Even though the world has changed completely, Obron’s approach is still very much in the vein of scientific discovery: he researches, he hypothesizes, experiments, etc. It makes me think about Clarke’s observation that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and that maybe the magic of Obron’s world is just governed by different scientific truths. Or is the magic incompatible with any scientific framework?
In this setting, the terms “magic” and “scientific” could only combine in an oxymoron. Magic is about the power of will, but for that power to be applied it has to be controlled and focused. There are techniques for that, many of them very difficult, which have to be learned and practiced. So it’s definitely more of an art than a science; talent comes into it, but so does study and practice. Some will become the equivalent of a Pavarotti or a Yo-Yo Ma. Others will become competent journeyman. Some will be tone deaf or fumble-fingered. Kaslo, by the way, is tone deaf.
Poor Kaslo—to be so competent and then to be thrown into a world where all his strengths are so reduced. Can you talk a little about his character arc?
He’s a man who was superbly adapted to an environment that has suddenly ceased to exist. But he’s also the kind who never gives up. So he’s struggling (characters must always struggle) to meet a whole new series of challenges for which he is not naturally equipped.
The concept of a character who is ill fitted to his environment is a common theme in my work. Henghis Hapthorn, the foremost freelance discriminator of Old Earth (who will play an off-stage role in The Kaslo Chronicles) had a similar problem with the onset of magic.
Is it too late to plead for a female wizard to pop up?
I’m not terribly good a writing female characters, so I’ve been told—although I thought I was doing them fairly well. I suppose I’ve begun to leave them out unconsciously.
Now that you are pretty far along in the serialization, what are your thoughts on the experience? Would you do another? What would you change if you did?
It’s been a bit of a tightrope walk in the dark, since I can’t go back and change something in Chapter Three to fit with something I didn’t think of until Chapter Nine, as I would normally do. But it has been enjoyable, and I would do it again. The only thing I would change is the thing mentioned above, which I can’t change.
Any news or projects you want to share?
I’m taking a run at writing straight suspense fiction again. I’m about to send my agent the draft of a story about (yet another) ill-fitting but highly competent oddball who decides, for a complex set of reasons, that it will be good for him to go around knocking off people who do a lot of harm and get away with it.
Where in the world do you write these days?
I’m about to leave one small village in France for another a hundred miles or so farther south. In December, I’ll be in England, then from January to July, it’s Brittany. After that, I don’t know where I’ll be. If the suspense novel sells, I may settle down somewhere for a while, maybe even permanently. Ireland’s a good place to be a writer. They put up statues and name major ships after us.
Any big ideas or stories you want to tackle someday?
I’m about to start writing the historical novel I’ve wanted to do for more than forty years. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve discovered some key facts about the historical events and persons involved that just make for a hell of a story.
Spread the word!