INTERVIEW: Jeremiah Tolbert, author of “One Click Banishment”

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

The story is about how magic would work in today’s internet-connected world, and what happens when you use a magical website without reading the user agreement.

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

I’ve been wanting to return to the world of my story “Captain Bl00d’s B00ty” for a while now. When the Way of the Wizard was announced, I knew I needed to send something in.  Finding the story idea was as easy as thinking about the previous story and surfing the web for a couple of hours.

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

It was challenging in that I had a solid idea for the worldbuilding, but the nature of the protagonist was slow to develop.  Then I realized that parts of the story were expressing my own anxiety about growing older and falling behind on tech, so I made that central to my character and it started to work much better.

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

Well, see the previous question really. I spend 9-10 hours online every day for my work.  The anxiety that Hidr faces, the fear of not being on top of what can be done, is a very real one for anyone who works in web design for a living.  Staying on top technologically is crucial to our ability to make a living.

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

I might have Googled something.  I don’t remember.  

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?

The story combines two of my favorite things: the web and old school “real world” magic, real tomes that were supposed to be magical, such as The Long Lost Friend, a book that I first read about in Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John stories.  As a teenager, I ordered a copy of it through interlibrary loan and was fascinated but the utter bullshit it contained, labeled as “magic.” 

The truth is, for most of us, magic is at best a state of mind, but we all, bound by the laws of physics, wish desperately that we could break them with ease.  We all seek power over our environment and our world — it’s part of the human condition to do so.  We don’t adapt to the world so much as we adapt it to us.  That’s magic in a way.  The idea of magic in my mind is born from our species desire to more easily shape the world to our desires. With that in mind, of course we love it.

It’s really no coincidence that the time in our lives when magic is an acceptable thing to be fascinated by is when we are children — when we have perhaps as little control and power in our lives as we ever will.   

I’ll stop now before I get a master’s thesis out of this.

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

My absolute favorite wizard fictions are the Silver John stories I mentioned before.  Rural, Appalachian, quintessentially American magic is fascinating to me.  I love magic that feels like it belongs in my world, my country.  

I also quite enjoyed the non-magic magic “knacks” in the Alvin the Maker series by Orson Scott Card for the same reasons.