M: Magical Normalcy
Earlier this week, I touched on the central touchstone for the tone of my books: life is routine.
I think most everyone knows what I mean. No matter how exciting your life seems, it’s all too easy to be acclimized to it. If you’re doing paperwork in a tiny office, your life is boring. But if you’re travelling the world hunting meteorites, well, your life is boring too. Everyone in the world, from the most lowry janitor to the most glamourous movie star, all experience the exact same feeling when their alarm goes off in the morning.
No, I don’t want to.
Human beings are creatures of habit. The kind of society we’ve built can’t function without daily routine. We are creatures of the grind, and as much as we need it, we also wildly resent it. And that’s why I think that even the most fantastical of cities, the most thrilling of adventures, the most heinous of plots, and the most wondrous of magics… lived daily, well, they’d all become just a part of the scenery.
That’s something I really wanted to reflect in my books. My narrator works for a magical murder detective! He spends his days chasing down killers! His history has been shaped entirely by a massive conspiracy that’s changed the face of his nation! But when Christopher Buckley, the deathsniffer’s assistant, wakes up in the morning, he thinks the same thought we all do:
No, I don’t want to.
It seemed like a natural step to pull this thematically into my magic system! The denizens of my world all have magical abilities. It’s a part of their society. Hundreds of years ago, a scientist/wizard learned how to bring out the inherent magic in everyone, and all the amazing abilities he found have shaped modern society. There are illusionists, savants, seers, healers, and, most impressively, spiritbinders, who summon, control, and bind elementals from another plane using a combination of will and music. The spiritbinders especially have built a society far more advanced than its time, and hold high prestige in society.
Much like… the prestige of inheriting an important company and proving up to the task of running it. Or the prestige of developing a subdivision that comes to bear your name and be considered the nicest neighbourhood of an already beautiful city. Or the prestige of being elected to a governmental organization and having the power to make change. Despite their incredible magic, spiritbinders and their enchantments are just another part of society. Their ice-spirit powered cooling system is as amazing and simultaneously unimpressive as your A/C unit!
I tried to bring that rote normalcy to all the magical aspects of my world. Things like electricity, the internet, mobile data networks, and everyone’s favourite miracle, Netflix, are all wondrous accomplishments. But who has time to stop and be impressed every single time they flip a lightswitch? No matter how amazing life is, it quickly becomes normal. Everything is commodified and made routine. The amazing merely becomes the conveient (or inconvenient, when it’s working against you.)
I think fantasy could use a little bit more of this. There’s definitely a place for awe, yet I wanted to save it for when something new happens. Something strange and weird and wonderful. In a world where magic is common — or even in a world where it’s rare — it doesn’t mean the same thing as it would to us. I wanted to explore that.