28 Jun 2016

The Exams Are Over

Hello readers!

These last few weeks and days I have been concerned with the topic of the EU referendum, and the unfortunate (to put it lightly) result therein. My previous post detailed the consequences in the immediate aftermath, and you will find numerous posts on this blog that treat the arguments in detail.

I will have more thoughts to share come tomorrow—a major meeting is scheduled between European leaders then. But today is not about that. I have finished my A-level exams; and I have a substantial amount of news to share with you regarding my plans moving forward.

On Writing

Those of you who have been reading the Magical Realm since before last week will know that this website is not usually home to complex questions of politics or economics; rather, it is—as the name implies—the go-to place for all my writing-related goodies.

And of course, by far the most important writing-related project for me right now—indeed the most important thing on here—is the Ark. A Sci-Fi novel come gay romance, the Ark is a most intriguing and uncommon work; and perhaps not surprisingly, it does pose some challenges.

For the primer on what I have done so far, I would recommend you to the upcoming page; however it out of date. I could recommend you simply look through the back catalogue of posts—there are plenty in which I make progress updates—but that would take you a while.

I will give a more detailed progress update when I update the page above, but for now the crux of the matter is this: I have written 2/3 of the book. I have hired an editor, and she has given me substantial feedback. This, in conjuction with the recommendations of my early readers, has led me to draft a plan for revising and editing the book.

I estimate it will take about 20 hours (although this is really more of an educated guess) to complete this. Twenty hours of which I now have.

That’s true; I have the remainder of this month, and all of July to do it.

As you may be able to guess, most of the posts from here on in will be about my progress in this department. The first of these posts will be a detailed summary of my experience with my editor. It will build upon this post, but while the former is based only on my experiences going back and forth on the cover letter, this new post will be based on the entire editing experience. Keep an eye out!

After that, expect to see some progress updates. My revision plan is long and detailed; I have a few milestones, which I will detail later on.

On a final note, I have decided to do a few things to my previous novel—the Necromancer. I am considering changing the cover and blurb; I will release a post asking for your opinions on which cover to go with. As I say: keep an eye out!

Where Will I Be?

Those of you who follow me know that I have a tendency to avoid staying in one place. Having lived in three different countries, and having visited France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Belgium and Romania, this should come as no surprise. I have been to the latter three this year.

And this summer, I will once again be in Romania. My grandmother misses me, and a change of scenery may loosen the creative of juices.

I have also been learning the basics of photography. I hope to put it to some use in Romania; I shall post the results here, as well as on my Google Photos.


It is all but decided: I am going to Amsterdam to study on the liberal arts and sciences programme (I will likely choose to specialise in economics with elective courses on history, political philosophy, and anything else that pickles my fancy).

Am I excited? Maybe a little. Amsterdam is a big city; I will be alone from my parents. Plenty of scope for being naughty!

Am I also a little daunted? Well, yes; it’s the first time I’ll be away from my parents. It’s technically a foreign country (though one I know, and most people speak English quite fluently). I should also learn some Dutch, which will be interesting if—as all languages are—difficult.

I will receive my A level results on the 18th; on the 27th I need to be in Amsterdam. In the meanwhile I will have to choose courses and pay my tuition fees. What can I say? The road doesn’t end here.


I shall have prom on the 5th July—which is really quite soon. I have little idea of what awaits me. I somehow doubt it will be American highschool; I have no expectations of supine romance or interruptions by vampires. Most likely, I will have to contend myself with music, drink, and the good company of the people I will be leaving.

It almost makes me sad to think of it like that. Though of course this is silly: I have no regard for sentimentalism.


So: the exams are over. As you can see, this frees me up a great deal. I have a huge amount of work to be getting on with—writing, taking photos, sorting out university, and of course blogging. Wish me well. And do keep following me; there is many a curious and wonderful story yet to be told.

24 Jun 2016

It’s A Time to Say Goodbye...

I suppose I could say that today is a dark day. I suppose I could say I didn’t expect it—though I did. But in truth Brexit was a predictable enough disaster; the best we can do now is control the damage and teach some hard lessons to those who would rather believe fanciful lies.

I shall begin with Scotland.

It’s Time to Leave, Scots

The ‘United’ Kingdom may have chosen to leave by a 2% margin, but Scotland voted 61% the other way. In essence Scotland is now, in the words of Nicola Sturgeon, being dragged out of the EU against its democratic will.

Those of you who have read the Magical Realm over the past couple of months might know what my position used to be on the Independence question; but since most of you probably haven’t, allow me to clarify. Before today, I used to think that Scotland was, ehm, Better Together. It wasn’t that I was particularly against independence; I actually had quite mixed feelings about it.

It was just that—to my mind—the Independence question had a two key problems. Firstly, there was the question of devolution; and secondly, the problem of UK business and EU membership. The latter made independence economically risky, while the former seemed like a more sensible, pragmatic choice.

I was also skeptical of the SNP brigade: I thought their criticisms of Westminster, while not unfounded, were nevertheless exaggerated. I also believed that they promised too much. They promised a united Scotland that would finally be free to tackle its many social and economic problems; but in reality division would continue to exist within Scotland, and problems of such a sort rarely have easy answers.

