the magician king
Yes: celebrating a paperback release is sort of like celebrating your half-birthday, but still. There are no bad excuses to drink in a bookstore. None.
Two good reasons to pick up a copy now, if you haven’t. One, it helps me if I sell copies early, because then bookstores re-order, and the publisher prints more, and the engines keep running … it shouldn’t work like that but seriously it does.
Two, there’s some kind of issue with the blue foil on the cover. Future printings won’t have it. So it’s collectible!
Whether or not you buy a copy, if you’re in New York City (and I realize most of you aren’t) stop by WORD Bookstore tonight at 7. We’re having a party. I’m especially looking forward to this event, because while there’ll be some onstage stuff — Ryan Britt and I are going to have a conversation — mostly it’s just hanging out and talking and drinking. It’s a small space. We’re going to get into it.
Last thing: the Magician King Song Contest has pretty much wrapped up. There was a flurry of really A-list entries yesterday — you might bounce over to the YouTube page and have a listen. The skill and diversity on offer is just astounding. There’s twee-pop, there’s a cappella, there’s screampunk, there’s Minecraft — that’s a musical genre now — there’s synth-metal, there’s a musical instrument I can’t identify, there’s a guy with a horse’s head … it’s pretty awesome.
There’s a whole alternate-lyrics version with a line about fucking elves that’s worth the price of admission all by itself.
I did warn you that I would make a humorous video to promote the Magician King song contest. And now look:
I’m not exactly a mad genius of self-promotion here at Magicians LLC, but I did once do something really clever: I asked Parry Gripp of Nerf Herder to write a theme song for the Magicians books. It’s called “I Wanna Be a Magician,” and it is deeply, deeply excellent.
It goes like this:
(I know I just broke the frame of my own blog. I suck at YouTube. And blogs.)
I love that song so much. I love it as much as the books the theme song of which it is (<–professional writer!) I firmly believe that it should be played as often as possible, in as many ways as possible, by as many people as possible.
So with that in mind, and in honor of The Magician King being published in paperback on May 29, I’m holding a contest for the best cover version of “I Wanna Be a Magician.” Parry picks the winner. The winner gets a cool $250.
There are no holds barred here. Any and all instruments are acceptable. Improvisation is encouraged. You can add variations, facemelting solos, virtuoso cadenzas, new lyrics, new verses, whatever you like. As long as we can recognize the song, it’s in. I don’t care if you have a band, or an orchestra, or an a capella ensemble, or a mellotron, or a hammered dulcimer, or a hammered mellotron. Cover the song and you’re in the running.
To enter: upload your entry to YouTube and give it the tag “magiciankingsongs.” I will then add it to this YouTube channel. This may be an awful and klugey way to run the contest, but as I may have mentioned I suck at YouTube, and I couldn’t think of anything else. We’ll announce the winner here on May 29.
Parry has graciously provided the chords and lyrics, as I am a musical idiot:
I WANNA BE A MAGICIAN
[verse] G Bm I wanna be a magician Em G And study at Brakebills Am C Wander though the hedge maze G D And cast magic missile spells [verse] G Bm Wanna go where the clock-trees Em G Are ticking in the breeze Am C 'Neath the shade of Castle Whitespire G D In the laaaaaaand of G Fillory [bridge] Em D Hunt the Seeing Hare and C G The Questing Beast Em D Ride the Cozy Horse with C G Its coat of velveteen Em D Charge the Ember and the Chatwins C G To the Western Sea Am Em And defeat the Watcherwoman D In the land of Fillory [battle section] Em Bm Em Bm [verse] G Bm You can keep New York City, 'Cause Em G there's nothing here for me. Am C Wanna be a magician G Bm D In the laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand of G C Fillory Bm D [outro - repeat X 10,000,000] G C I wanna be a Magician Bm D (in the laaaaaaaaand)
That’s all I got. Go! Questions? I’ll answer’em in comments.
The people have spoken! And they all disagree with each other!
Which is as it should be. But you’ve narrowed down the list considerably, while still leaving some discretion to the author (me). Thank you.
Of the finalists, I was sorely tempted by Ogden, since it has nice associations (Ogden Nash) and a perfect etymology (the Internet seems to think it’s an English name that originally meant ‘oak valley’). But would anybody really name a child Julia Ogden? It doesn’t quite trip off the tongue. I always get stuck in the middle — those adjoining vowels, with a glottal stop (or whatever it is) in between them.
Julia Pierce got several votes, but it’s just a little too … Brosnany for me. Dryden is nice, but I agree with whoever pointed out that it’s too close to ‘dryad.’ Barbour — also nice, but it’s an Iconic British Lifestyle Brand, and I have a coat by them, and I can’t name Julia after a coat. Reese: that’s my accountant’s name. See above.
Bottom line, I’m going with Wicker. Short, sweet, euphonious, distinctive, natural but not too dryad-y. I know no coats or accountants named Wicker. Yes, there’s the association with The Wicker Man, now permanently tainted by the wickedy-wack Nicholas Cage remake, but I can get past that. Julia Wicker.
