In spite of being fascinated by the subject matter, I know very little about physics overall. Things move; things fall down. Things catch fire. Motion and gravity and heat: that’s about the extent of it…and I think that third one might actually be chemistry.
Why, then, would I choose to feature physics so prominently in the novel I’m writing?
I didn’t do it on purpose. It just sort of happened.
The new work in question is the story of a contemporary magician, a sleight-of-hand illusionist who, as it turns out, has honest-to-goodness magic in those hands. It fluctuates depending on his emotional state; it evolves with him as he grows from an awkward boy largely ignored by everyone around him, to a quiet, slightly more confident young man who learns to use his power to draw favorable attention from others. And it disappears altogether when he loses his one true happiness in life. So he goes on something of a quest to learn from the masters how to get it all back. It’s a fun write so far.
Hopefully it’ll end up an equally fun read.
This is your hand on magic. Any questions?
By and large, what I’m discovering as I write—which everyone who writes about magic maybe knows already—is that magic is the manipulation of the physics of things: things that disappear and reappear; things that move from here to there, with no visible means of motion; things that shouldn’t levitate but do, and things that suddenly exist where they hadn’t before, with no discernible cause.
Things that readily transform from one shape into another and back again.
A lot of this sounds like personality to me. Feelings that come and go without warning; emotions that rise and fall at a moment’s notice without those who experience them realizing why such a thing is happening. Moods that shift and alter and turn from this to that, without immediately notable cause or readily discernable stimulus.
It occurred to me after all this unqualified consideration that the physics of feeling are really the physics of magic. That the possibility of a human being altering the physical world around them arises first from an equivalent alteration in their state of emotion. Happiness that begets creation through acts of kindness; anger that begets destruction through acts of violence.
In essence, we end up being our own magic. And each other’s too.
That’s powerful stuff to think about.
And so, my magician is very much grounded in reality. He doesn’t dwell among dragons or wizards or other supernatural entities; he wasn’t born of the gods, and he hasn’t come back from the dead. He lives in a contemporary world. He grows up with a single mom who has other things to tend to; he goes to college and fumbles around figuring out what he wants to do with his life. He’s shy around girls, even when they seem to like him. And in his efforts to please people, he ends up changing himself and things around him in ways he doesn’t intend. His magic is quiet and common and simply a method by which he deals with the world to better understand who he is, even as the world resists understanding him. Even with magic, it isn’t an easy road for him; he makes all kinds of mistakes that end up setting him back about ten steps every time. But none of the interesting ones to write about have it smooth all the way through. I thought this one deserved a fable made of sweetly absurd magical realism. So I’m telling his story, on his terms, using the language of physics and feelings and magic.
Sleight of Handelman is the title.
Working tag line: Eat. Pray. Saw a woman in half.
That’ll probably change, depending on the mood I’m in by the time I finish writing it.
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