I am a very logical person. I also love fantasy. There was nothing worse to me, as a child, than the thought that the world might actually be every bit as boring as it seemed, when books and stories were so much more exciting. I mean, that’s kind of leading you on, isn’t it? To show all this fabulous, fantastic stuff, like dragons, and faeries, and magic, and then to tell you: “Sike! Too bad, so sad—you can’t have it, ’cause it’s not reee-aaaal.”
Of course, no one ever told me it wasn’t real—at least not up front. No, for some reason, the combination of a scientific brain and a love for fantasy is exactly the kind of thing that adults find really funny. They love messing with you. Never giving you a straight answer. Making you believe ridiculous things.
Like this one time, one of my friend’s moms, who insisted that magic was real, told me that my My Little Ponies moved around at night when I was asleep. Okay, so magic is one thing, but my toys? Moving around and doing stuff when I was asleep? Not a comforting thought. Who knows what diabolical plots they could be up to?
Anyway, she encouraged this thought for months. Leading me on with little bits of found “evidence” and getting other adults to back her up, until she had me really concerned. Then and only then, once she had planted this idea firmly in my head, did she tell me it was untrue.
And she expected me to believe her! When by her own admission now, she was untrustworthy! When did the lies stop? I wasn’t dumb. I knew that if I asked another adult, they would just tell me what she wanted them to tell me—they’d done it before, and they’d do it again.
It was clear that it was up to me to figure out if magic were real, and if my ponies were really on parade. Because adults simply couldn’t be trusted. Not with that kind of responsibility, anyway.
So I was resolved to do what any logical child of two scientists would do. I would test her theory. Scientifically rigorously. If proven correct, I could then take appropriate countermeasures. If not, then I didn’t have anything to worry about. Either way, I’d get to the bottom of it.
First, I put all of my ponies on a piece of paper. Then I drew circles around their feet in pen so I could see if they moved the next morning. That way, I should logically be able to see if they had moved the next morning.
The next morning, I rushed to check the sheet, and I found all the ponies in their proper places. But instead of being relieved, I realized that this didn’t actually prove anything, since the circles told them all exactly where to put their hooves! The problem was the ink. I needed an ink that the ponies couldn’t see.
So, the next night, I refined my experiment, and did it again. I imagined that the ponies were seething with barely contained anxiety behind those plastic smiles as I traced their hooves with a very thin paint brush that I had dipped in lemon juice. They knew they couldn’t do anything about an ink they couldn’t see! My new plan was foolproof.
The next morning, I circled their feet with pen to mark where the ponies stood, and I ran a light bulb over the paper, turning the lemon juice circles (the original circles!) brown. But they were still in the right places.
I had made another mistake.
The results of my experiment clearly showed that they weren’t moving around at night either because they couldn’t . . . or because they had seen me trace their feet with lemon juice, and knew they’d be found out if they moved! In which case they were far cleverer than I had ever imagined, and it would be best to stop messing with them before they got angry.
But there were too many variables for anything more concrete to be resolved. The absence of proof for magic is not an airtight proof against magic. I had learned nothing.
Having done all I could on my own, I decided it was time to listen to what my teachers and parents always told me to do when I wanted to know the answer to something that they for some reason wouldn’t just tell me: I went to the library. There are so many books in the library, that surely, someone had written a book about magic creatures, and in there, I would find my answers.
But all I could find were fantasy novels and magic trick books which, I was increasingly frustrated to learn, had no magic whatsoever in them.
Where were the field guides on magical creatures? Where were the practical guides to magic? I had books on identifying birds, snakes, insects, rocks, and all kinds of things. I had books on how to tie knots, how cars worked, and why the sky was blue. Why wasn’t there a book on magic? Why were they holding out on me?
I never did find any. Nor did I ever find conclusive proof one way or another. But now that I’m old enough, I used all the research I did over the years on dragons, and magic, and faeries to write my own field guides, with all the details that were missing when I was a kid.
In A Practical Guide to Faeries, I describe the weight, height, coloration, habits, habitats, language, etiquette, social structures, chores, and the world faeries live in. I even include a field identification chart.
In A Practical Guide to Wizardry, I talk about the different types of magic, alchemy, enchanted items, and everything you need to prepare for your first year of wizard school.
In A Practical Guide to Dragon Magic, which comes out later this year, I discuss the innate sorcery that only the dragons have, and how to find dragons and convince them to teach you their particular brand of magic.
And of course, in my books, every word is 100% true.