Only One Magic?

You know you’ve done something right when someone bangs you on the knee in the middle of a meeting and whispers: ‘I love Hugo.’ It wasn’t a strange call to love, or a codeword - at least I don’t think so… It was a reference to a short story I’d written called Hugo and the Orb,  ‘You should write a novel about this guy.’ She whispered. ‘I have,’ I lied - sort of. Hugo is a magician from the novel Second Nature. It’s finished, but it needs some love and a ruthless savaging with a pair of scissors.

Hugo’s a magician who’s been caught teaching the wrong kind of magic at London Tower University (other magical universities are available). In fact he’s upset the Vice-Principal so much she’s sent her goons to banish him to the deepest hell they can find. If you’ve read Hugo you know what happened next, if you haven’t, well I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you…. ;) The story begins at the seaside, beside some beach huts. In my imagination this is what they looked like. I thought it’d be fun to have danger in a place where we usually feel safe and relaxed. Hugo was inspired by Bobby McFerrin - he’s a wizard for sure. Don’t believe me? Check out this video the man is amazing!

Bobby McFerrin

By the time I finished the novel, Hugo didn’t turn out much like Mr McFerrin, but I wanted someone with that sense of deep joy, a love of life and magic, someone with a deep mistrust of bureaucracy and doing things a certain way because ‘that’s the way they’ve always been done’. In other words a Maverick….

In fantasy stories I’ve read, the magic can be incredibly detailed (think Brandon Sanderson, and Katherine Kerr, Naomi Novik) or nebulous (Tolkien, Tad Williams) but there’s often only one system, one type of magical energy, one kind of magical practice. I wanted to see if we could walk a different line, and strangely this track from MegaDeth Five Magics helped me out. (Dave, I’m not sure electricity really is a kind of magic btw…)

Hugo’s banished because he won’t follow the rules, because he doesn’t think magic should be one size fits all. Magic, like music needs different solutions for different situations. A metal song by Avenged Sevenfold is just perfect for a session down the gym, but it sucks for a romantic dinner.

Someone on Twitter asked if it was possible to have two or more sorts of magic that weren’t connected, that had no common root. I wondered what that might look like and I guess Second Nature is the result. What kind of magic you use depends on where you are, what the landscape is like and how populated the area is. Wild magic used in a city would just rip the buildings apart, out in the Lake District or the highlands or at sea is just fine.

If there’s no one type of music, no one type of story, no one tool that do everything, why should there be just one type of magic?

The story of Hugo and the Orb shows a rigid Academic (think Jack Vance) magic, and the freeform magic of the Goblins, but there’s more magic out there. There’s Anglo Saxon Sorcery/Shamanism, Weld magic which draws together the elements of nature from between two opposing dimensions and Materia - the creation of magic that can think for itself.

Hugo McCleod can be found in Word Beasts as one of ten short stories.