Let’s say Ogden’s her middle name. It’s a family name. Thank God that’s settled. Julia Ogden Wicker.
I have no other news to relate. The Magician King appeared on some year-end best-of lists, which made me very happy. I gave some interviews. I’m spending a lot of time plotting out the last Magicians book, scene by scene. I’m about 3/4 of the way there — I want to have a really solid plan in place by the end of the year, so I can then go to Australia and write the hell out of the thing. (That’s not a figure of speech. I’m really going to Australia. It’s summer there.)
It sounds kind of prosaic, but outlining is a big part of the process for me. I’m not an improviser: I like to have a lot of the structural interconnections in a book mapped out before I start writing. Then I can switch them around and add more as I go — it’s like the book is a brain, and it’s forming little neuronal pathways (neurologists, feel free to write in with everything that’s wrong with that analogy). That’s part of the point of novels for me: they’re little worlds where everything is woven together with everything else, everything is linked, and everything pays off.
Except a few things that are artfully placed to remind us that in real life, hardly anything pays off.
The other day on Twitter a reader — whom the court will refer to as @FredaLisgaras, since that is in fact her name — asked if Julia had a last name. And of course she does. But I don’t know what it is, because it’s not in the book.
It’s funny about characters’ names: you know they have them, but unless the narrator supplies them, or somebody for some reason says them out loud, which is surprisingly rare, (see p. 20 of The Magicians, or p. 118 of The Magician King) they don’t tend to come out.
(My narrators tend not to say the characters’ last names because I write in what people sometimes call “close” third-person narration, which means that even though theoretically they’re different people, the narrator’s persona and point of view are closely identified with those of the character whose story they’re telling. And people don’t tend to think about their own last names, or the last names of people they know well. Henry James called this narrative technique “focalization.” I don’t know why I know that.)
Anyway, for whatever reason Julia’s name has never come up, so I suggested that people submit nominations via Twitter. Here’s what came in, in no particular order:
If you’ve got a preference (or another nomination), cause it to be known in the comments. Let’s make some canon!
Next time: the verdict.
p.s. Apropos of nothing, I have to take a second to mention John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which I’m almost done reading. (I sometimes get advance copies of books; it’s one of the things that makes my life good.) The other day I posted on Time.com about seven books I’m looking forward to in 2012, and I didn’t mention Green’s book, because I wasn’t looking forward to it. I’d heard his stuff was good, but I’d never read it myself, and because I’m a suspicious and distrusting person, I didn’t take its goodness on faith. Then I picked up The Fault in Our Stars. I am totally devastated by this book. I cried when I read it, and I never cry. You don’t want to throw around phrases like “instant classic,” but I can see this book sitting next to The Catcher in the Rye. It’s that good.
This blog post is lacking in any of the Aristotelian unities, but I’m just going to have at it anyway. Take that, Aristotle.
— Here’s an interesting thing. You can send a postcard from Fillory at this website. Even if you’re not actually in Fillory. This may qualify as mail fraud, I’m not sure. At any rate the stamps are gorgeous.
— I’m reading tomorrow night — that’s Thursday night, Sept. 8 — at KGB alongside two fantastically distinguished writers, Lily Tuck (who won the National Book Award for The News from Paraguay) and Francisco Goldman. What were they thinking? I’ll ask them.
— I’ve got more readings in the works: in the immediate future there’s one at Newtonville Books in Newton, MA on Sept. 15 with Sven Birkerts, and one at BookCourt in Brooklyn on Sept. 28 with a player to be named later. Two fantastic bookstores.
— Still more readings: I’ll be touring Canada in October. I’ll be at the Calgary WordFest, which starts October 11th, then I’ll be at the Vancouver Writers Festival, which starts October 18th. Then I’ll be at the Toronto International Festival of Authors starting October 25th.
— Somewhere in there I’ll also be appearing in Austin, TX twice. Texas is not in Canada, though.
— Finally, if you want to have your brain melted a bit, check this out. A new album by a band called Fiction that is — what? Inspired by? Let’s just say it’s not unrelated to The Magicians. And here’s what else: it’s pretty damn good.
Actually it’s kind of amazing.
“Anything you can’t cope with is therefore your own problem” – Trillian, a.k.a. Tricia McMillan, in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
I’m back from tour. The Infinite Improbability Drive is off or at least idling. The list of things I can’t cope with is still worryingly long.
A word about tour. Tour was great. Actually it was amazing. There was a whole new vibe out there. When I went on tour for the paperback version of The Magicians, I saw maybe twice as many people as had come out for the hardcover version. Something had changed. But this time something had really changed. This time I got, like, 5-10 times as many people as for the paperback. Let me tell you, that means a lot to a writer.
(Also increasing: the amount of e-mail I get. I’m really, really sorry I’m so crap about answering it. The math of it is all wrong: the busier I get, the more e-mail I get, and the less time I have to answer it. It should work the other way.)
