Monthly Archives: September 2019

Ep022 The Court Magician

The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker

Is magic real? This is the question posed by Sarah Pinsker’s short story The Court Magician, in which a young boy turns into a magician after learning all of the street tricks that have been nothing more than an illusion. As the magician uses real magic the moral questions of the cost of magic come into the forefront of the story. Isaac and Reid discuss the cost of magic, the desire for magic to be real, and the extent a short story can display a variety of themes based upon interpretation.

Works Mentioned

  • The Court Magician by Sarah Pinsker (spoilers)
  • The Prestige (2006 Film)
  • Eragon by Christopher Paolini
  • The King Killer Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Animal Farm and The Jungle by Upton Sinclaire
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (and its many adaptations)
  • Lord of the Rings (movies)

Magic Systems

The Court Magician presents a magic system of cost, but not universally equivalent cost. The magician says a magic word and loses something he loves: fingers, furniture, people, memories. A magic system with a cost places limits on what can be considered magic, and by extent what can be considered plot points. But at the end of this story the overall question of ‘is magic real?’ persists. The court magician only becomes the court magician after mastering the trickery of slight of hand and street magicianship. Magic is nothing more than tricks until his desire proves that he wants to know magic, understand magic, be all that magic is. The court magician, in his own seeking for magic, is willing to do magic, but was it all a trick? Can a magic system be built upon a desire to seek magic? Real or otherwise?

Ep 021Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

An assassin seeks her freedom by agreeing to be a contender in the king’s challenge. Of course the competition is never as simple as it appears, and the heroine has to battle magic in a world where magic is forbidden. Reid and Isaac discuss the makeup of a story that layers conflict on top of conflict to keep the story pushing forward on every page. Throne of Glass is a book with solid characterization, world building, and, of course, an ever-present conflict that makes you keep turning the pages until the end. Throne of Glass is one of a multitude of books in a series, but delivers a contained story that leaves the reader satisfied.

Works Mentioned

  • Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb


What keeps a reader interested in a story? Conflict and tension. An author that is able to keep your attention through conflict is an author that knows what a reader wants. Sarah J Maas is a master of keeping conflict on every page of her work, Throne of Glass. The level of conflict varies from page to page, but what is always present is the knowledge that a main character is causing trouble or is on the receiving end of trouble. The conflict on every page of the book does not have to be the conflict of the overall plot, simple character traits that lead to mild frustration is sufficient. This micro conflict keeps the reader interested, and adds variety in the depth of the characters.




Ep020 – Micromegas

Micromegas by Voltaire

Perhaps the first popular work of Science Fiction in Western Europe, Micromegas was published in 1752. Reid and Isaac dive into the satire and proportions brought up in Voltaire’s work. Micromegas is the story of two aliens, one from a planet orbiting Sirius and another from Jupiter, who travel from their home planets to Earth. The conversation between the aliens and the humans of Earth bring up not only what makes us different, but also what makes us all so similar. Voltaire lays out his thesis that humans are not at the center of the universe against a backdrop of proportions and the known science of the time. We discuss proportions not only in their physical sense, but also how proportions might be applied to human knowledge.

Note: Reid mixes up the planet from which the second alien introduced is from, Reid says Jupiter when in fact it is Saturn. Please excuse his Jupiter-centric perspective of the universe as we like to imagine Micromegas would eventually forgive humanity for their Earth-centric view of the universe.

Works Mentioned

  • Micromegas by Voltaire
  • The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin.
  • 1 Kings 7:23 (King Solomon’s temple and a reference to pi)
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand


Satire an Origin of Science Fiction

Dystopia is a popular sub category of Science Fiction, and at its core dystopia can be thought of as satire. Whether it is Fahrenheit 451, 1984, or Micromegas the ideas presented in science fiction carry a social commentary on the world we live within. To show that Earth, and those humans on Earth specifically, are not at the center of the universe, Voltaire decided to look towards the stars and show just how small humanity is in the cosmos, quite literally. To construct a statement on the human condition a world has to be built in which to make the ideas shine. In order to make the contrast emerge as conflict the world must be created – and often a fantastical world – that will put the character in conflict with the themes at play.