Vacui Magia: by L.S. Johnson

L.S. Johnson's utterly beautiful story Vacui Magia engineers a spell into formal breaks, each one a principle containing within and between its clauses the emotional power of prickling skin, and of goosebumps so deep that they ripple on the bone. The physiognomy detailed here is the creation of a life for ulterior motives; these are not base, but nor are they convincing, being rooted in social constraints. This practitioner is performing, for sentimental reasons, a spell to create a child which she can present to her mother as continuity - sentiment is not an adept nor is it apt to have retaining power - there is entropy in magic, as in all things; order into disorder; resolve into dissolve, possible into impossible. However, the sentiment of continuity of life will suffice for a while if the proprieties are observed. To this end Johnson scratches life lines into her text, using an array of words which autopsy her practitioner's intent with a precision scalpel acting as a wand of sorts.

There is never a problem invoking magic through hindsight; but to transform such magic into second sight by means of a ceremonial narrative is a spell on its own. I had attempted this myself in a stage play which was workshopped out of existence in Belfast a few years ago - largely because of a refusal to admit of ceremonial magic by the minds of those involved. Perhaps they were right: In a curiously pleasing twist the play was referring to itself - it was never formally acted, but was enacted to great effect. And so it is with Vacui Magia: the act of creation contains its undoing.

You can read Vacui Magia at the Strange Horizon website here.

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