But today changes everything. It is pointless to ask about business, since there already rumours that Morgan Stanley is planning to move its offices out of London and into Frankfurt and the financial markest are in chaos with recession considered extremely likely by economists. (As one banker, Dominic Rossi, put it: “European stocks are reflecting some economic impact from Brexit but I don’t think [the] eurozone will enter a recession – the UK will have the privilege of that.”)

Nor can one bring out the argument about devolution. If Scotland is to be dragged out of the EU against its will, then devolution is obviously not good enough.

And this time, the SNP has a point. Choosing to leave the UK and rejoin the EU will have far more dramatic consequences than independence would have had last time. This time, Scotland really can choose a better future.

The beautiful irony implicit in Brexit is that it is not a vote to break up the EU; it is a vote to break up the UK.

This Earth, This Realm, This Little England

Yes, I know I’m misquoting the Great Bard. But the point is simple: England is a reasonably wealthy country that has enjoyed a relatively privileged position in Europe until now. It has a good relationship with the Americans. It had access to the common market. It had exceptions inside the EU. It got away with taking only a few thousand refugees.

But today marks the end of privileges. Allow me to put it simply: it is not in Europe’s interest to give the UK a shiny new deal. The EU and national leaders across the continent have been clear that England cannot expect to enjoy club membership without giving anything back.

In fact, it is very much in Europe’s interest to teach England a lesson. A profitable and convenient deal outside the EU would bolster other anti-EU movements across the continent; but recession, unemployment, and the breakup of the nation? Suddenly it no longer sounds so attractive.

Indeed, if I were the sort of bureaucrat that Brexiteers like to pretend make up the EU, I would see Brexit as a potential opportunity. What better way to crush anti-EU sentiment across Europe, than through making an example of England? And what better a way to humiliate England than by giving to Scotland the benefits England so glibly threw away? (And if Scotland decides to join the euro, well; that would be perfect. Scotland can maintain a stable economy in the eurozone while England suffers recession under the pound.)

Of course the consequences of Brexit go beyond this. England will no longer be at the negotiating table of a vast economic and political union; instead it will see itself divided and weakened, the Scots and Irish outside of the union, and its politics increasingly inward-looking and toxic.

Brexit also has consequences in the form of lost rights. Today I had to tell a Y12 student that her plans to study in the Netherlands would have to include the very real possibility of student visas, proof of finance and a quadrupling in tuition fees. Today over a million Britons living across the continent—in Spain, France, Belgium—are left wondering what will become of their pensions and their residency status.

What got lost in the abusive rhetoric against immigrants was that Britons can be immigrants too—immigration is, after all, a two way street.

The Irish Dream

The situation in Northern Ireland is, to say the least, uncertain. With a majority to remain—and Sinn Féin already calling for a united Ireland—things could get very interesting. Of course NI isn’t Scotland and the possibility of leaving is not so clear-cut as it is across the Irish sea.

But if Ireland does become a united republic, what better an irony? Decades of internicine war and sectarian struggle—brought to unity by British arrogance?

And of course, there’s that currency question again. Ireland is in the eurozone. Will another formerly British nation adopt the hated euro?

Corbyn—The Prophet Doomed?

Another interesting piece of news is that two rebel MPs, Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey, have submitted a motion of no confidence. Now—this motion may not get put to the ballot. Senior figures in the party have already called the motion self-indulgent.

Nevertheless, it is a serious possibility. Brexit changes a lot of things, as we can see—and since the vast majority of the PLP is Europhile, Corbyn’s failure to convince Labour voters and the country to back Remain is obviously not good. What’s more, Labour MPs see Corbyn as a reluctant and skeptical defender of the EU—a perception that is not entirely without justification.

In his defence, Corbyn did what he could. It’s not his fault the kippers and the Tory right were obsessed with voting out. The demons Boris and Farage unleashed—fear of immigrants, fear of an imaginary Brussels monster—are difficult to contain.

And let’s face it: Corbyn’s skeptical support of the EU may have done more good than harm. People are often more willing to listen to a man who shares the doubts they share—but nevertheless supports the EU project—than one who is adamantly pro-EU.

That’s the theory, anyway. The problem is really that we don’t know why Labour failed to get our supporters to vote Remain en masse. It can just as easily be argued that Corbyn would have swayed the vote towards Remain if he had been more like Nicola Sturgeon—a bold politician making a positive case for Europe.

My take on this is that we should wait. Wait and see who the Tories elect as leader. Wait and see whether the post-Brexit polls are kind to Jeremy—or not.

As some of you may know, however, my support of Corbyn has been lukewarm rather than jubilant. I like Corbyn: he’s a man of principle who has successfully recognised the problems this country faces and proposed serious plans for how to deal with them (unlike the vapid soundbites of the Blairites).

But politics is a dirty business, and I’m not sure Corbyn has what it takes to be a successful leader. The reality of being a politician is that you have to sometimes be economical with the truth; that you have to tell a convincing story in order to win. If you don’t, others will. And you may not like where those stories lead to...

Hail Our Dear Leader, BJ!

The last of the political fallout to emerge from this debacle is of course Boris Johnson. The man who, but weeks before the referendum campaign, claimed to be for Bremain—and then became a convinced Europhobe. The man whose ambition sees no bounds; the man who wears the mask. A charming fool on the outside. A dangerous and cunning politician underneath.

Will this man as Prime Minister be disastrous for this country? Of course. But, then again, you deserve what you vote for.

What Broke the Camel’s Back?

Among the last question I will be addressing here is perhaps the most important. What swayed the out vote?

Through examination of the polls, Leave’s campaign, and personal experience, I will offer the following:

  1. Xenophobia and nationalism. No doubt some will accuse me of being elitist. Honestly, I don’t give a damn. Racism is not okay if the southern states of the America vote for it. Anti-semnitism is not alright even if 40%+ of Germans voted for Hitler. Xenophobia is a dangerous populism with a long history of bloodeshed—particularly in this dear continent of ours.
  2. The belief that immigrants ‘take away our jobs,’ crowd up our NHS, and do other terrible things. While not strictly xenophobia, this is still an irrational belief that has resisted all the reasoned argument and evidence thrown against it.
  3. The Brusselero. A fictional monster of faceless EU bureaucrats propagated by decades of gutter press sensationalist nonsense .
  4. Wishful thinking. Britain outside of the EU will not suddenly become a bastion of democratic socialism; it will find only recession, diplomatic impoverishment, and more fanciful lies peddled by rightwing politicians.
  5. And finally, there was the fact that the electorate treated the referendum as a way of saying f-you to the establishment—to Cameron, Osborne, Brussels, and much of the political class. Those who live in places like the North East and the coastal regions—areas of the country left empty by a globalised, post-industrial economics—felt that their low pay, insecurity, unemployment and degrading town centres were... the fault of the European Union. Of course, this is completely false, and they’ve shot themselves in the foot. Loss of EU membership will allow the likes of Boris Johnson and Gove to continue their austerity programme with even greater zeal—aside from there being no more pesky workers’ rights regulations or environmental laws to worry about, they themselves have been boosted politically while the only party capable of doing something about the poverty, unemployment and decaying town centres is now trying to get rid of its leader. And of course declining trade and investment, plus the dangers faced by the financial sector, will only make the poverty worse. The Leaves of small-town England probably don’t realise that London pays for their NHS through tax revenues. A decline in London’s economy will have consequences for them, not just for London. But when the turkeys vote for Christmas, they’re always surprised to find themselves in the oven.

To Conclude

Yesterday, I made a Faustian pact with myself. If this country voted Brexit, I would do two things. Firstly, I would—like Scotland—leave. My parents are already going to move to Strathclyde, where they shall enjoy a more competent leadership under the ever handsome Nicola Sturgeon. As for moi? My offer from Amsterdam looks increasingly attractive...

The second promise I made was that I would read HL Mencken’s Notes on Democracy. As a critic of democracy, Mencken made many a wise observation. This is perhaps his wisest:

‘For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.’

22 Jun 2016

Final Words Before the Referendum

I have written extensively on the issue of the EU referendum; the most detailed post is of course my essay, A Socialist’s Case for EU Membership, along with my more digestible post on the Jo Cox murder

This post will be the last before the referendum tomorrow. Incidentally, tomorrow I also have my transport economics exam—an apt coincidence if ever there was one.

Of course, this makes me very busy. I have a significant amount of practice and revision left to do for tomorrow’s exam. And, to top it off—tonight I will hopefully be getting feedback on the cover for the Necromancer! This is courtesy to the company that helped me find my editor, Reedsy. Reedsy is a marketplace dedicated to writers looking for editors, marketing people, and designers; as part of this goal, they are hosting a live video on Facebook with one of their professional cover designers. My own book should be on the list. Hopefully, I’ll get some good advice!

Anyway, since I am so busy this post will be brief. It will mainly focus on the BBC’s ‘Great Debate’ (haha) and on the points there made.

Logic is Not Leave’s Strongpoint

One of the claims made by our very own Gisela Stuart—a Labour MP (!)—is that the EU is responsible for Greece’s 50% youth unemployment, and for the economic problems of southern Europe more generally.

Of course, this is nonsense. In fact, Greece’s situation would be worse if it weren’t for the EU.

Why? The answer is simple: a lot of the Greek government’s debt belongs to foreign creditors. Among them are Italy, France and Germany (yes, Italy loaned Greece money) but a lot of money is owed to the IMF and other international creditors.

Now, Greece is in the euro. The euro is a much maligned currency, but Greece’s financial problems would be quite a bit worse if it wasn’t in the euro. This is because of a simple reason: if Greece still had the drachma, the drachma would have devalued hugely in the course of the crisis.

This would have been disastrous for Greece. Greece would have seen its debt multiply before its eyes; for the money it borrowed it borrowed in euros and dollars. If, before the crisis, 300 drachma = 1 dollar, and if, after the crisis, 1 dollar = 900 drachma, Greece would effectively have to pay 3 times as much to service the debt denominated in $.

So if Greece wasn’t in the euro, it would either have to pay vast amounts of money servicing the debt, or more likely it would default. Now: defaulting isn’t such a bad thing in the long-run, but there’s no doubt it causes a lot of short-term pain. Without the euro a default would have been inescapable. With the euro, Greece at least has a choice.

A large depreciation in the local currency—such as the one Iceland saw, and which Greece would have seen if it wasn’t in the euro—would also have terrible consequences for inflation. Economists lament Greece’s 1% deflation, but history shows us that 100% inflation is far, far worse. The Weimar Republic saw hyperinflation like that. They ended up burning money for fuel, unemployment was sky high, and they eventually elected Hitler. (Another little known fact.)

