Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Wizards Die By Stages

You will never achieve the greatness which your talent merits.  Lack of ability is the smallest of the obstacles you face.  Of greater importance are the number of hours in the day and the number of years in a life.  You will spend a third of your life asleep and most of eternity rotting in a pine box.  Your ability to shape the world is determined primarily by your ability to enlist other people as a force multiplier in pursuit of your goals.

In recruiting others, you have two primary options:  force and persuasion.  You can make people DO what you want, or you can make people WANT what you want.  The third method of enlisting others—economic contract—is essentially a combination of the two; you persuade the other party to engage you economically, and entry into the contract enables you to stake a legally enforceable claim to their labor.

Almost every historical figure of importance has been exceptionally skilled at either persuasion, or compulsion, or both.  My life has been spent teaching teenagers to argue, so the persuasion/compulsion dilemma is central to my thinking, and informs a great deal of what I write.

Magic is the great literary work-around where the persuasion/compulsion dilemma is concerned.  Magic radically empowers the individual to pursue his or her goals without help.  I suspect that’s why we’re so enamored of it as readers—we long for that kind of independence, for the ability to reshape reality without having to be bothered with what other people think.  Magic is a free lunch.  It offers us something for nothing.

“Wizards Die By Stages,” currently available to readers at NewMyths.com, is an attempt to turn this literary trope on its head.  The story envisions a world in which even magic obeys the central rules of economic interaction—a world in which magic is derived from the labor of intangible, sentient entities, and in which their labor is compelled.

In most economic systems, those riding high on the hog have no real incentive to question the nature of the system from which they benefit, and I see no reason to imagine that magicians would be any different.  It goes without saying, of course, that those who point to the oppression inherent in such systems run into resistance from entrenched interests.  But it only takes one persuasive voice to change the world.  And while compulsion may be the easiest, most cost-free way to control others, persuasion can prove more enduring...

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