The Tide Pool the Magicians Crawled Out Of
I’m back in Brooklyn after a week in England, specifically Oxford and the Cotswolds (which are some leafy hills near Oxford).
I’m not going to lie to you: I like England. It has taken me a long time to admit this fact. That’s partly because I didn’t want to be one-of-those-American-Anglophiles who is always pretending to be vaguely English, and partly because my mom actually is English, and she kind of hates England.
It’s a lot easier for me. I’m well aware that liking England is a luxury my mom didn’t have — nobody in England gives me shit, or at any rate not more than the usual amount. As a result I find it very pleasant there. I was in Oxford to give a talk at Christ Church College, and afterward I went to dinner at Pembroke College (Oxford is made up of all these different colleges that have their own semi-autonomous identities — it’s basically just like Voltron). We walked in, and my host explained that I was standing in the same senior common room where Tolkien presided as a fellow.
Very pleasant indeed.
(Then he introduced me to the former master of Pembroke, Roger Bannister. If that name rings a bell, Bannister is the guy who ran the first four-minute mile. I know, right? Then just to piss everybody off, he became an eminent neurologist.)
A couple of days later I was staying with friends in a town near Oxford called Bladon, and I went out for a jog. I found an unlocked back gate onto the grounds of Blenheim Palace (pron. “Blennum”), which is a giant mansion where Churchill was born, and I went running through it, along the banks of the lovely Evenlode River. It was freezing cold and raining. Sheep were grazing on this infinitely perfect ancient grass, and I was shooing them out of the way, and dodging through colossal old trees, and keeping an eye out for shepherds bearing shotguns.
And I thought: yes. This is a country I could live in.
I did not run a four-minute mile. But still.
Now that I’m back in Brooklyn I find myself looking around and thinking, this is nice, but why do I live here again? How am I connected to this city? I’ve never lived anywhere that I didn’t leave thinking, thank God that’s over with, I’m never going back there again. It would be nice to change that. But I’m not getting out of Brooklyn for a few years get zithromax without prescription yet.
But that’s all by way of introducing a curiosity I came across the other day when I was transferring data to my bitchin’ new 13″ MacBook Air. I noticed a file with the suggestive name “dungeon crawlin’ fools.doc,” and a date of creation of July 14, 2004. It turned out to be my first cut at a plot outline for The Magicians. (I must have stolen the filename from Order of the Stick.)
I took my very very first notes on what became The Magicians in 1996, but this must have been the writing session when I went back to it, eight years later, and tried to turn it into something real. I have no memory of writing any of this, but I’m surprised at how much of it made into the finished book.
Here are the first couple of paragraphs. I apologize for their being in stream-of-consciousness broken English:
Vietnarnia – ref GLASS DAGGER [ed. note: I must be referring to the Larry Niven story “What Good Is a Glass Dagger?”] — begins as a lark — they go to vacation house to practice combat magic, something they aren’t taught — get there via Penny’s transdimensional magic — stop over in wood between worlds — that’s where he’s been hanging out all this time — he’s been working with a somewhat fringey professor — find ruined shanty, somebody living there — can you even drink the water? — ‘these trees come from paintings with forest backgrounds’ it’s the kind of thing he says all the time now, you can’t even tell if he’s joking — fucked up — war between speaking and non-speaking animals — old rules corrupted — forward to 19th [century? dunno — ed.] paradigms — riff on lamppost — city is darkened outpost, armed camp, under siege
nip over to check seasons. it’s summer. nips back. they go through minutes later. season has changed: it’s winter.
janet is the only one affected by the WbW effect
what happens there? drawn into question? becomes setup? they encounter wounded being — river-nymph? needs X? more obscure greek being? its head and shoulders poked up, motionless, from water in frozen stream. horrifying sight. is she a corpse? they had to get her out of there. or is it — is there a hot spring? it flees. then they find mysterious inn. anybody know about X? might could. offers to lead them.
And so on. It goes on like this for — let’s see — 6,331 words. I wish I could go back and tell myself to keep at it, it’ll get published, because I gave up on it a lot along the way.
Then my past self would say: I can’t believe we can’t regrow hair yet.
Must go. My Google Calendar looks like a Superfund site.