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A Brief History of Magic by Michael Jasper

Posted on August 26, 2011 by Flames

Author and comic scribe Michael Jasper is here with a new design essay about his novel A Sudden Outbreak of Magic. Michael tells about the genesis of the idea back in his teaching days and how that initial concept developed into the book that is available now. He even links us to a sneak peek at the follow up book, A Wild Epidemic of Magic, which is currently in development.

A Brief History of Magic

    Magic is everywhere. You just have to look hard enough to see it.

    Magic is contagious. You can get infected it by it just as easily as catching a cold.

    Magic is dangerous. You start using it, and all sorts of powerful people will take notice. And they will hunt you down.

    In a nutshell, that’s the premise of my Contagious Magic series of novels.

    In the first book in the series, A Sudden Outbreak of Magic, magic returns to the world after years of being contained and sometimes wiped out by a centuries-old Sorcerer named Azure. But now magic is back, and it’s spreading like a virus, faster than wildfire.

    I wish the same could be said for the actual writing of this novel. Because it was anything but fast!

    Way Back in the ’90s…

    I originally began work on these ideas about magic back in 1993 or so, back when I was teaching junior high English and Reading. I wanted my seventh graders to focus on sensory details, so I figured I’d try it myself. So I wrote about this old fellow with wild salt-and-pepper hair and a long gray beard, with snot in his mustache from a recent, explosive sneeze (my students loved that detail), and his cardboard home on the snowy streets of Chicago.

    Over the next few years, I slowly knocked out my first version of that old fellow’s story (he was called Joe in the draft version, but now he’s named Archie). I still kind of like that original story, even if it did have a lot of characters and action packed into about 100 pages.

    And now it just so happens that you can read that version, called “The Last Sorcerer,” for free over at my website. Great timing, there, eh?

    Can’t Get You Outta My Head…

    I fiddled with the story over the years, revising and rewriting it, adding and removing characters, making minor characters into main characters, and vice versa. At one point I’d taken it from about a dozen point-of-view characters down to just one. That version almost worked.


    But I was missing something, so just this year, about 18 years after scribbling out that original description of Joe the homeless guy for my teenage students, I went back in. The finished version is the novel-length book A Sudden Outbreak of Magic, featuring the dual (and sometimes dueling) protagonists, Kelley and Jeroan Strickland.

    Kelley and Jeroan are a pair of black teenagers who’ve just moved from Chicago to a mostly white city (Dubuque, Iowa), where they immediately feel like outsiders in their new lives. And then one day, a homeless old man (remember him?) “infects” them with magic.

    They soon learn that the old guy in the alley has lost most of his memory because of all the magic he’s done over the years. And the guy has some powerful enemies that have been looking for him ever since the big Chicago Fire, led by a very determined, 800-year-old Sorcerer who travels to Dubuque to find these Kelley and Jeroan before they infect anyone else.

    Only Kelley’s new way of using magic will save their new city and their magically infected friends, though she may lose her brother Jeroan in the process.

    More Magic to Come in the Future…

    So that’s my story about the origins of A Sudden Outbreak of Magic, and I’m sticking to it—it’s taken me long enough to figure out how to tell it!

    I also wanted to add that I’m in the very early stages of planning an 8-issue comic adaptation of A Sudden Outbreak of Magic. I’ve always felt like this story would work perfectly as a comic, and now that I know a lot more about scripting comics, I’m ready to take that leap. So if you know of any artists looking for some work, just let me know!

    And I’m now eyebrows-deep into the second novel in the series, A Wild Epidemic of Magic, and I’ve got quite a few ideas for the third. Check out my website for a preview of the opening chapters of book two. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take me another two decades to finish these sequels!

    You can find a PDF version of A Sudden Outbreak of Magic at

    About Michael Jasper
    Michael Jasper has published seven novels, a story collection, and over five dozen short stories in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Polyphony, Writers of the Future, and the Raleigh News & Observer, and other fine venues. He is also the writer for the digital comic In Maps & Legends with artist Niki Smith. His most recent novel is Family, Pack (UnWrecked Press, 2011).

    His website is

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