“'Tis the year's midnight, and it is the day's.”
That is of course the first line (and, sort of, the last) from John Donne’s “A Nocturnal Upon St. Lucy’s Day,” which makes a cameo appearance in The Magician King, taped to Julia’s bedroom door.
Sadly it isn’t true anymore. Apparently in the 17th century St. Lucy’s Day (December 13) and the winter solstice often coincided, but we’ve messed around with the calendar so much since then that it will never happen again, unless something drastic happens to Earth’s axial tilt. Which with all these unregulated magicians running around these days, you can’t totally rule out.
For now it’s half true. This is not St. Lucy’s Day. But it is the year’s midnight – December 22, the shortest day of the year.
Though not at Brakebills of course! Here it’s still September. But I know the time difference can be confusing to our graduates living outside the Brakebills Defensive Cordon, so in deference to you, cherished alumni, I’ll take this opportunity to look back at the year that was .(Or will be. I know -- confusing!)
Some excellent things that happened this year:
-- I finished The Magician King
-- It got published. People bought it. It got good reviews.
-- Parry Gripp (!) wrote a song about it.
-- I got to share a stage with China Mieville.
-- I got to share a stage with Neil Gaiman.
-- I got to share a stage with Jonathan Franzen.
[-- These were really more cases of their sharing their stages with me, but still. Stages were shared.]
-- I also was on diverse stages with Colson Whitehead, Meg Wolitzer, Erin Morgenstern, my brother, Kelly Link, Naomi Novik, Laura Miller, Margo Lanagan, Simon Toyne, Charles Yu, Mat Johnson and lots of other people whom I really admire.
-- I won a prize.
-- I gave a million interviews.
-- I toured the U.S. and Canada.
-- We opened a store that sells Magicians merch, some of which is really beautiful.
-- The Magicians got optioned by Fox, and some truly cool people are currently writing the show.
And so on. Frankly it was a little nuts, but entirely in a good way.
These are all big career-y things, but some small things happened that were in their own ways just as important, if not moreso. Two parties were thrown for me at WorldCon, at both of which I drank too much, and at one of which I may or may not have put on fox costume. Some people recognized me at airports. Someone knitted me a scarf, in Brakebills colors. Some guys made a record based on The Magicians, and it was actually good.
What else? The Magician King was name-checked, albeit semi-subliminally, on The Simpsons. I got a lot of incredible fan mail, that I didn't reply to nearly enough of. I wrote an introduction to a new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, thus impressing my daughter Lily (7) for the first and maybe the last time. A new edition of The Once and Future King appeared with a quote from me on the front cover, which would have impressed the hell out of my time-traveling 13-year-old self if he weren’t glued to my Xbox twenty-four-seven.
And then of course amazing things happened in real life too. Lily finished the Harry Potter series for the third time, dressed up as Luna Lovegood for Halloween, and generally became, against all odds, even more awesome. That last goes for Halcyon too, though her achievements were more in the arenas of learning to walk, and starting to talk, albeit with a strong Tibetan accent acquired from her nanny.
I also started writing the third Magicians novel. I’m not sure what to tell you about it.
Mostly I’m just outlining it now, and taking a lot of notes. Inspiration is coming from a lot of different places, some new, some old. The Magician’s Nephew is a big part of it, as is The Last Battle. (It’s not a coincidence that those books tell the story, respectively, of the beginning of Narnia and the end of Narnia.) I’m rereading The Tempest and The Phantom Tollbooth and P.G. Wodehouse and the great Bond novel Casino Royale. I’m also rereading The Lord of the Rings, which oddly enough I’ve never really thought of as an influence before.
The new book’s working title – which I’ve never told anybody before -- is The Magician’s Land.
It’s not like anything I’ve ever written before. But it’s not completely new either. There are a lot of old friends to visit, and a lot of loose ends to tie up. We may never come back here again.
Happy holidays. I’ll see you on the other side.
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