A Greek hyperinflation would have left Greeks freezing in their homes—foreign gas being too expensive to afford. It would have left cars unused, with no petrol to fill their tanks. Those who bought mortgages in foreign currency would lose their homes.

So you’ll excuse me if, when seeing a Labour MP so unwittingly suggest the destruction of a country’s economy, I feel my blood boiling.

You’ll also have to excuse me if I scoff at the notion that the euro caused the Greek crisis. Let me put it simply: a country whose government accrues debt for decades (even before joining the euro), whose politicians lie to its people and claim there’s plenty of money, and which has seen its largest employer and revenue stream (tourism) decimated by the global financial crash, is going to suffer—euro or no euro!

Sadly, blaming the European Union for the failures of national governments is a common tactic of the Leave campaign. The truth is often harder to swallow.

My Faustian Pact

I promised that this would be a short post. I aim to fulfill this promise. I have, incidentally, also made a promise to myself: if the UK leaves the EU, I will do two things. Firstly, I will leave the UK. Going to university in Amsterdam or Leuven suddenly seems like a much more attractive proposition than spending £9000 a year to study in a country that will soon become isolated by a wave of nationalism.

And secondly, I will read HL Mencken’s Notes on Democracy. As one of history’s more prominent (and perhaps most eloquent) critic of democracy, he believed that the masses would always be too ignorant to make good decisions; that they will always be manipulated by demagogues and populists for their own ends.

Eighty years on, Mencken’s argument has more than a ring of truth to it. Tomorrow he will be put to the test.

I hope he will be proven wrong. But I suspect his timeless words will prove correct.

16 Jun 2016

Jo Cox, Brexit, and Nazi Germany

Note: after I wrote this post, it was subsequently released that Jo Cox’s killer had Nazi paraphernalia in his house along with publications from American white supremacist groups. This comes as absolutely no surprise, as my post will show.

Most of you have probably heard of the murder of Jo Cox. If not, the short version is that a Labour MP for West Yorkshire, Jo Cox, was murdered by a 52 year old who is believed to have shouted ‘Britain first!’

The news of course is shocking in itself. Murder is never pleasant, and the murder of a young woman, a humanitarian and a Labour MP makes it all the more disturbing. But this is also an act committed out of ideology—this is important and must be understood.

Of course, the man was a nutter. I will not be so crass as to suggest that he is representative of the whole Brexit movement.

Nonetheless, history has lessons to teach us. The murder of Jo Cox was motivated by nationalism. Nationalism was what fueled the rise of the Nazi party; and indeed many others have committed many much more heinous acts out of a deluded sense of ‘defending the nation’.

And nationalism, I’m sorry to say, is obviously a great motivator for the Brexit campaign. ‘Take it back!’ they cry. (What, you may ask? The nation, of course.) With pictures of Dover and rivers of migrants they speak; their cartoons vulgar and fatuous.

Indeed, Brexit shares many other features with National Socialism. Both blame foreigners for the country’s social and economic ills; both promise that great promise, that great lie—that if only the nation were free from Europe, or the Jews, than the prosperity of the good old days is bound to follow.

In reality this is a delusion. Migrants are not to blame for the country’s unemployment and housing crisis, nor the Jews for the troubles of the Weimar republic. Such problems are the fault of national governments. Blaming the foreigners is no more than a convenient scapegoat; a failure to admit to the sins of one’s own country.

Let us abandon the notion that great invisible forces are conspiring against the nation—either in Brussels or in the international Jewry. Let us instead stick fast to reality and reason. Jews did not cause hyperinflation in the Weimar, nor draft the treaty of Versailles. Europe does not make our houses few and expensive, inflated by artificial limits on building and unprincipled lending by banks. Europe does not make us underfund our NHS or impose draconian contracts on junior doctors.

Let us also not pretend that Brexit is a vote for democracy or the future of Britain. The EU is no less democratic than this country—a country with an unelected House of Lords, until recently hereditary, First-Past-the-Post, and the gall to lecture the European Union on democracy. Let us remember that the EU was created under the principle of democracy: a principle hard fought for in those dark days of WW2.

The European Union is based on solidarity and peace between the nations of Europe. Brexit is based on the age-old trope of violent nationalism. Which would you rather choose?

Note: this is a special post that is not in my usual Magical Realm style. If you want a more pragmatic and detailed argument, see this

Addendum: you may also find my first political poem, That Great Continent, to be of interest.

12 Jun 2016


Hello readers!

My previous post regarding my experience with my new(ish) smartphone proved ironic; the morning after the phone refused to charge. I don’t know why: there is no obvious water damage (the phone is waterproof in up to 1.5m of water), or any other clear explanation. There is also some odd screen behaviour.

Hopefully I will get these issues fixed under warranty.

This unfortunate issue aside, this post is concerned with something rather different. I have been feeling nostalgic as of late—for no other than my first novel, the Necromancer.

You could blame it on the fact that I have completed my AS retakes and, two days ago, my A2 philosophy exam. The latter went very well, I thought, and the former I think were fine also. But with four more exams to go, perhaps the lull has set my mind onto other things.

No matter. I have decided to make use of my nostalgia, and write a few musings on the worldbuilding of the Necromancer. If you’ve read it (or are simply curious) do take a look: I elaborate on a fair few things that didn’t get mentioned in the book.


One of the things that struck me about the Necromancer’s magic system—and indeed magic-systems in general—is the vast differences in power between different mages doing different things.

