We all know about lightning. That sudden searing flash of light and heat, an instant release of energy that thrills the onlooker in its immediate and glorious destructive display, so quickly over with it needs an accompaniment of drum-roll thunder to keep the audience alert for its reappearance. It’s magnificent at a distance, terrifying when closer. The mechanism of lightning is the sudden equalisation of differently charged points. Once the difference is sufficient enough to be unbearable for nature to maintain, the lightning appears drawing an incandescent equals sign vertically in the air.
The storm we lived through was lightning of a kind, but the differential was not electrical, it was a differential in states of reality itself. We didn’t know it at the time but a critical charge was building up in the ideosphere, a conceptual space far more remote and yet far more intimate than the atmospheric zones where simple climate forms. The charge had begun building in the 1990s with the seeding of an idea, a simple playful concept, a story of a different reality into our own grey and narrative-free mundanity. It was the latest evolution of that story-seed, that meme in the true sense, the self-replicating idea that could take root and grow and send out its own seeds. It was a seed of brightly coloured flashes of light, and simple tribal values, of loyalty and community, and of magic that could transform lives. The seed grew at first in a single mind, thriving in the fertile loam of myth and folktale and story that existed there in abundance. When it was ready it migrated to paper and ink, to typeface and the shelves of bookstores, and from there the seeds transferred to the minds of the readers and into their own imagination. From there the spread of the storm-seed accelerated exponentially, translated through the strange alchemy of light and sound in the potions-workshops of Hollywood into an airborne strain that would reach a wider population still. And then it began to create itself anew in unique and innovative forms created by the hosts themselves. Their own variants, their own re-enactments of the idea, cosplay and fanfiction taking the place of the shamanic journey and the mystery plays of olden days, as the mythic path was trodden again and anew by each eager explorer.
The storm-seed covered the planet and the differential began to build. A world of grey and dismal mundanity. A world of heroes and villains, glory and magic. And between them both a growing gap, a virtual friction that would someday spark into life. Everyone knew that ideas could change the world, after all what else could? But nobody suspected that concept could become so literal, so irrefutable and instant. The story-seed had grown into an unseen flower and one dark December night it flowered at last. The differential was finally unsustainable between the two poles and the friction between the conflicting worlds sparked suddenly and discharged. The whole world saw it. Columns of iridescent lightning plunged vertically from heaven to earth, mother-of-pearl oilslick colors, so bright it opened the eyes of every witness to a new way of seeing. Everyone reported the lightning flash had struck so near to them they could feel its burning coldness against their skin. It was over in an instant and left the world reeling and in denial.
The first owls arrived, letters tied to their legs or clutched in their beaks the next summer. Those who recognised the signs rejoiced and marvelled at a world of realised fantasy. Cosplay became fashion, and the strange insider argot became the common speech of the multitudes. Online quizzes that once sorted the eager and starry-eyed into imaginary tribes were now used for hiring and firing. Wands were crafted, or sold in shops that had never been there before in the high street, but were now well remembered fixtures of city centres. Magic worked.
Those who paused to think, amid the signs and wonders, were cautious. In that larger, brighter, more wonderful world that had come crashing into their own they remembered that there had been shadows as dark as the colours were bright. Shadows that growled in werewolf voices in the crime pages of the tabloids. Shadows that whispered convincing drumbeat rhetoric on Alt-Magic social media. Shadows that soared on leathery wings and with the breath of infernos overhead.
The storm had changed everything, but it was the beginning and not the end of the transformation. There was a war coming.
Finn’s first novel A Step Beyond Context is available on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com and a few others as well. It’s a punchy genre-busting mystery with a heroine who is a Regency lady, a high tech mercenary and much more.