Anthony Huso - Tor/Forge Blog



Rule the World with Math and Magic

Tor/Forge Blog

Black Bottle by Anthony Huso

Written by Anthony Huso

The Last Page came out two summers ago and I’m pleased that the second book in the duology, Black Bottle, will be available on shelves and e-readers this August. If you’ve been eager for a peek, read an excerpt from Black Bottle.

The setting for the books is decidedly dark and brutal, with the characters each sheltering their own little flames of hope. The brutality and the hope both stem from magic, which might save the characters, but it’s more likely to kill them.

In the books, magic is called holomorphy (a term I lifted from mathematics). It is a language that magicians (called holomorphs) use to argue against reality. Like a lawyer, a holomorph wrestles with logic to control outcomes; to persuade natural laws to bend.

Imagine that that there is no singular “spell” at your disposal for creating light in a room. As the holomorph, you must *create* an argument for light to exist. You do it on the fly, factoring in things such as the size, shape, and location of the room, and so forth. As with diagraming an argument, a variety of options exist. How will you build your argument? What facts will you take into account? Any holomorph brought into that dim room would similarly analyze the surroundings, but might construct an argument quite different from your own. Mathematically speaking, the more concise your argument is, the more powerful.

More importantly, when two holomorphs are fighting for the upper hand, brevity is synonymous with speed.

Sounds painless. Be awesome at persuasive math and you get to rule the world – except that you need blood to power your equation. You need to write your formula in red.

Blood sacrifice is old and primal. The idea of supremely ancient mysticism pulling against the forward momentum of science is compelling. Also, what if the two things, the old mysteries and the new science, were intrinsic? If the modern power of a world was founded in the bloody violence of things so ancient and hidden that people feared to talk about them at the risk of sounding foolish, well…that is essentially the foundation for magic in the world I created.

If you are Sena Iilool (a prominent anti-hero in the story) you are falling through a world that is the metaphoric equivalent of an abyss, and you’re screaming. What you want more than anything is to stop falling. You want to escape and make things less chaotic and terrifying. You want a fundamental change for the better. With holomorphy at your disposal, there is hope–but it is tied to your condition. Holomorphy is, by virtue of its bloody demands, a rope hung in the dark.

Grabbing onto it will break your fall if you are willing to endure the hemp tearing into your hands and the aftermath that leaves you whimpering; clinging desperately to the thing that bit you.

Sena Iilool finds herself both master and slave to holomorphy. Would you?


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