Consider the example of a healer mage. Your typical Arachadian healer mage, working in a typical Arachadian clinic (for the wealthy) would encounter a number of minor elements in a typical working day.

Treating all these minor elements would not tire a healer mage much. They would still be quite alert at the end of work.

But consider a healer mage working in a battlefield hospital. Having to treat broken bones, severe bleeding, internal damage and other nasty injuries would be exponentially more difficult—the same mage would be exhausted after perhaps an hour or two.

And now suppose that they had to treat a patient hanging for dear life—multiple organ failure, infection by deadly disease, wounds caused by magic, etc. Treating a single such case could take as little as half an hour; but it would be the most difficult half-hour in the healer’s career, requiring intense concentration and a great deal of magical power.

Half an hour of that would be worse than two hours of treating broken bones.

Battle magic is even worse for this. The grand displays of magical fireworks that the Neshvetal, the eponymous necromancer, engages in exhaust even this (vastly superior) power within minutes. Whereas trivial spells, such as a rain shield, can be maintained for hours even by relatively weak apprentice mages.

Speaking of weakness, there are also vast differences in the individual power of mages. In the Necromancer, Neshvetal and his apprentice Leira are confronted by Linaera’s party (of which there are seven mages, counting Stella the healer and the apprentices Linaera and Sasha).

Neshvetal wipes the floor with Linaera and co. A great mage and an apprentice are simply not in the same league, even when the former is significantly outnumbered.

There are differences in skill as well. Neshvetal has had longer to perfect his skills than most people get to live. He is able to wield magic with a skill and ease that would seem instinctive, even trivial, although magic is a discipline that takes years of practice to attain proficiency.

Speaking of which...

The Life of a Mage

Linaera is an apprentice at a mage school. But the Necromancer does not actually go into a huge amount of depth into her life growing up.

The life of pretty much any mage is going to be cushy, but it is also frequently difficult and frustrating.

In the case of the former, the obvious element is wealth. Mages come from wealthy backgrounds; from parents able to afford the substantial tuition fees. Mages themselves are well-paid, whether they work in the military, in hospitals or private clinics, and even as enchanters. Skilled enchantry can fetch a handsome price, while all enchanters are given a stipend from the Arachadian state (enchantry being a valuable but oft-neglected magical discipline).

Even the rare mages that don’t come from privileged backgrounds—such as Mark—are still given free food and comfortable lodgings while studying (and of course can benefit from handsome renumeration after their studies).

Despite the privileged nature of magery, mages themselves are egalitarian among themselves. A Silver Mage—that is, a battle mage showing enough skill, experience and mental fortitude to earn the honour—earn little more than an ordinary battle mage. They value themselves in pride and skill.

Even the Great Mage is not paid like a lord. He is given the lodgings assigned to the Great Mage, which has been the same for some two hundred years. It is oppulent enough; but the Great Mage does not own it. It is passed down when he dies.

The Great Mage has maids taking care of domestic tasks, and can request just about anything magical regardless of price. But his personal salary is comparatively modest: a typical battle mage might earn forty or so gold pieces a year, while the Great Mage receives a hundred. This difference seems large, but it is much less than the comparable difference in power, and certainly less than, say, the CEO of Apple compared to a programmer working at Apple.

To put this into perspective, a farm labourer in a good year would make about ten gold pieces (though some make less).

But the life of a mage can also be frustrating. Young mages are admitted to the academies at around age twelve. To enter, they are tested for magical power (the most important test), and then are taught some magical exercises in order to prove that they can control their power (also important). On top of that they need to show good literacy, basic numeracy, and some knowledge of history and the sciences.

In the first year they learn no practical magic. Indeed much of the study has nothing to do with magic, being instead concerned with science: topics such as biology, anatomy, and physics are taught. This is interspersed with the basics of magical theory—the source of magical power, along with the various workings and limitations of basic spellcraft.

In the second year they are taught elementary magic, though only very basic things are meant to be learned. There is more magical theory, which is based on not only the magic learned in Year 1—but also on physics and biology, for these are important as well. And not for general knowledge.

A healer, obviously, needs to have in-depth knowledge of human biology. But any mage needs to understand the basic principles of physics: for ultimately, magic is subordinate to it. Young mages need to understand that their power is very much like an internal reservoir of energy: it is quite fixed, and easily used up. It takes time to refill.

Very low magical energy will leave a mage exhausted, or even put them into a coma.

Exactly why is not precisely known. Healers, however, have long believed that magic is an inherent part of a mage’s physiology.

Anyway, the point is that all this theory and no practice leaves many mages unsatisifed and bored. They hear (and see!) the amazing magic performed by the magery—as if it were child’s play—and wonder why they cannot do the same.

It is not until Year 3—when most mages are 14—that magic is properly taught. Why? A simple case of the power and danger associated with magic, and the typical maturity of a twelve year-old.

How Dangerous is Magic?

Those of you who have read of how Neshvetal raised an army of the dead, or of Nateldorth’s terrifying fireballs, would think such a question pointless. Of course magic is powerful and dangerous!

Nevertheless, there are again significant differences in what kinds of magic are dangerous. Necromancy is a particularly potent and frightening sort of magic, for it can raise powerful undead beings(revenants) in large numbers. The creation of undead also empowers the caster; this is why Neshvetal—already a very powerful mage—became nearly unstoppable.