I was also surprised by how tough the tour was on me and my family — my being away for that long. Sophie has to pick up a lot of slack when I’m away, and it’s not like she doesn’t have her own professional gigs to deal with. It’s tough to strike a balance. I don’t how much it bothers Halcyon, who’s 1 and therefore still kind of one with the universe in that way that babies are. But Lily (7) basically welded herself to my leg the minute I got home and refused to let go. And I knew how she felt. Maybe I’ll take her with me next time.
I’m not going to do a big roundup of the reviews. Google will do a better job than I will, and it gets paid more than I do. Suffice to say that they’ve been good! And that it’s been interesting watching reviewers and their reviewing organs try to decide whether The Magician King is literature or fantasy or art or entertainment or trash or whatever. (Correct answer is: yes.) Though I will cop to being happy that The New Yorker, that pillar of literary culture, did a short but nice review (this link is pointless unless you subscribe to the magazine, in which case it’s pointless anyway. Sorry.)
And now onwards and upwards! Or at least energetically sideways! There are more projects in the works, which I’ll announce when I can. I have plans for a third and probably final Magicians book. I know how it starts and how it ends, and a certain amount about the middle bits. Damn those middle bits.
This isn’t really the start of the tour. The tour already started. Last week I did a couple of readings in New York and another in Boston.
(Thank you everybody who came. So far they’ve been big, sweaty, standing-room-only readings with tons of questions, which is the kind I love. It especially meant a lot to me at Brookline Booksmith, a store I used to haunt in my awful lost post-college years, when buying a hardcover was enough to bust my food budget, but I would do it anyway. Now not only have I read at Brookline Booksmith, I’ve been in the back. I’ve seen the break room. Bookstores are their own kind of Narnia)
But today the tour starts in earnest. I fly to St. Louis, a city where I do not think I have ever been before. I’m reading tomorrow night at the public library. Come out! We’ll nerd it up.
And yes, there is an official tour name. Someone came up with it in comments, possibly on Facebook, and it was tremendously witty, and I’ve forgotten it completely. But it was awesome.
From St. Louis I go to Reno for WorldCon. I’m doing all the usual WorldConny things – it’s all on some celestial WorldCon schedule somewhere – but we’re also doing Magicians-themed parties Thursday night and Saturday night. If you’re at WorldCon, I require you to stop by and partake of free alcohol. I’m also hosting a nerded-up version of University Challenge on Thursday afternoon, featuring teams from Hogwarts, Brakebills, Miskatonic and Unseen University. We still have a couple of openings, so if you want to play, drop me an e-mail.
The Magician King is out, and I am three events into the tour. Though it hasn’t really started in earnest because I haven’t gotten on a plane yet. Or consumed my first Ativan.
The reviews so far: really really good. NPR, the AV Club, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe, Tor.com, SF Signal…I haven’t actually read them, because as pathetic as it sounds, I can’t read any of the media coverage at all, not one word, or I will be consumed with anxiety the way a niffin is consumed by magic. (See what I did there…)
(Actually I did read the Washington Post review. Sing along with Morrissey: “I’ll never make that mistake again … ”
If I were a responsible author without a day job I would aggregate all the interviews I’ve done — CNN, CBS, Huffington Post, Daily Beast, Wall Street Journal, etc. — into one handy guide. But I’m just not that guy. I do want to call out a few things though. One is a post I did on Tor.com that’s a guide to the semi-hidden allusions in The Magicians. I also wrote an essay about the process of writing The Magician King for Fantasy Matters — it’s here.
Also I wrote an introduction for a new deluxe edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with a beautiful cover by Ivan Brunetti. Probably you’re not lacking for copies of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But if you are, I recommend this one.
The Magician King is officially out today.
I think “tumult of emotion” is the appropriate cliché for how I feel right now.
But that shall not distract us from the task at hand. A bunch of things are going to get announced here over the next few days, but of that bunch this is probably the thing I am most excited about. I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO BEGIN.
I’ll begin in 1997. That’s when I first got into Nerf Herder, the world’s premier power-pop nerd-rock outfit. Their specialty is setting the woes and joys of the nerdy life to melodies that are just pure pop bliss — “Mr. Spock” is a favorite of mine. They’re also famous for having done the theme song to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but let me tell you, their catalogue runs deep. These guys got me through some rough periods.
I’ve never met their frontman, Parry Gripp, but I’ve interviewed him a couple of times over the years, so I have his e-mail address, and I sent him a copy of The Magicians when it came out. A few months ago — it was in April — I e-mailed him and asked him if he’d do a theme song for The Magician King, which at that point I was almost done writing.
He said yes. I will never know exactly why, but he said yes.
I’ve spent most of the time between then and now just staring at my Gmail waiting for the song to arrive.
Parry sent through the rough mix last week. I had absolutely no idea what to expect, but whatever I expected was completely blown away and destroyed by the real thing. It’s just so damn cool. I have listened to this song about 90,000 times since then.
Now you can listen to it too:
And unless I’ve scrod up the HTML, you should be able to download it here: