Wizards and the Wounds of the World at Doxacon

I had the pleasure of being the keynote speaker at Doxacon (a scifi/fantasy + theology conference). I got to speak about the different kinds of magic on display in Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series and Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy. And I managed to find an excuse to bring up Matthew Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, too.Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series sees its wizards fighting entropy and offering healing, whereas Lev Grossman’s The Magicians trilogy has his heroes driven by anger at the brokenness of the world; their hatred for it is strong enough for them to reshape it. Here’s a representative quote from each author’s books:

In Life’s name and for Life’s sake, I assert that I will employ the Art which is its gift in Life’s service alone, rejecting all other usages. I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened. To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so — till Universe’s end.
Diane Duane, “The Wizard’s Oath,” So You Want to Be a Wizard

I think you’re magicians because you’re unhappy. A magician is strong because he feels pain. He feels the difference between what the world is and what he would make of it. Or what did you think that stuff in your chest was? A magician is strong because he hurts more than others. His wound is his strength.
Most people carry that pain around inside them their whole lives, until they kill the pain by other means, or until it kills them. But you, my friends, you found another way: a way to use the pain. To burn it as fuel, for light and warmth. You have learned to break the world that has tried to break you.
Lev Grossman, The Magicians

My goal was to use these two works to explore the question: “How does fantasy teach us to respond to the wound of original sin, and to join Christ in the work of making the crooked straight?”

Here’s the full audio of my talk.


Meanwhile, my husband, Alexi Sargeant, also spoke at Doxacon on Authority in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“In movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the Avengers films, and Captain America: Civil War, the filmmakers grapple with the most profound themes of their comic book source material: power and authority. Who should decide how and when superheroes use their abilities? Who do these heroes serve and to whom do they answer? Taking on these questions makes the Marvel Cinematic Universe a mature piece of storytelling—in a far more effective way than simply layering on a gritty tone.”

Here’s the audio of his talk, too.

And here we both are, back when we saw Captain America: Civil War, clearly taking sides: