Category Archives: fiction

Beginning a Story: Wizards in the Military

What is the best way to begin a story? My teachers have always recommended writing several beginnings until you find the right one. One professor claimed he wrote over 30 versions of a story before it felt right (I’m skeptical). The point, however, is valid.

For the past few days, I’ve been thinking about this concept:

A. Wizards (and magic in general)

B. The Military

A+B. Wizards used in the military

I don’t know if there is a worthwhile story lurking here, but I want to try. The idea is to render the narrative in a straight-forward, realistic way and let the two conflicting worlds interact. I suppose my inspiration is part Stranger in a Strange Land and part A Modest Proposal; Cultural criticism cloaked in SciFi.

To put it another way, what would happen magic had a practical application in combat? Would dragons replace Bradley APCs? Instead of fighting house by house to clear a neighborhood, why not send in a witch to cast a spell of immobilization and then collect the insurgents, frozen mid-motion, like lawn statues?

A disclaimer: I am a geek, but not a magic-savvy geek. My knowledge extends to the Harry Potter movies and Naruto, which is magic of a sort. I apologize to all military types and all magic types. This is just an exercise.

Here goes.

1. The first documented use of Standardized Governmental Magic (SGM) was in Los Angeles during the 2010 Riots, in which a full 15 percent of the city was lost to fire. In a pilot program with Los Angeles SWAT, five wizards and five mages were deployed to disarm rioters and control fires, particularly in the Watts district of the city.

2. No one knows exactly when the government first started using magic for military purposes. There are photos from the 2010 Riots in Los Angeles that show wizards in camouflage and flack jackets, surrounded by a protective ring of riot police, casting water spells to repel the crowds and extinguish the fires and burned for 16 days; it rained black water and ash for three weeks.

3. I was one of the first. They came for me one night at the barracks of the 351 in Virginia. We had just finished dinner in the mess hall, a long, low cinder block building painted stray dog gray, when two men in suits tapped me on the shoulder.

“Seargent Craig?” The man who spoke was enormous – one of those giants the service finds in a cornfield in Iowa. He had a quiet face and corporal’s stripes and smelled like the generic lemon detergent used by the base’s laundry service. His companion was a civilian, dressed in a charcoal gray suit that was too big for him, and he seemed delicate – ill matched to his mammoth escort.

“Sir?” I said, starting to get up.

“Follow me.”

I followed.

…more to come.

Well! This is the question: how best to convey the important information in a quick, entertaining, and (hopefully) stylistic way? I’m frustrated. The first two are flat and the second perhaps too self-conscious.

More later.