Magic and Secrecy

#SFWPRO

There are a lot of common tropes in urban fantasy. One of the most popular is having the magical world, and those who live in it, keeping themselves hidden from the mundane world. One question I’ve heard asked is, why? Surely if someone with magical/miraculous powers would be welcomed by the world. The mundane world couldn’t possibly pose a real threat to these powerful people, and think of all they could accomplish! There are countless ways to answer: sometimes it’s answered in the work itself, or sometimes it’s obvious; plenty of people still have to hide who they are just because of who they love, for example. But, let’s explore some of the other reasons I’ve heard, and sometimes given.

  1. Suspension of disbelief:

Authors want their stories to feel believable. In stories about mystical creatures and people tossing around magic in our world, the fact we don’t ever see it needs to be explained. The easiest and most common method is to say it’s all a big secret. Sure, there are wizards/sorcerers/witches and all sorts of bizarre creatures, they’re just hiding. The “real” world exists just below the surface, and maybe we’d see it if we stumbled down the right alleyway on the right night. Of course, considering the tone of many urban fantasy stories, that might not end well for us. The problem is that this explanation is incomplete. It might clarify why you don’t see wizards hurling lightning and fire in the subway, it doesn’t explain why they’re hiding.

  1. People who are not-so-nice (super villains and douche-canoes):

In short, if it was known that some people could use magic, it’s exceedingly likely that someone without said abilities would want to use them for purposes less than legal or even kind. There’s a reason super heroes tend to hide their identity. Those who want the power they possess could, and likely would, do terrible things to get access to it, including hurting those you love. In comics it isn’t always portrayed well, often it comes off as condescending to the—almost always—female love interest who needs to be protected from her super-powered beau’s nemesis. But, there is a kernel of truth to this—not the female side, but the risk to loved ones. It’s why the first family has their own protection detail. It isn’t because they’re fragile things needing the defense of someone big and strong. It’s because there are those who would use them to make the president do what they want. For those without access to a security team, or some kind of constant protection detail, the risk to loved ones is something to consider.

  1. People who are normally nice, except…

People, even good people, can do really scary things when they’re scared: ask George Takei about that. In urban fantasy books the percentage of the population with magical abilities is usually very small. I can’t think of any where it’s over five percent of the population. If it suddenly became known, and accepted, that such a small group had amazing powers, it’s safe to say that some people would entirely lose their shit. If we go with five percent, that’s fifteen million people in the US alone. If they all worked together they might present a real threat, but how likely would that kind of cooperation be? Also, by sheer odds, not all of those people would be of the good, law abiding sort. Imagine magical crime sprees, or worse, magical terrorism. How do you think people would react? I’m not saying everyone would freak the hell out, maybe not even a majority, but it would be naïve to think a sizeable number wouldn’t demand something be done. Some, though they’d likely fall outside the “normally nice” demo, would even feel justified taking matters into their own hands. Humanity, sadly, doesn’t have such a good track record when it comes to those who are different; worse when we see them as a threat. Beyond those acting on their own, there would also be an outcry for our leaders to protect us, enough that said leaders would feel obligated to act.

  1. Douche canoes with power (The Government):

There’s no way some of the worse kind of people wouldn’t get magical abilities. Hell, plenty of urban fantasy stories have these people as the antagonist. When people started dying, the government would have to act; one of its primary purposes is protecting its citizens after all. In democratic nations, it’s possible (however unlikely) that the actions taken wouldn’t be in line with registration, or conscription, but there are a lot of places in the world which aren’t citizen friendly democracies/republics. Even in the best of nations, the reaction is unlikely to be kind and gentle,certainly not at first. For example, there would be some with magical talent who would want to join the military but there is almost no way some sort of conscription/draft wouldn’t be enacted. The argument of course would be that our enemies have supernatural soldiers, we need our own to defend against them! And with these abilities comes a moral obligation to use them for the public good, right? Add to that the near certainty that someone would want to weaponize magic in one way or another. Unfortunately, history is filled with nations, governments, and groups doing terrible things with the best of intentions.

  1. Life would become a massive pain in the ass:

Let’s assume all the above concerns are addressed. Steps are taken to ensure that the magically gifted are protected and their civil liberties aren’t brushed aside for the sake of the greater good. In such a utopia, there would still be more practical concerns. Like insurance for example. Don’t laugh, tossing around fire or lightning could lead to some serious property damage, aside from the person damage. This is particularly relevant when you think of how many stories involve characters having to learn to control (unsuccessfully at first) their newly found talents. What if you didn’t have offensive magics? What if you were, say, a safe and property friendly healer? Surely in that regard the populace would embrace such a person with open arms and celebrate all the good they could do. That’s actually a reasonable assumption (we’ll ignore any kind of malpractice insurance requirements). Assuming a healer was agreeable to using their powers to help others—I think most people would be—consider what their life would become. If their identity or home address were known (and it would), they’d almost certainly have an unending line of people beseeching them for help. Not bad people, but worse, good people: parents with sick children, or those who are just desperate with no other hope. It’d be hard for any decent person to turn them away, but at some point the healer would need to eat, sleep, or just earn money to pay the rent (if they didn’t charge for their services). Even if they did make money at it, it would take a very special person to not be weighed down by such demands on them.