But the magic of Nateldorth or Neshvetal isn’t really the norm. A lot of magic is harmless: illusions of butterflies, healing, rain spells and telepathy are obvious examples.

That said, battle magic is universally dangerous. Even a moderately skilled and able mage can cast fireballs. These may not burn through walls—as the Great Mage’s do—but are still easily capable of inflecting lethal burns on a human.

For this reason, magic is a highly regulated profession in Arachadia. Ever since its inception about 400 years before Linaera’s time, the High Academy of Magic, in Dresh, has had a monopoly on the teaching of magic, the accreditation of mages, and the disbarrement of mages.

Of course this monopoly isn’t perfect—any mage can find an able pupil and teach them. However, controlling the teaching of magic is very much in the interest of the Arachadian nobility. The occasional rogue mage (a very dangerous proposition) is enough to convince the magery to feel the same way.

Why Does Arachadia Have Soldiers?

Reading all this, you may be wondering why Arachadia bothers training and equipping soldiers—after all, can mages not simply obliterate them in a firestorm?

The reality, of course, is more complicated. While a battle mage can easily kill a squadron of soldiers, an army is a much more difficult proposition. Mages tire quickly. A few fireballs might end the lives of multiple soldiers, but the mage would be pretty spent after that.

And mages are few. The Centre (as it is formally known) that Linaera studies at has only about a hundred pupils. Even the Academy in Dresh has less than a thousand.

All in all, the records show that there are 7200 apprentice mages in Arachadia, and about 20,000 accredited mages. This is not nearly as much as the 150,000 soldiers enlisted in the army.

It also means that there can only be so many mages in so many places at one time. Plus, many mages are healers and enchanters rather than battle mages.

The Land of Arachadia: Some History

Some readers may also be wondering as to the history of the world Linaera inhabits. For how long have humans been in it? How old is Arachadia, as a sovereign nation?

The answer? Comparatively recently. Arachadia’s royal family dates back to around 500 years ago, although there were human settlements long before then. But not that long: a detailed examination of human habitation would find that the timeline only goes back some millenia.

The lands of Sacharia, to the south, have a somewhat longer history. There are earlier settlements there, and their sultans have seen multiple dynasties lasting the better part of a millenium.

But still: there’s no escaping the fact that humans are only a very recent addition to Arachadia’s history. Even the elves have not been around much longer. Arachadian scholars hypothesise that Arachadians may have originated from lands beyond the central plains.

Nobody knows where from. The islands of Ohn have been populated more recently than the central plains, which would suggest that Arachadians did not sail from the eastern ocean.

The north is barren and hostile; a handful of accounts from a few determined traveller-mages speak only of mountains, and then ice. An endless expanse of ice.

The west is covered in forest, and populated by shape-shifting tribes. Whether humans migrated from there in some long-ago era is entirely plausible, but no one has had much chance to dig there—the shifters don’t allow many visitors.

The southern desert is considered the best candidate. The Sacharians do speak of an expanse of water in the far-flung south of their desert, but this involves travelling for months across dry desert. Some scholars say this makes mass-migration from there impossible, but other scholars—experts in archaeology and the study of the elements—believe that the desert wasn’t as dry in those distant millenia.

There is no mystery about one thing, however. The dragons were there before us.

The Dragons

The dragons are all but extinct in Linaera’s time: there are only a handful of adults left. They live in self-enforced exile in the mountains of the far-north.

But some four hundred years ago, conflict ensued between humans and dragons. The dragons—thousands then—were proud and keen to assert their dominance over increasingly advanced human civilisation. They wanted tributes in livestock and gold, and even the attentions of the healer-mages.

The humans of Arachadia initially accepted this, but soon resented the dragons’ greed and often senseless cruelty against people.

Three hundred and fifty years ago, war began. With the formation of the Academy, humans proved successful in driving the reptiles out of Arachadia and into the north. Magic was a key reason. Dragons could kill many with their fire, flew at high speed over long distances, and had the strength of an elephant, the bite of a T-rex and the claws to go with it.

But magic proved too strong an advantage.

Nevertheless, the war was bloody and didn’t really end for about two centuries. Dragons still performed raids on Arachadia, flying from the high peaks where no Arachadian army could follow. Indeed the war was only put to an end when the dragons attempted a particularly daring raid: flying over a thousand miles, they headed for Dresh.

They then turned and headed for Duvalos—then, as now, a major city. Thinking the Arachadians would panic and throw all their resources at protecting Dresh, they thought Duvalos would be easy pickings.

What they didn’t count on was that the mages had built teleportation gates between all the major cities, so that they could be where they were most needed. They were also able to track the dragon’s presence across the land. The reptiles never stood a chance.

An Aside: Money

Some reads have wanted to know more about the money system. Below is an explanation of the currency, from highest to lowest denomination.

  • Medalion. Gold medalions are issued as payment to merchants fortunate enough to sell to the Arachadian royal family. A gold medalion is worth six gold coins.
  • Gold coin. Normally the highest denomination of currency, gold coins are very valuable. The Great Mage only earns about a hundred a year; even the queen manages with only 2000 or so a year. Peasants make do with ten a year. A gold coin is worth twelve silver coins.
  • Silver coin These are actually much more common gold coins and many people in Arachadia are paid by the silver. That’s even an expression—paid by the silver, as in a not particularly well renumerated. A silver is worth twenty-four copper coins.
  • Copper coin is the coin you will most likely see in Arachadia. They are worth a modest but non-trivial amount of money. One thing to note is that they don’t like this:

Penny coin

But rather like this:

Danish Krone

  • 1/3 Copper. Used for paying for small items like a loaf of bread.

