As we continue our discussion on magic in the fantasy genre, I am privileged to welcome author Satyros Phil Brucato. His novel, Red Shoes, focuses on music as magic. Having been moved by music (as most people have been at one time or another), I was immediately intrigued by the idea. Satyros’ magic system is unique and grounded in the idea of music transcending the ordinary and becoming something more, something magical.
The song poured into me, lent me strength. The pounding beat melted into my pulse. Heavy chords filled my muscles, energizing me, throwing each power chord behind each punch, kick and block. My heart beat in time with the music.
It was glorious.– Red Shoes, by Satyros Phil Brucato
Music, fantasy, and magic. All three have been vital elements of my life since childhood, and so they’re vital elements of my writing, too. In my forthcoming novel Red Shoes (Quiet Thunder, Spring, 2021), I combined those elements into a tale of love, loss, abuse, revenge, and eventual recovery. Genét Shilling, a young bellydancer, sees her friend Blue burn to death on stage. As she traces the cause behind Blue’s death, Genét learns that our “reality” fluctuates in strange and sometimes awful ways. Sound, she discovers, manifests throughout creation. Everything is composed of sublime frequencies, and folks who understand that fact can manipulate time, physics, vital energies, and the nature of reality itself. Few people, thankfully, know how to manipulate sound with such potency. Those who can do so, however, command uncanny powers…
“How so, Meghan? And what sort of ‘powers,’ exactly?”
“Well,” she said, settling into the role of my mystic advocate, “the theory is that everything that exists came from a primal cosmic sound. You know that whole om thing people do in yoga class?”
I nodded. “Yeah,” I said. “Go on.”
“That’s supposed to be an echo of the cosmic sound – the Om, like the real one. The universe is supposed to be the echoes and refractions of that sound, running throughout the universe in infinite frequencies. If you tap into those frequencies, you can change the laws of physics and manifest things that science says are impossible.”
“This is a weird-ass conversation, Meg,” I said, trying to joke off the eerie crawl up the back of my neck. “You sure we’re not dreaming right now?”
“If we are,” she said with a flatness that turned that crawl into a full-force shudder, “then it’s a dream I’ve been living for most of my life.”
There’s so much that even best friends don’t know about each other.
Genét’s best friend, Meghan, learned this stuff the hard way. During a mysterious event in high school (the subject of my next novel, Black Swan Blues), Meghan tapped into those powers by accident. Thankfully, she wound up being trained by people who understand those principles. In Red Shoes, Meghan and Genét call some of those friends in to help sort out the mess behind the burning girl’s demise. Time shifts. Blood flows. Secrets break wide open. All lives change. Some lives end.
For my approach to magic in Red Shoes and Black Swan Blues, I drew upon Vedic and Pythagorean metaphysics, combined with my own experience as a musician, dancer, DJ, and lifelong music fan. Sound, from this perspective has both physical and metaphysical effects. The physical ones are obvious: vibrations that arouse, excite, and occasionally harm living organisms and inanimate materials alike. On a metaphysical level, such vibrations shift emotions, inspire passions, and potentially connect us – for better and worse – with cosmic powers we barely understand. The idea for Blue’s death came from legends of the Dikpa Raga: a song that supposedly burns the singer alive with heat so intense it can evaporate a riverbed. I combined that idea with alchemical principles of transformative vibration and that weird time-dilation sense you get when you’re listening to great (or terrible) music or enjoying (or enduring) a great (or terrible) concert. Adding in the ups and downs of music culture and the people who create it, I wrote an urban faerie tale rooted in real-life experience and my own perceptions of this world. I’ve explored those ideas in my other work as well, especially Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy, Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium, and several short stories collected in my book Valhalla with a Twist of Lethe. The title track of that collection features the Norse thunder god attempting to become a rock star, realizing that the essence of human creativity flows from the uncertainties of mortal life. That interplay between sublime vibrations and earthy passions fascinates me. Although my real-life musical pursuits come nowhere near the powers manifesting in my fiction, I’ve experienced enough of such powers in my life, channeled through artists far more talented than I am, to know that while I exaggerate such magic in my fiction, the essence of that magic is real.
Red Shoes should be available for preorder this June, in print, digital and audio editions, from Quiet Thunder Productions. Ivy Tara Blair reads the audiobook edition, and she’s done a marvelous job.
About the author:
Satyros Phil Brucato is known best for his work with Mage: The Ascension, Strowlers, Deliria: Faerie Tales for a New Millennium, and various fiction and nonfiction projects spanning dozens of anthologies, magazines, games, comics, and other media. An occasional musician and outspoken political activist, Satyr lives in Seattle with his spouse Sandra Swan, two cats, and an endless supply of rage.
For an ongoing essay on this subject, expanded from an article I published in Realms of Fantasy magazine, check out the “Mystic Rhythms” series on my blog:
Satyros Phil Brucato on wordpress: Mystic Rhythms: Music, Magic & History (Part I) | Satyros Phil Brucato (wordpress.com)
For my now-disbanded mystic rock group Telesterion, see our page on Bandcamp:
For some of my other books on this subject, check out:
Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy: Rock ‘n’ roll roleplay (1)
Valhalla with a Twist of Lethe, and Other Strange Tales
Tritone: Tales of Musical Weirdness
For more from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Coldfire Trilogy
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic in the Copper Circle
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic for Mercenary Kings
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- The Weather Warden
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- And Now This
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Blood, Fire, and Death
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Teaching Physics to Barbarians
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Discworld