1/8/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: Prometheus Books. 441 page enlarged paperback. Price: $21.98 (US) ,£18.50 (UK). ISBN: 1-59102-248-7.
check out website: www.prometheusbooks.com
The sub-title of this book is 'Secret Methods, Magicians & Others Use To Deceive Their Audience' should clue you in to the subject of this book. Why is it here, though, I might hear you ask. Magic and writing books do have a lot in common. We have to deceive and send out the wrong direction when writing stories using devious characters. Something I've noticed a lot in the fiction I've read lately is that authors are becoming less devious. Whether it's because they aren't so devious, a mindset thing or maybe not got the time to layer it into the plot or characters. Although it's unlikely that there are any books on how to do this in storywriting there is one profession that it's taken for granted.
Interestingly, author Nathaniel Schiffman agrees in the opening chapter comparing stage magic to mystery novels. On a wider basis, considering how many genres are engrossed in Science Fiction, then there is a place for deception here as well. Understanding and getting some idea of the process seems like a good idea to me.
If you don't want any spoilers how to how stage magic is performed then you need to keep away from this book. Schiffman points out that with most magic tricks there are several ways to perform them and magicians rarely do the same trick the same way to keep you guessing. In fact, much of the book explains that the actual trick is small in comparison to the patter and show itself.
One thing that comes out of the end section of this book is just how much magic technique is used in everyday life to get your attention, whether it is in advertising, selecting a product or even during war-time to fool the enemy. These are outside of the real criminal con artists that are out there. If anything, the commercial cons are even more disturbing. If you come away from this book with an understanding of just how easy your senses can be fooled then you've learnt a good lesson. Misdirection or pointed direction to ensure something grabs you comes in all forms with advertising at the top of the list but there is also a place for it even with computer screens. Did you know your eye motion when you do a screen scan at your computer is in a 'Z' shape? Do wonder people miss details in the middle sides of the screen and you missed the elephant and giraffe I put there.
The strongest reaction I have for magicians from this book is how well they've mastered such techniques for their performances. You might have some inkling as to how their tricks are done but I doubt if many of you will be able to accomplish them yourselves. Those who are young and similarly gifted will no doubt find their hobby stimulated from this book.
You will come away from this book with knowledge how to do a couple parlour tricks and certainly how skilful magicians are and I doubt if it will hurt you any when watching magic shows in future, especially as Schiffman points out how magicians deal with hecklers.
Will it help my writing? That you'll have to wait and see. Certainly in the use of distraction from the writer's end. The employment of technique for the characters within a reality can only add to their depth. The possibilities are opening up and would add some possibilities.
One odd thing is that with the list of magic societies that he ignores the UK's Magic Circle but there are a lot of book references and other useful information that you can expand your knowledge on a variety of subjects.
This might not be a book for everyone but if you think you're easily manipulated than the last four chapters will clue you in to as to what to be wary of. Hocus pocus is out in the real world and that's far more frightening than what is on stage.
Add SFcrowsnest.com daily news updates to your own web site or blog - just cut and paste the code below...
Stephen Hunt's novels - USA