Sufficiently Advanced Magic — About the Book

I’m not actually a huge fan of fantasy novels. Indeed I stopped reading them for a long time and only recently began picking them up again. The reason I stopped is because of what I perceive to be the malign influence that J.R.R. Tolkien had on the genre. This isn’t Tolkien’s fault nor is it due to any inherent lack in the books themselves. I love “The Lord of the Rings” books. The problem is the way these books straitjacketed the entire fantasy genre for a long time.

“The Lord of the Rings” has a number of themes in it but one of the most malign to me is this sort of rural/pastoral idolization that not only eschews the virtue of progress and technological advancement but actually views them as devolution — a tool of the forces of evil. It’s not by coincidence that the forces of Mordor and the Orcs are represented as being the most industrialized peoples in Middle Earth. Indeed, one’s virtue in that world is often predicated on how close to a Romantic vision of a “state of nature” one lives in. Thus the closest to pure good we see are the Elves of Lothlorien who live in magical houses built into the sides of trees. Dwarves and Men are seen as inherently corruptible because of their love of the material world and their facility with technology and hobbits seem to live in a perpetual medieval English countryside with no measurable progress for thousands of years.

I reject that. Not only do I believe technology and material progress are in general making the human condition better, I believe that they are an inevitable by product of the way we’re built. Science after all, is merely magic that actually works — assuming one defines “magic” as the harnessing of the fundamental principles that power the universe and applying them to the problems of life. We harness the combustive properties of various materials to do everything from firing a gun to cooking our food to powering our cities. If fire elementals were real and we had spells to control them, there is no doubt that human beings would be harnessing them for many of the same purposes that we now use electricity.

That brings us to “Sufficiently Advanced Magic,” the first of a series of novels I have been working on for some time that represent a sort of backlash against that idyllic Romantic vision of a fantasy universe. The general inspiration came from watching an episode of “Law & Order” and having the idle thought “I wonder what it’s like to be a cop in a fantasy universe?” How do the police deal with criminals who really can walk through walls? Thus Thomas MacKeever and Jacob Dells were born, a tough cop who doesn’t trust the wizarding elite and his wizard partner who uses his abilities “CSI”-style to solve crimes and their struggles as they deal with a fantasy universe’s very first serial killer

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