The Big Idea: Dan Moren
For some, there is magic in the ordinary. For others, magic is the ordinary. Such is the case for the main character of author Dan Moren’s newest novel, All Souls Lost. Follow along in his Big Idea as he expands a bit on the mystical world of magic and technology.
Every speculative fiction writer knows the old Arthur C. Clarke saw: “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
But it’s the transitional part of that idea that’s always caught me: when and how does technology shift into becoming magic? Or vice versa?
Technology and magic have both been real fixations in my life. Our family didn’t have a computer until I was around 12 years old, and when my dad brought home a Macintosh LC, I immediately started to make up for lost time by delving into its every nook and cranny. I learned how to replace sprites in my favorite video game, I read The Macintosh Bible from cover to cover, I wrote shareware apps in Microsoft BASIC that I distributed on the dial-up bulletin boards of the era. To me, it was all magic that I was slowly demystifying, discovering the rules and systems beneath.
This era of technological exploration neatly coincided with my burgeoning love of fantasy and science-fiction. One of the first things I remember doing on my brand-new computer was firing up the word processor and writing stories, the first of which was (as is contractually obligated for all pre-teens attempting to write fantasy) the continuing adventures of my D&D characters. My creative coup in that story was typing mysterious messages in “magical runes”—namely, the classic Mac font Symbol (which is basically just the Greek alphabet). While that story never saw the light of day, it did encourage me to further pursue my passion for writing, as I tried to break down something that seemed magical—a completed piece of art with the power to transport readers—into a piece of machinery, powered by a complicated set of gears and cogs.
Both technology and magic have continued to play outsized and intertwined roles in my life: I’ve spent the last seventeen years as a journalist covering the technology industry and, at the same time, continued to pursue my dream of writing speculative fiction, with four novels under my belt.
Throughout, that fascination with the interplay of the magic and technology—and, most crucially, the line between them—has stuck with me. Embarking upon writing All Souls Lost finally presented an opportunity to weave that theme into a narrative. Mike Lucifer, spiritual consultant, is a man for whom dealing with ghosts, demons, and the supernatural, is old hat—even if it’s a routine he’s not eager to go back to. But technology? He’s no more likely to start delving into the nooks and crannies of a computer than he is to dissect his sandwich. Technology might as well be ancient Akkadian to him—except he speaks ancient Akkadian.
But when all the signs of the case he’s become embroiled in point back to a big tech company, he’s out of his depth. To solve this mystery, he’s going to need help from someone for whom technology is like magic is to him: mundane, boring, everyday.
Enter Jenna Sparks. To say more would give away too much of the story, but it’s the interaction between these two characters, and what they represent, that’s at the heart of this book. They bring together the disparate threads of magic and technology, of things wondrous and explicable, and remind me that magic and technology are not a dichotomy, but a continuum. After all, the best technology feels like magic, and digging apart how it was accomplished just makes it all the more impressive—not that dissimilar from the best stories.