INTERVIEW: Jeffrey Ford, author of “The Sorcerer Minus”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

My story is about the Sorcerer Minus, who’s different from other wizards and sorcerers in that, whereas they use illusion and magic to confound their victims, enemies and clients, he removes the illusion, self-delusion from people, leaving them at the mercy of cold, hard reality.  It is said that he is the most evil sorcerer because his sorcery is backwards.  Minus has two helpers, one a tall, thin man in an overcoat and hat named Bill Mugg, and the other is an ingenious, trained Rat, Axis.  The story contains the murder of a hapless genre writer and an act of subtraction diminishing into the future. 

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I don’t know.  I’ve been writing some stories lately that deal with the themes of high fantasy — “The Manticore Spell,” “The Coral Heart.”  I’d never written a story that focused on a wizard before.   

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

It was pretty unexpected.  The hardest part was just letting it happen.   

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I didn’t feel any direct personal connection to the story, but I suppose, being a fiction writer, I traffic in illusion and a sort of magic (sometimes, I hope), and yet I’m also in very real contact with reality in the rest of my life (sometimes, I hope).  This story is about self-delusion and reality, the magic and the mundane.   

What kind of research did you have to do for the story? 

An in-depth study of wheels of cheese, whiskey and rats.   

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

Well, I don’t write about it much, but Wizards are like super-heroes in a way or like Gods.  They have special powers.  The Green Lanterns of the medieval set.  Dr. Strange is the nexus between comic book super heroes and old time sorcery.   

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

The Wizard of Oz is the quintessential wizard of the modern age.  He’s a good example of the use of illusion as a tool of political power.  I also like the story of Christ in the Bible.  Jesus has got a lot of slick magic — turning water into wine (who wouldn’t want to do that?), raising folks from the dead (this would actually make him a sorcerer), walking on water.  Very imaginative.  Also, he has a powerful nemesis.