I purposely skipped over the reaction from religious zealots of every stripe. Suffice to say some would see these magic wielding people as saints or angels, others as manifestations from Hell (or its equivalent). And obviously there are countless other reasons, but this gives you a general idea of what writers have to consider. It might seem like overthinking, or that authors just don’t like/trust people (for the record, I actually do like some people). But that’s what writers are supposed to do. We’re supposed to look at the world from the view of our characters and have them react accordingly. These concerns might seem overblown until you’re the one in the proverbial cross-hairs. When the result could be death, internment, or worse, even a remote possibility is one you need to consider very carefully. Would you take the risk if you were the wizard/witch in question?

Your Baby is Ugly…Again

#SFWAPRO

Almost four years ago I posted to this blog for the first time. The post, Your Baby is Ugly, is about dealing with rejection. And now we come full circle. Last year I submitted a proposal to Harper for the next several books in the American Faerie Tale series (four to be exact). It also contained the first four chapters of the very next book. After several months, they rejected that proposal. I was—and still am—disappointed but I will say I wasn’t entirely surprised. The sales numbers for my books haven’t been terrible, but each book has sold progressively less than the one before. Publishing is a business and, I hope, this was a business decision. As such, I hold no ill will toward Harper or anyone there. Sure, I would’ve liked to have gotten more support in terms of marketing and/or publicity, but I also knew from the beginning I was a very small fish and there was only so many dollars to go around. It should be noted that Harper has said they would be happy to look at anything new I might have. So what does this mean?

Well if you’ve read that first post, and several others, you know I’m sure as hell not giving up!

In the short term, however the series is done. I could finish the next book and self-publish it, but I’m not ready to go that path yet. It would be the fifth book in a series and I think would be more about my vanity than my readers. Besides, I would rather devote my limited time toward something new.

And that’s exactly what I’ve done. As I write this post I’m about 30k words into the first draft and I think it’s pretty damned good, if I do say so myself. No, I won’t tell you the title or what it’s about. I’d rather wait until it’s at least close to finished, or has a publisher ready to put it out. I will say it continues my habit of genre bending, and I don’t recall seeing anything like it before. That could be good or bad, we’ll see.

I’ve also started writing some more short fiction. It hasn’t been picked up anywhere, I think I’m better at long fiction, but you only get better with time and practice. So I’m going to keep trying. I’m considering posting the things that don’t sell on here. What do you think? Post in the comments if you have a thought one way or the other. I also have one manuscript finished, Luna and the Star, and I’m going to see about shopping it around while I finish my current work in progress. It might be my first self-published work, but I haven’t decided. Stay tuned for more.

Without any new books coming out, obviously I won’t have as many appearances, but that doesn’t meet I won’t have any. I’ll be attending RavenCon (April 28th-30th) so if you’re going to be there, stop by and say hi. I’ll also be attending the Nebula awards, and will even be on some panels this year.

In the long term, my goals are still the same. Rejection is part of life, and especially part of being an author. I’m still working towards living on my writing, and I’m not about to stop. The only way I’m going to fail is if I stop trying, and I’m not going to do that. If you’ve read the books, I offer my sincerest thanks. If you haven’t, well they’re still out there and still worth reading.

Award Consideration or Gently Begging

#SFWAPRO

It’s closing in on the end of the year which means that it’s award consideration time for the Science Fiction/Fantasy world. All the authors I know post up blog pieces as a gentle reminder to everyone what they wrote and what’s eligible for various awards. This could easily be taken as a kind of self aggrandizing, but it really isn’t. In fact, most of the writers I know need to be prodded to do this. In my experience, authors as a group, especially newer authors, tend to be less than cocky about their work. Anyone who knows me is aware I’m an exception, I know how purely awesome my work is. Yes, that was sarcasm. In truth, here’s my take on it. If you’re eligible, let the world know. You might not think your work is award worthy, but you’re not the one (or at least not the only one) who decides on awards. Maybe the world doesn’t agree with you and wants to give you an award.
THE RETURNED_Small
This year I published The Returned, which I sincerely believe is my best writing to date. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Do I think it’s a Nebula or Hugo worthy novel? No, but it’s not up to me. So if you are someone who nominates for the Nebula, the Hugo, or any other award, I humbly ask that you consider The Returned. Thank you.

Giveaways Continue!

So far this year I’ve been giving away copies of The Stolen and The Forgotten. Next up is Three Promises! There are twenty copies up for grabs. It’s simple, all you have to do is click here, follow the simple single step, and find out if you’re a winner! Be sure to share the joy with your friends. Who doesn’t love a free book?

#SFWAPRO

World Builder’s Charity Auction, Again!

#SFWAPRO

Last year I was invited to help out with Patrick Rothfuss’s World Builders charity. I’m delighted, and proud, to say I’m taking part again this year. If you’re unfamiliar with World Builders, it’s a great charity that raises money to fight hunger and poverty worldwide. For many people, this is a rough time. I think it’s always good to remind ourselves what we have, and remember there are people all over much worse off. If you can, I encourage you to participate. For as little as $10, you can enter the lottery giveaway for a chance to win some truly awesome books (including mine), games, and generally fun stuff. If you’ve got a little more cash to spare, there is a charity auction as well, with some truly cool stuff available. Last year I donated a tuckerization (naming a character after the winner), and was beyond amazed by the generosity. This year I’m offering another! This time, you’ll get your choice of two supernatural characters, and I’ll also mention you in the dedication. It’s a good cause, and good fun. If however you can’t spare the cash for even the lottery donation, I hope you have someone to help you, and that you holiday season is warm, safe, and filled with love and the hope of tomorrow.

My Auction Item
World Builder’s Auction