As you can see, Arachadian money is all denominated by factors of 3. However, it is quite confusing. As you go up the scale, each individual coin is worth progressively less in comparison: a silver is worth 24 coppers, but a gold only 12 silvers. But this trend doesn’t hold if you include the 1/3 coppers.

Closing Thoughts

Well; this has been a long post. Looking back I realised just how many things I never addressed in the book—partly out of inexperience, but also because narrative always takes precedence over worldbuilding.

If you found this interesting, why not read the book?

With that, I must leave you. Wish me luck for my exams, as well as for the long road of work I will have revising and writing the Ark.

7 Jun 2016

June Musings

Hail readers!

You may be wondering what I’ve been up to these past couple of days. My numerous posts on the European Union so far would have you think that the Magical Realm is a politics blog, when in fact it is still very much a fantasy-oriented writing blog.

Ironically, however, this post will not be about writing. This is due to a simple fact: I have my philosophy exam in two days’ time, and more exams after that. At this stage, I do not have the time or the energy to be working on my current project (the Ark). My revision plan is multiple pages in length; I would crudely estimate that it would take a good 20 hours to implement the changes mentioned in there.

Instead, I will get down to what I’ve been intending to do since I bought my new phone some months ago. I will be reviewing the Xperia Z3 Compact.

Why, Alex, Why?

You may be in doubt as to my qualifications to be reviewing tech, but rest assured that I know more about technology than most people. Being familiar with the physics and maths behind tech, as well with HTML, CSS, and Python, are examples of this.

So without further ado, let me begin.

What is the Sony Xperia Z3C?

The phone is a 4.6” Android handset. The size is important: most Android phones, and even some iPhones, come in sizes of 5” and above. That little extra diagonal length makes a significant difference to screen area, and the overall feel of the phone.

A bit of math may illustrate my point:

The exact calculations I used to obtain this formula is beyond the remit of this post, but basically the equation shows that the area of a screen in the 16:9 aspect ratio (like my phone’s screen) has an area proportional to the square of its diagonal. This means that your typical 5.5” phablet has a screen area that is about 40% larger than my phone’s screen.

This makes a big difference. Yes, you can see more on a phablet; but this comes at the cost of ergonomics. Phablets are big—they don’t fit in my hand comfortably, and probably not anyone’s unless they have unusually large hands. You can’t use a phablet one-handed; you can (just about) use the Z3C one-handed.

So: I like the size. What I don’t like? The aspect ratio. At 16:9, the screen is 1.777 times taller than it is wide. There’s not enough horizontal space for my liking (and in landscape mode, not enough height). In portrait mode, the vertical space is more than adequate; going up to phablet size would make its height unwiedly.

Sadly, the industry is wedded to 16:9 screens due to some rather modest cost savings (16:9 is the ratio used on TVs, so there are economies of scale at play). But my conclusion is that big phones are misguided—they address one problem (lack of horizontal space) but bring in another (bad ergonomics).

The screen’s pixel count is 1280x720. This makes for a resolution of 319 ppi (pixels per inch). In layman’s terms, this means the screen is pretty sharp: as good as printed paper.

Nonetheless, perhaps due to my excellent eyesight, the screen looks a bit fuzzy to me when I’m up close to it, such as in bed. I don’t notice this on my colleague’s QHD phablet (resolution around 480ppi). Going up to a higher resolution would require more pixels, which would decrease battery life.

But, speaking of battery life, that’s a compromise I can live with. The phone has excellent battery life: it lasts as much as three days with light usage, and typically around two if I do some web-browsing, look at emails, take photos, etc.

Other Aspects of the Phone

The phone has a now outdated quad-core Qualcomm chip running at a maximum of 2.5GHz; in practice this results in generally smooth operation, although occasionally it can be fooled into stuttering. The phone also has 2GB of RAM, which is a lot for a phone—it can run a few applications in parallel.

New flagship phones post more impressive specifications, but I fail to see the value. Why spend more for a phone when a lesser-equipped phone will do just fine 90% or more of the time?

Where do I wish for improvement is in the camera. Sony’s 20MP 1/2.3” EXMOR sensor looks impressive on paper: it has cutting-edge tech and a substantial resolution. In practice, it isn’t so impressive.

The first photo is one I took near my home. It was a beautiful, bright, sunny day. But even in such ideal conditions, the phone’s software does some pretty horrible noise-reduction to the image. The tree next to the river is badly smeared: a lot of detail has been blotched out by the NR algorithm. Same goes for the rivulets of the river.

Despite that, the image—in bright daylight, with some pretty heavy-handed noise reduction—still retains noise: just zoom in on the sky.

After upgrading to Android 6, there seem to have been some improvements.

The noise reduction seems less fanatical here, preserving more detail of the green field. There is some noise, but it’s pretty controlled and not noticeable at normal viewing (though to my inexperienced eye, it still seems a bit excessive considering the relatively bright conditions).

