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"The Science of Magic, Part IV: Governing The City"
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Twilight by Stephanie Meyer, Little Brown, 2005
Promise of the Flame by Sylvia Engdahl, Ad Stellae, 2009
Dark Road Rising by P. N. Elrod, Ace TPB, Sept 2009
Redheart by Jackie Gamber, Meadowhawkpress.com, 2008
Heroes at Risk by Moira J. Moore, Ace Fantasy pb, Sept 2009
Doubleblind by Ann Aguirre, Ace SF pb, Oct 2009
At Empire’s Edge, William C. Dietz, Ace SF HC Oct 2009
Last month we looked at six novels set in alternate USA realities where famous cities were protected from magical assault by heroic or specially talented individuals.
This month let’s look at Group Minds similar to that of "The City" and how the Group governs the Individual.
There are assumptions that often remain un-examined in these seven very enjoyable novels (remember I only review novels that are worth your time and money, "5-Star" worthy novels). If you agree with those assumptions, you will probably enjoy the novel.
But the most fun you can have while learning something about the fundamentals of handling magical power is reading a novel which twigs your subconscious uncomfortably because you do not agree with the un-examined assumptions but don’t know it.
It’s important for a student of magic to examine those unconscious assumptions with direct conscious attention. An annoying novel shows you what you need to examine.
As Dion Fortune wrote many times, any deliberate act is a magical act. Assuming that’s so, consider all the things you do daily that you do deliberately and consider the consequences of daily trivia (Mercury) in magical terms.
If every deliberate act is a magical act, then every tweet you post to twitter is a magical act. If you’re peeved with a service clerk and post something vitriolic, just to vent, you have sent out magical energy into the world that will behave as magical energy – i.e. it will rebound onto you.
If you break a traffic law and "get away with it" – i.e. speeding, running a red light, double parking – you can expect the rebound to land upon you, not anyone else.
These trivial little acts produce trivial rebounds. But there are trivial little acts that produce huge rebounds because they get magnified by other people’s trivial acts.
Now it’s true that certain people who are innately talented and have worked at it can focus more magical energy into their acts than others do. But everyone’s deliberate acts are magical. And additive.
Yes, additive. When large numbers of individual members of a Group Mind act in concert, even though the individuals are devoid of talent, there may well be a discernable result. Magic is dangerous. Therefore deliberate actions are dangerous not just for the action itself, but for the deliberation behind it.
The signature of White Magic is the refusal to over ride the Free Will Choice of any individual.
Few individuals can stand against the concerted Will of a Group Mind, even if the individual is not a member of that Group.
If a Group Mind commits a deliberate act which usurps an Individual’s legitimate Free Will options, there will be magical consequences.
All magical consequences manifest as just plain ordinary logical consequences. Magic adjusts the probabilities a little, and wham, adverse unintended consequences accrue.
In these seven novels, we’re looking at the magical theory of "government" as these really good writers tell a whopping good tale that just happens to rely on a portrayal of government to make you believe these worlds are real.
The question none of these novels address directly is, "What is Government, where does it come from, and what is it a tool for accomplishing?"
As you romp through the story, you don’t think you’re reading about governmental theory. It’s a story, not a political science textbook. But these novels raise questions no political science text would dare. Magical questions.
Where is the line between the individual’s free will and the free will of the group mind? In Astrology, this is depicted in the opposition of 1st House and 7th House.
By now you’ve all read Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight and maybe the sequels, seen the movie? Here we have the typical gathering of Vampires trying to govern themselves, and live beside humans by imposing laws on themselves – forming their own Group Mind. The love story focuses the issue of whether the individual’s needs trump the Group’s.
Now consider a Science Fiction novel by renowned YA author, Sylvia Engdahl, here writing for a slightly older audience ready to ask some very hard questions about the role of government in healthcare (don’t yell at me! She started this series years before Obama was elected.)
Engdahl’s sequel to Stewards of the Flame which I reviewed in June, 2008, is titled Promise of the Flame and can be found on Amazon or via www.sylviaengdahl.com It is about the consequences suffered by a group of people who refuse to accept the dictates of their government. They leave the tightly governed planet and seek a new planet to colonize (illegally) making new laws using ESP which could just as well be magic. Eventually, they are discovered and threatened with demands to conform. How far can or will they refuse? How will the children of the colonists, raised to freedom, handle the demands to conform?
Conforming is always a teen issue, and it’s a haunting issue for adults. Dropping out is always an option, but there are different ways of dropping out. One way is to become a criminal deliberately, another is simply to join a family of Organized Crime, which is a government of it’s own strangely resembling a Kingdom.
P. N. Elrod continues her (delightful!) saga of Gangland Chicago in the 1930’s with Dark Road Rising, a Novel of the Vampire Files. This series is about the career of Jack Fleming, a reporter turned Vampire who now makes a living as a Private Eye on the border between the "good" Gangsters, the bad Gangsters, and Government. Fleming is being sucked into the evil side of Vampirism but resisting. You have to read this series to believe it!
Jackie Gamber brings us Book One of the Leland Dragon Series, Redheart which is a fantasy in the grand style. Here a young girl befriends a loner Dragon and discovers this dragon is actually the heir who should be the Leader (King) of the local dragon community, a position that has been usurped. The dragons have their own city near a human city, and the usurper is brewing up a war.
The land is drying up, magically choked, causing political tension between human and dragon governments. Riza must support her young dragon friend, Redheart, in a formal challenge to the usurper, a challenge Redheart does not want to make because he doesn’t want to be Leader.
The very complex politics is made clear and realistic by a firm writing hand. Redheart should win half a dozen awards at least.
Another fantasy, Heroes At Risk by Moira J. Moore is fourth in a series. I reviewed the first, Resenting The Hero in April 2007, and since then there have been The Hero Strikes Back and Heroes Adrift. Now Heroes At Risk takes us back to the city where we started and pits the couple who are bound as Source and Shield against the turgid politics of the city. Here, Talent condemns you to Service to the City, but you never have to pay for things you pick up in the market.
I love this series because it’s a cross between my own Sime~Gen and Darkover. Moira has named me as an Influence on her. So read her books. You won’t regret it and you may find they clarify some issues about the tension between the individual and government.
Last month I pointed you at Hell Fire, the second Corine Solomon novel by Ann Aquirre. Here is Doubleblind a novel in her Sirantha Jax series, an interstellar SF series where the science borders on magic. Sirantha Jax navigates space ships for a living, but has become an Ambassador responsible for making peace with an alien species. The interstellar politics is vast and complex, and pinpoints the kinds of deliberate actions a student of magic must ponder.
At Empire’s Edge by William C. Dietz is grand Science Fiction I wish I had more of for you. This is the story of the Uman Empire and the seething objections to the uncompromising rule of the Pax Umana. This is the story of a cop, Jack Cato, who is chasing an escaped shapeshifting prisoner he has the unique power to recognize in any shape. Jack has the integrity of The Untouchables, the ethics of the Lensmen, and the daring courage of the lawmen of the Wild Wild West, and I love this guy.
Dietz gives us both a character to aspire to be like and questions to gnaw on into the night. Where exactly is the line between science fiction and science fantasy? What can we learn from these, quirky, individualistic heroes and their extreme dedication to the rights of the Group?
If the character’s problems were not somehow like our own, we wouldn’t read these novels. Each of these authors has tackled a problem we must solve; do the rights of the group pre-empt the rights of the individual?
To send books for review in this column email Jacqueline Lichtenberg, firstname.lastname@example.org for snailing instructions or send an attached RTF file.
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