own. Many of the characters are preoccupied with the kind of things that most ‘normal’ people in our world are; living their lives as well as they can. Of course, if I left it at that then it would make for a mundane story. There has to be something different about this tale doesn’t there? Of course there does. It has a kind of magick that disrupts the mundane and places the people in danger. Who needs heroes if the world is not in some kind of danger?
The book does not rely upon the threat of magick to increase the tension alone, but it is a significant part the story. Although I dismissed most common features of traditional fantasy as a genre, elves, trolls, wizards and such, the element of magick was there from day one. I wanted it to be a motivating force in the development of both the plot and certain characters. I also wanted it to be rooted in some semblance of rationality. Looking at the paraphernalia of typical magick users I decided to dispense with wands, books of spells, amulets, rings, potions, and any other symbolic representation of magic through use of an artefact. Influenced by Aleister Crowley’s quote above, I contemplated a system of magick that is based on energy. The universe is full of energy. Matter is energy vibrating at a certain frequency. Magick is the manipulation of energy by a knowledgeable person exercising their will.
The key word in that last sentence is knowledgeable. The Mountain Kingdom of Oroson is ancient. It was originally occupied by a people who called themselves Panteans. Within Mt. Oroson they discovered something that they call the Localis, a node through which passes the knowledge of the universe. The Panteans begin to acquire this knowledge and it allows them to do things that other peoples would call sorcery. The Panteans build gates to control access not only onto their mountain but also through or over its many ridges, or spurs as they are called in the book, that divide up the continent. This is done with the power of transmutation. With their understanding of the material world consisting of elementary particles and energy the Panteans can change matter into any shape or consistency that they can imagine. Three thousand years later the Panteans have become a race in decline. They have become obsessed with the studying of the Localis. They no longer need to eat or sleep, everything that their physical bodies require is provided for by their magick. Longevity becomes their norm. When a new people arrive on Mt. Oroson the Panteans, or Old People as they become known, cede their kingdom to them quite peacefully. All they ask for in return is dominion over the cave in which the Localis resides. They leave their city and move into the cave. The more knowledge that the Panteans acquire concerning the nature of the universe the more removed from the mundane human world they become.
Inevitably, members of the New People become interested in the knowledge of the Old People, but learning it is a daunting task. They do not have access to the Localis itself and the Old People never wrote their discoveries down. Human words cannot express the totality of the knowledge that they have accrued. The New People are aware of the magick of the Old People, but it is spoken about as if it were a mythology. Two hundred or so years later the book opens with the New People more concerned with the matter of succession as their king lies on his deathbed without a male heir to continue his dynasty. In a similar way the magick of the Panteans appears to be passing away as they, as a people, are consciously evolving to become a part of the universe as beings of energy only. For those New People who wish to learn the secrets of the Old People the task seems impossible. Without reference to a written lore they can only guess at how the Old People built the city of Cirrius on the side of a mountain or erected the invulnerable gates that protect the kingdom from invasion.
I really like the idea of a system of magick in which an understanding of the nature of the universe is key. It appeals to my Pantheistic beliefs. Also, the use of imagination to achieve results. This is not a source of power that can be used by anyone who picks up a wand and mutters a few arcane words. Knowledge and understanding are at the heart of it. Ignorance is a barrier that must be crossed. This magick is not for parlour tricks, it can transform the physical world. It can be used to reshape solid materials into anything imaginable. Its ability to unleash destructive energy gives the user a power that equates to a nuclear weapon. Exposure to this magick inevitably changes the individual. Access to the power also brings a greater knowledge of the reality of existence. What was once important recedes to be replaced by a desire to achieve a greater understanding of everything. At least for most people who experience it. For some their resistance to the corruption offered by power, any kind of power, is not so strong. A faction within the Old People cannot move on from the point that they have reached. Indeed, they do not want to. They have been corrupted by the power that they can wield.
The real test of these ideas is in the writing. Does this theory of magic add anything to the story? Do the characters who come into contact with it risk anything in its practice? Will tension and excitement be added to the story? Well, I suppose the proof will be in the pudding. I look forward to hearing what readers think when the book is published, hopefully this summer.