Fantasy “Behind The Scenes” Tour – Stop #4
“The Occult and Magic” by Stephen Morris
I first became interested in the occult and magic when I was very VERY young and saw The Wizard of Oz on television for the first and second times. The first time, my mom says I was terrified of the Wicked Witch’s appearance in Munchkin Land amidst smoke and flames and ran straight to bed! (I must have been 5 years old or so.) The next year I began watching the movie again and made myself stick with it past the appearance of the Witch and after that — I was hooked!
The Wicked Witch of the West became my favorite character because not only is she the most interesting but she is the only one who wields any real power in the movie. She became my idol for years and years! (When a major storm recently struck Manhattan, I made a comment on FaceBook about the wind picking up our house and depositing it atop someone wearing peppermint stripped stockings and glittering red shoes and my cousin responded: “You’ve been chasing those shoes for YEARS!” LoL!)
But the Wicked Witch of the West was my favorite not just because she was powerful. She was also struggling to achieve something, the same way Dorothy was struggling to achieve something. Dorothy wanted to get home to Kansas and the Wicked Witch wanted the shoes of her sister. Were the shoes a sentimental memento? Or were they dangerous weapons? We don’t know. We only know that the Witch wanted those shoes more than anything and was willing to go to any lengths to get them. Just as Dorothy was willing to do anything to get back to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry on the farm in Kansas. The struggles of both the Witch and Dorothy were familiar because they were the same basic struggle. Their struggle was the fundamental human struggle familiar to anyone who desperately wants something—a job, an education, artistic expression, survival or a new life—and will do anything to achieve it.
As an author of contemporary and historical fantasy, I try to introduce readers to characters that are fascinating and powerful yet familiar in basic, fundamentally human ways. No one is perfect. They struggle to achieve their goals. Their experiences with the supernatural ring true because all the magical or fantastic elements in my books are rooted in authentic folklore, legend, or medieval-Renaissance occult beliefs and practices; the experiences of my characters ring true—I hope!—because they engage with the world in the same ways that our grandparents and ancestors did as they struggled to achieve whatever goals they had.
I listen to the characters and help them to discover who they are and what journeys they are on. I share aspects of myself with each of them and they share themselves with me; if I am quiet and listen, I can share not only their joys and frustrations and despair myself but communicate their experience to my readers. My characters interact with those authentic pre-modern beliefs and practices, retelling and reshaping them for modern audiences. I introduce characters to each other that might not have met in their original settings but that have stories and experiences to share with each other. By sharing their experiences, they enrich each other and the readers who can eavesdrop on their conversations or thoughts.
In writing, I try to be my truest self and attempt to build bridges between cultures and histories, practices and experiences, characters and readers.