Nonetheless, the camera doesn’t blow me away. Some of it is to do with the small sensor (a feature common to all phones, though some phones do manage to squeeze larger sensors) but a lot of it is to do with software. I’m not pleased with the phone’s image processing, and nor am I pleased by the fact that the camera app won’t let me shoot raw—a file format without noise reduction, compression artifacts, and a format that is highly flexible for post-processing with my desktop software.

There are also no settings for custom white balance that I can find; this means that the camera sometimes takes photos with an unnatural tinge, particularly in artificial lighting. It’s harder to correct, even on my desktop, because the camera doesn’t shoot raw.

The camera app also doesn’t let me select shooting speed, and sometimes picks a speed that is too slow, resulting in some rather blurry images.

As for the front selfie camera, it’s awful. It produces a huge amount of noise in interior lighting, making it hopeless as a selfie cam. The photos are also rather fuzzy, perhaps due to its 2MP sensor.

Design and Construction

The final thing I will address in my (I admit) somewhat rambling review is the design. The phone has an orange glass back, which looks quite nice. The sides are metal, but covered in plastic; it’s not the most premium finish, but it does make the phone easier to hold.

I like the design, but it’s not practical.

The glass back will shatter if I drop it—which is why I bought a thick, black case for it. It makes the phone much less likely to shatter, but it damages the aesthetics somewhat.

The screen also picks up fingerprints like crazy. I’ve bought a screen protector for it, which sadly is only marginally better at not picking up prints.

Finally: the reflections. The screen picks up reflections even inside, and outside it’s very difficult to see in bright sunlight. Suffice to say I’m not impressed.


Do I like my phone? I guess I do. It has excellent battery life, connectivity (4G, NFC, fast Wi-Fi, a pretty decent GPS), some nice aesthetic elements, it’s quick and the screen isn’t bad in the way of resolution, contrast etc.

However, it’s let down by a glossy, fingerprint-prone screen and a camera that seems at best average in its class. I also wish Sony would have gone for a wider aspect screen, though that for the time being is a pipe dream.

Overall, I guess it’s a pretty decent phone. At £250 it was quite a bit cheaper than some of the flagships out there. For that, I give it four stars.

Of course, this is my experience; I admit I don’t have a huge amount of familiarity with other phones, especially when it comes to their cameras.

Anyway! That’s it for the review. Keep the following the Magical Realm, for I will have some more, eh, literary topics on hand.

2 Jun 2016


Hail readers!

You may wondering as to the title of this post. For one, it is a single word; those of you who follow the Magical Realm know I tend to be rather more longwinded than that. For two, it builds on two of my previous posts: A Socialist’s Case for Europe and of course, Alex, in Brussels. The reason for today’s post is down to a simple fact: a single word can sometimes convey a lot—more, indeed, than a sentence.

First on my Europe-list is my offer from Amsterdam University College. Yes; after much time spent writing personal statements, annoying my teachers until they wrote me their references, and going through an interview, I have been accepted. Obviously, this pleases me. Will I go there? That is a decision I have to make; but ultimately, I don’t think it will be a particularly tough decision.

Aside from this, there is plenty more I have been doing in Europe. I have, for one, met Sion Simon MEP in the European Parliament. I was also given an (abridged) guided tour of the Parliament building, by John Cornah (thanks!) Naturally, I took photos. You can see them below, along with photos of a few other landmarks I’ve visited while here. (As you may be able to guess, I hope more will follow.)


Concerning Brussels

You may be expecting me to extol the virtues of Brussels. Aside from my Europhile pretensions, I love most European cities. You’ll find plenty of praise from me when it comes to the Colosseo in Rome; Las Ramblas in Barcelona; the technocratic beauty of Frankfurt, Hamburg, et al; the idyllic mountains of Schwabia; the Champs-Élysées in Paris, and all of the other many and varied landmarks of Europe.

Sadly, Brussels is disappointing—for the capital of Europe, in any case. The traffic is nightmarish. I have never seen a city with so many intersections, and with pedestrian crossings right as you enter the street; I have never seen so many lanes narrowing without explanation, so many one-way streets, dead-ends, and bizarre angles.

Drivers in Brussels are also awful. The rest of Belgium doesn’t seem to drive like them, but here they’ll cut you off, blare horns at you, and generally drive without apparent regard to safety or road regulations.

The city itself is also somewhat disappointing. Many of the buildings are high rise towers built without any sense of architectural style. Many buildings are old and badly maintained; and even the landmarks disappoint—the offices of the WTC, for example, look tasteless.

Nonetheless, while Brussels may not be the ideal tourist destination, it seems a pleasant enough place to live. We’ve not suffered noise in the hotel, despite being a few kilometres from the centre. The Internet is fast (always a plus). There are numerous shops selling varied and interesting produce—a vast array of bread, cheeses, wine, and even Turkish foods.

Moving On—To Poetry

To finish this post, I will be releasing a poem I have been planning to write for a while now. It is my very first political poem. Whereas my other poems address matters like love, mystical worlds, gender, power and art; this poem is about nations. It is about unity. It is named That Great Continent.

That Great Continent

Any thoughts on it are welcome.

Parting Words

I have not addressed my writing progress here, or my revision efforts, or a great deal other things going on with me. This is because, frankly, I am quite busy here in Brussels. Aside from my visiting, I need to sign a letter of acceptance for Amsterdam, pay a deposit, and get on with revising for my A-levels.

But once the pressure eases a little, I will get onto my writing once more. There is a lot of work to do there...

Until then—au revoir.