Do you ever wonder how an author comes up with story ideas for their books? For contemporary novels, it’s not too difficult to imagine a story developing from something that happened in real life. But what about a really great sci-fi or fantasy story? Jeff Hirsch stopped by Figment to talk about finding inspiration for his latest novel, Magisterium during his daily commute to work. It’s amazing how something as ordinary as listening to a podcast can be the catalyst for building a fantastical new world. Read on below for more about Jeff’s inspiration.
Magisterium is the only book I’ve ever written where I remember the precise moment I had the idea.
I was on the subway in New York City. The train had just come out of the tunnel that led from Manhattan, where I worked, to Queens, where I lived. I was standing in the middle of the train, headphones in my ears, listening to a podcast about the intensely divided public opinion on the issue of climate change. To briefly explain, one camp believes it’s a threat the likes of which the world has never seen, and the other side believes just as fervently that the whole thing is a con.
The really sticky part of this disagreement is that both sides are absolutely convinced that science backs up their opinion and the other side is living in a fantasy world. It’s not that they simply disagree, it’s like they exist in two entirely different realities.
The idea for Magisterium came when it occurred to me how interesting it would be to take that metaphor and make it literal. What if there was a world where reality was split in two?
When you think about it, what is reality anyway? It’s a set of rules, right? Gravity works like this, time works like this, momentum works like this. To change reality all you’d have to do is somehow change those rules. Think of a set of playing cards. The cards are always the same—king, ace, jack, etc.—but the game changes depending on what set of rules you decide to invoke. Use one set of rules and you get poker, use another and you get solitaire.
So what if you lived in a world where the rules said one thing in one place but something else in another? And if this split reality existed, what would happen if you and your friends crossed from one to the other? The world would be completely alien but would it change your friends as well? Would it change you?
This is the problem encountered by Glenn Morgan, the troubled but brilliant 16-year-old girl at the center of Magisterium. Glenn has always had a very clear plan for her life until the night her recluse inventor of a father announces that he’s made a world-changing discovery. This discovery leads to his arrest and sends Glenn and her best friend, Kevin Kapoor, on the run across the border that separates their reality from the other. There, they both change in ways they never would have expected as they’re thrown into the midst of a hundred-year-old conflict between the place they grew up and a new and terrifying world called the Magisterium.