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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

GUEST POST: Revisionist History By Jaye Wells

Urban Fantasy authors usually build their worlds on the questions, “What would our world look like today if [insert myth or monster here] actually existed?” Typically, the answers is that our world would be a lot more violent, dangerous, and/or sexy. For me, answering this question is one of my favorite parts of writing the genre. My Sabina Kane series posed three main questions:

 1) What would happen if vampires were the product of a dalliance between Lilith and Cain?

 2) What if vampires and mages were enemies?

 3) How would a woman born of a forbidden love affair between an vampire and a mage survive in our world?

Answering these questions took five books, a novella, and a few short stories to answer. Hell, I’m not sure I answered it completely, but that’s a post for another time.

So when it came to building the world for my new Prospero’s War series, I approached it with the same idea of revising our present to include some sort of speculative element. In this case, the question was, “What would our world look like if some people are born with the ability to turn mundane ingredients into magical potions?”

To answer that question, I had to decide what part of our world I’d be exploring. After all, each region and culture would be affected differently by the addition of Adepts in the general population. As it happened, around the time I was beginning the project, I’d seen several images of rundown buildings in our nation’s Rust Belt. Once glorious theaters, churches, mansions, and office buildings now laying in ruin in cities like Detroit, Cleveland, Gary, IN, and many other towns. Like this image below of the old United Artist’s Theater in Detroit, which closed in 1974.

In order to pull of any sort of revisionist exploration of our world, you first have to figure out at what point the real past split off to become the imagined past that led to the revised present. In the case of Kate Prospero’s world, that moment happened in the 1970s around the time of the great steel bust in America. In the real past, factories abroad were able to create steel more cheaply than the American behemoths who everyone thought were too big to fail (sound familiar Americans of today?). Once the steel factories failed, entire towns lost the jobs that employed the majority of their citizens.

Where this very real history breaks off in Prospero’s world is that the ascendancy of cheaper Asian and German steel was created by enterprising alchemists who figured out how to produce stronger, cheaper steel using alchemical magic.

For the first time in history, the world saw that the magic that had been written about in folklore and used to scare children had actual practical applications. Science started studying things and realized that certain people are born with a genetic talent for turning mundane ingredients into magical elixirs and products. In short, the industries and governments of the world realized that there was a lot of money to be made in magic, so they started throwing resources behind developing the talents of Adepts.

Of course, governments and industries are the only greedy forces in our world. For every government sanctioned product made using expensive clean magic, there were hustlers on the streets making illegal but cheap dirty magic potions. The same magic we hoped would save our economy also became the devil that would curse our society with addiction and the violence that goes along with it.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that the battle of clean versus dirty magic was heavily inspired by our very real War on Drugs, as well as the influence of Big Pharma on our society.

As an author, I see novels as fun-house mirrors held up to society. The images of reality become somewhat distorted, but the distortion (the revision in this case) also may help illuminate things in a new way. By taking very real themes that plague our society and exploring them through the metaphor of magic, I’m able to tackle things indirectly that might be hard to talk about head on. I think that’s the beauty of all revisionist fiction. It helps us process our real histories, our present as we understand it, and make choices about our yet-to-be-determined futures.

But mostly, it’s pretty fun to use facts we take for granted, flip them on their heads, combine them in new ways, and see what shakes out. I hope you’ll find the Prospero’s War world as fun to read as I had creating it. The first book in the series, Dirty Magic, debuts on January 21.

Official Author Website
Pre-order "Dirty Magic" HERE
Win a stunning necklace by pre-ordering Dirty Magic

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Jaye Wells is a USA Today-bestselling author of urban fantasy and speculative crime fiction. Raised by booksellers, she loved reading books from a very young age. That gateway drug eventually led to a full-blown writing addiction. When she’s not chasing the word dragon, she loves to travel, drink good bourbon and do things that scare her so she can put them in her books. For more about Jaye’s books, please visit her website.

Note: Sabina Kane cover montage courtesy of Barbara B. United Artists theater picture courtesy of Author picture courtesy of the author. Dirty Magic review to come next week and also look out for a Q&A with the author.


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