Log in

No account? Create an account
Magic is science. I've always understood it as a set of tools with… - Warren Ellis [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Warren Ellis

[ website | warrenelliscom ]
[ userinfo | livejournal userinfo ]
[ archive | journal archive ]

[Links:| warrenellisdotcom myspace badsignal ]

[Mar. 27th, 2005|02:56 am]
Warren Ellis
[Current Music |talvin singh - ha (radio edit)]

Magic is science. I've always understood it as a set of tools with which to enter into conversation with the dark matter of your own brain and whatever that is (un)wired to.

Ritual is set and setting: cues to induce a state of mind. Exactly the environment and intent created for the early Western psychedelic experiences of the 20th century. Also, exactly the environment and intent behind the Roman catholic exorcism, whose guidelines were revised in 1999 partly because of an increase in demand for the service.

(Would you like a simple exorcism?)

According, I think, to Julian Cope, one of the early sacred walks in Britain leads you down a processionary way towards Glastonbury Tor, and is designed to reveal elements of the landscape to the walker in sequence, to create an experience of awe. We dramatise our environments for neurological effect. Adrenaline pumps. Serotonin releases. Oxygen rush.

Bob Moog's official title at Moog Music, where they continue to build the legendary Moog synthesiser, is "chief technical kahuna". When asked what that means, Moog said: "In the Polynesian and Hawaiian tradition a kahuna is a magician. I call myself that because for me there's some component of magic in what I do. It's not all designing something in a straightforward engineering way."

Magic is science. And yet, 21st century science is magical. Concepts that conjure images, ideas that pretty much resist non-experts' comprehension but nonetheless set off the imagination. Hell, I frequently use ideas I barely understand simply because I like the poetry and imagery and sound of them. A snowflake hanging in 196,883-dimensional space. Or two-dimensional universe where everything we call reality is actually a holographic side-effect.

It occurs to me tonight that if this bug in the back of my head is a web project, not a print project, the necessity for the usual dramatic trappings actually disappears. A graphic novel is a finite, closed experience. I enjoy the form and its demands, and one of those demands is a certain understanding about plot. A webcomic... not so much. Rian Hughes calls me the last modernist writer in comics -- in part, I suspect, because I'm more interested in the idea and the relationship and the effect and the experiment than I am in the plot and the ensemble. I want the "disruptive moment" and the art flexible enough to evoke "everything from a scream to a chuckle". In the same panel, if need be.

If it's a webcomic, it's not a plot. It's not the usual dramatic structure.

if it's a web narrative, it is in fact a conversation.

[User Picture]From: transient_poet
2005-03-27 07:30 pm (UTC)
Or perhaps science is Magic. Afterall, magic did exist first, or rather there was a primordial undifferentiated whole out of which diverted science. Science breaking out to define magic as an older 'Other' and thus different. But really not so much. In 'Cosmic Serpent,' Jeremy Narby relates a story of when he went down into the jungles of South America looking to find out the truth in S. American Shamanism. One of the people he encountered was a shaman/painter who, went on DMT trips and painted the results. When the western anthropolpgy team arrived, they were shocked to find a someone painting a map of the human genome. I know DJ's who cast magic through their sets.

Many physicists who reach a certian degree of understanding turn from atheist to theist, of one variety or another. String theory and such really is that sci-fi. Newton as Gravity Shaman, Einstein Nuclear Mage. The lens through which one views reality define the world. Grant wrote 'Invisbles' as a giant sigil cast into reality through the medium of comics. Linguistics is science, but literature is magic. Yet both play with, define, and work through the meaning, significance and structure of language.
(Reply) (Thread)
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: jonathankorman
2005-03-28 02:11 am (UTC)
I think many practicing magickians would be well pleased by your description of the nature of their practice. What is it with you Brit comics writers, anyway, and contemporary magick?

If some additional thinking about exorcism is useful fodder for your project, let me highly recommend Michael Cuneo's book American Exorcism: Expelling Demons in the Land of Plenty, which is full of fascinating characters, does some thoughtful discussion of the cultural context, and mantains a cunningly agnostic tone throughout. (You can check out a review from the National Catholic Weekly and an excerpt of the book online.)
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: allthatcustard
2005-03-28 06:40 am (UTC)

Hope you don't mind this comment....

Our culture is heading back towards belief in magic, and new technologies, I think, may be why. Our great-grandparents, if they were even averagely intelligent, could understand the most advanced of their culture's technology. Fire in the firebox heats the water in the tank, which makes steam in the boiler, which provides pressure to drive the pistons, which power the wheels and hey presto, Missus! We're off to t'seaside on Thomas the Tank Engine! If everything is explicable and rational, what need do we have for magic?

I haven't the faintest bloody idea how anything works nowadays. When I press the button on this computer anything could be happening. Shamans in Krasnoyarsk may be chanting to keep me online. A troupe of miniaturized Chinese acrobats may be performing depradations inside the case of my computer with their arses painted green. Bluetooth? Is he going to sail his longboat up my connection? You tell me. Even the bloody washing machine has a computer in it these days. You could see how my Mam's mangle worked quite easily, especially if you were cranking the handle.

It might as well be magic. Most of us are as mystified as mediaeval peasants when we press the switch. That's why the new technology druids can rip us off for maintenance contracts and callout charges. Now wonder we're all scrambling back up into the goddess's womb.

Now there's an image to scare you on a fine, spring morning.
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nodgarden
2005-03-30 05:48 pm (UTC)
It seems structure often strengthens. And webcomics tend to seem trite. Whether they are or not, they give the impression, perhaps because there are not yet a great many webcomics that leave as lasting and vivid imprint as printed. Seeing something physically before you that's tactile/real somehow makes it numinous. Either way, the magic of science will have(if it has not already) made the print project as obsolete as purchasing an album from a record store, so print it up while you can. You want a voice that will lead your audience to feel, think, react. How important will dramatic structure be?
(Reply) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: warren_ellis
2005-03-30 06:11 pm (UTC)
<< Either way, the magic of science will have(if it has not already) made the print project as obsolete as purchasing an album from a record store, so print it up while you can.>>

Well, yeah. But I already have quite a lot of books in print. So why not also take new avenues when they present themselves?

<< You want a voice that will lead your audience to feel, think, react. How important will dramatic structure be? >>

Horses for courses, of course, but: not as important as I think you think it will be, in the macroscale. Microfictions can easily fire off an idea, touch an emotion, strike a chord, set you to thinking. I think a chain of works like that has just as much value as the traditional Victorial novel structure.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: nodgarden
2005-03-30 06:26 pm (UTC)
True, that you do, and I trust that you'll be one to (if you do go for webcomic) do it right. It'd change things, though. I, for instance, wouldn't be able to make generalizing statements against webcomics, then, and how they're "not yet on par" with the existing current printeds. It would definately be interesting to see how you use it.

Hence the 'notions,' which I think is the most appropriate description for it, and there's a good chance that once you get enough glimpses of these "notions," they'll build up a general, loose narrative by proximity. In many ways, this approach is more appealing than the traditional, and in some ways, because they leave you satisfied, wanting more, and affected, at the same time. If you want to go with microfictions, webcomics would work rather nicely. I'm just rather greedy and hopeful for one of these works to strike you hard enough to make you want to dig deep into the marrow of it.

(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)
[User Picture]From: warren_ellis
2005-03-30 06:28 pm (UTC)
"they'll build up a general, loose narrative by proximity"

That would have to be the approach, yes. Agreed.
(Reply) (Parent) (Thread)