I am thinking about vows tonight. Dangerous? Yeah.
This blog is built upon a vow, remember? One post a day, 500 words or half an hour, whichever comes first. Sometimes I can’t post them right away because of living situations, but I back-post.
The truth is I do not want to write tonight. It is ruining my day-off relaxation. Could I have gotten it out of the way earlier? Yeah. But now it’s eating up a perfectly good half-an-hour of Neil Gaiman, and I sort of resent that.
But here’s the deal, self: this vow wasn’t about fostering creativity or giving birth to new ideas. Far from it. This post was about discipline, and you haven’t got it yet. Heck, you barely have any. And you’re thinking about vows? Peh. That’s right, I said it: peh. So here’s the message I’ve been getting to, me: buck up. You have been given time and opportunity. Relax tomorrow. There will be time. Now, write. Do it! Faeries.
I have always found the idea of stepping through solid objects into other worlds simultaneously fantastic and frightening. Trees, mirrors, wardrobes; they all seem rather iffy modes of transportation. Trees are especially bad because my father read the Lord of the Rings to me when I was rather less than ten. Old Man Willow stuck.
But that is how it should be, no? This is magic we’re dealing with, and magic should never be dealt with complacently. Most magic should never be dealt with at all. But the Gandalf brand of wizardry, the breath of Aslan, Lewis’s Divine Venus; these are not to be trifled with. If one would meet God – and it is God that is considered here, not some conjuring of cheap tricks as some suppose – one should expect a little fear. Awe is the root word of awful. Do you truly believe that the Israelites simply smiled and walked through the Red Sea when it folded back on itself like a bad travel brochure? No. There was fear, but under and through that fear ran a current of joy rooted in the knowledge that -this- was their God and He had chosen -them- .
My, my, my. The mutterings are more important than the manuscript. I may become a writer yet.
But back to magic; back to faeries, living woods, and Faerie herself. They have always been the irresponsible side of Creation. In Tolkien the ents always retained a hint of danger. The hobbits couldn’t quite trust that the slow, sleepy, singing shepherds of the forest after they saw what happened to Isengard. (Yes, Spell Check, Isengard is a word. And so is ent, and balrog, and ballywaffle, though I just made the last one up. So go stuff it up a troll’s nose. Peh. I’m telling the balrog you suggested ballroom as a correction, just see if I don’t.) The Fey have ever retained a strong aroma of mischief which rarely – but surely – reaches the full-on stench of malevolence. Just don’t tell Queen Mab I said so.
So there’s one point, I suppose: magic is dangerous, even the good kind, or rather the kind created by Good (and if you want to know what I mean by Good, remove an “o”). Here’s another.
I just considered, very briefly, writing a snippet of life through the eyes, ears, and antennae of one of the Fey. I stopped that train of thought quickly enough to warrant some very nasty letters from the passengers. Why did I do this? Because the Fey are, by their very nature, Otherlanders. We are not talking about the folks from down the road a piece who like their toast with gravy. No, not even people from another country who insist that their deeply odd and aesthetically vile ethnic dishes belong in their McDonald’s (don’t get me started on McDonald’s). Legend has it that all of the weirdness, all of the exceptional (original meaning, not popular) people had faerie blood. Why? Because no one quite understood how they worked and they had to chalk it up to magic. To me, that means magic is the essence of “Huh?” We never quite get it, and that is the point. Get it?
So I am going to put something down here which will undoubtedly get me into trouble later. Why? (love a good why) Because I’m a bloody-minded twenty year-old in bad need of sleep and Neil Gaiman. Here goes.
People who write up systems of magic are playing with something much, much older than their great-grandparents. I’m not talking about ancient druidical (It’s a word!!!) magery or anything, just a tradition from the 1700’s or so. They have tried to make it comprehensible, ordered, and most of all writable. I have not yet read a book about a magic-user that was truly fantastic, and yes, I did think that through. The Inheritance Trilogy, Potter, even Drizzt Do’Urden himself. All of them were enjoyable, even enthralling at times, but they lacked the wonder of the unknown. Tolkien did Gandalf exactly right in that he never (in the published books) revealed his origins, his age, his middle name (thoroughly convinced it’s Rupert), or the full extent of his powers. What he did do was make sure the reader knew, just knew that whatever crossed Gandalf was about as intelligent as a small cat that fancies itself a badger hunter. I had a high school English teacher like that. He would give you a look when you disobeyed that said, “I really wouldn’t if I were you.” And you didn’t. No one was ever injured, or flunked, or mentally maimed, but you had every unspoken assurance that you could be. And that was Gandalf.
So here’s the point: don’t try to take the mystery out of mysticism. It’s like taking the sugar out of Coke: just don’t.
I’m going to go read Neil Gaiman. If you see Spell Check, kick it for me.