This is the intro to what’s going to be a long-running series of posts, the Encyclopaedia Arcana. I’ll post a new entry most Fridays. Sometimes the Friday slot may be taken up by something else, but usually it’ll be an Encyclopaedia article.
I’ve been working on the universe in which the Alex Verus series is set for a long time, and I have a lot of details worked out about it (and I mean a LOT). Some of this information makes it into the novels, but mostly it stays beneath the surface. Most often the reason it’s kept back is because it isn’t necessary to enjoy the story – you might understand the situation a little better if you knew all the background, but not that much (definitely not enough to make it worthwhile to break up the pace of the story). Another reason I don’t talk about it in the books is because it’s very much the ‘foundations’ of the series and isn’t a natural topic of conversation – everything you do on a daily basis might depend on gravity, but that doesn’t mean you talk about it much. And often it’s just not relevant to what’s happening at the time.
A final interesting reason is to do with the books’ first-person perspective. Alex is pretty well-informed as mages go but there are still plenty of things he doesn’t know about. For instance, shields and shielding are incredibly important to elemental mages since so much of a duel between two elemental mages revolves around breaking through the other mage’s defences. But since Alex isn’t an elemental mage, can’t use shields, and doesn’t fight duels, it’s not very important for him, and so he never talks about it.
The Encyclopaedia Arcana articles will cover all the little bits of information and description that for whatever reason don’t make it into the books (or are only described briefly). Absolutely nothing in these articles is necessary to understand and enjoy the novels – it’s all extra.
Why I’m Writing These Articles
If these articles are unnecessary, why write them? Well, there are several reasons.
First, it’s fun. I’ve spent a long time constructing the world Alex Verus lives in and I like writing about it. It’s also a good way of giving me ideas – doing the work to codify this stuff often throws up possibilities that I wouldn’t have noticed if I hadn’t done the work to flesh it out.
Second, it gives an introduction to the series for people who haven’t read the books (and hopefully a way to get them interested). Once I’ve written a couple of dozen of these and filled them out and added an index they’ll also work as a way of explaining things which the books don’t make immediately clear. So if you want to know what’s up with the whole Dark mages and Light mages thing, you can look up the article.
Finally, it’s something extra for readers who’ve finished all the books that are available and want more. I’m one of those people who enjoys finding out about the physics and rules and details of the worlds of my favourite authors, so I’m writing the kind of thing that I like reading when other authors do it.
As I write this I’ve got a rough list of possible Encyclopaedia posts on a file on my computer. It’s currently about 30 items long, so at a rate of one a week (allowing some breaks when the Friday post is taken up with something else) that should keep me going for most of a year. Feel free to chime in in the comments section if you have any requests!
And I think that covers about everything. Entry #1 of the Encyclopaedia will be an introduction to magic.