Tag Archive: The Accidental Alchemist

Building Your World: Scale

When figuring out where to set your story, one of the simplest things to do is pick how far your story extends. Does it take place entirely in one town? Does it span an entire galaxy?

There has been an increasing trend toward larger and larger settings in the last few decades, though that trend may be reversing now. It seems as if, as our perception of our own world increases and our ability to get from place to place becomes easier, we seem to think that the same should be true even in a medieval fantasy setting. Lately, though, I’ve been coming across more and more stories that detail smaller areas, as if authors are realizing that — like with the real world — “flyover country” actually contains some interesting stuff. You can set a lot of stories in one small area.  Continue reading

The Accidental Alchemist

I’The Accidental Alchemistve always had a fascination with how people explain bumps in the night. It started when my (military) family moved to Rome, Italy, when I was nine. I spent three years in the Eternal City, where I was surrounded by references to mythology both Greek and Roman, Etruscan and Egyptian. It moved on to still other cultures, where I compared their beliefs and looked for commonalities. The fact that others had come to the same conclusions before me wasn’t a disappointment. It told me I wasn’t alone in this fascination.

A year into my stay, I had also gained a fascination for science, and the subjects of history, science, and mythology mixed around in my head as I also started reading more and more science fiction and fantasy. I loved it. So very many fun things, all of which could run into each other at different angles, combining to form new stories, yet with familiar elements. It was like playing new games with old friends.

That only deepened as I grew older, and I found myself looking at alchemy in that tripartite way. I looked at it as a mythology, bound up in how people thought the world worked. I studied it as the precursor to chemistry, and the crazy uncle of physics. I delighted in the way the exploration of alchemy was so tied up in historical events, yet not quite so obvious in its connection, and therefore requiring careful exploration. It was a mythology not as glamorous as the gods of Mount Olympus; it was embarrassing to many scientists; and it was dismissed as irrelevant by most historians. I thought it was fun.

So, when I spotted The Accidental Alchemist, by Gigi Pandian, and read a review that mentioned the detailed research the author had undergone to write it, I thought it worth a try. And boy, am I glad I did. Continue reading

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