Procedural-code-as-magic trilogy goes Creative Commons

Mayer Brenner sez,
A four-volume fantasy series I wrote (The Dance of Gods) was published by DAW between 1987 and 1992. While the books acquired a small group of ardent devotees, they did not, shall we say, distinguish themselves in the marketplace. The books themselves, however, were in many respects more suited to how the world of fantasy has evolved today than the world they faced on initial publication. My hope now is to land them some fresh attention that may, with luck, get them back into print. I've been posting the books on my website where I'm making them available under Creative Content license as a free download. Since Cory, in particular, has posted a number of BoingBoing items on published SFF writers taking this same approach (e.g. Lew Shiner), I'm hoping my venture may warrant your notice as well.

The stories take an approach to magic more suited to engineers or programmers than mystics; more procedure-based than object-oriented, perhaps, but communing with nature is usually the last thing on these practitioners' minds. For that matter, I'm not sure the combination of magic-code hackers, molecular nanotech, and network-mediated consensual reality of the gods is something that could ever be summarized on a back-of-the-book blurb...

One of the most recent blurbs they've received, however, is:

"Ya gotta love a series with a hero named 'Maximillian the Vaguely Disreputable'. READ THIS SERIES, shouts your FAQmaker, it's fast and furious, and fun, and I want the author to make enough money that he keeps writing fantasies." - Amy Sheldon, The Recommended Fantasy Author List

Link (Thanks, Mayer!)


  1. While not creative commons-ed, the “Wizard” series by author Rick Cook was absolutely intensively magic-as-code, to amazing heights. The books he wrote in the series were Wizard’s Bane (1989), Wizardry Compiled (1989), Wizardry Cursed (1991) Wizardry Consulted (1995), and Wizardry Quested (1996).

    His character is a programmer who, instead of learning the difficult spells painstakingly learned by the wizards before him, essentially writes a magic operating system. One example of this is where he essentially greps for the princess.

    A great series, worth checking out.

  2. But will we see any (semi-)functional based spell casting? Will the main character explode their foes with a storm of lambdas?

  3. This description reminds me a lot of the premise behind Rick Cook’s Wizard’s series. “Wizard’s Bane” and “Wizardry Compiled” are both available in the Baen Free Library, too, which is where I discovered them…

  4. Yeah, great, pdf or word doc. Why do people do that? Why can’t it be put out in html or text?

    Damn, if you’re really that worried about not making money from it then put google ads on it and put it out in html.

  5. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! for posting this!

    This has long been one of my absolute favorite series of books and the last time I checked for Mayer Brenner, I wasn’t able to track any recent information down.

    I truly hope that Mayer publishes more fantasy in general and more stories set in this world in particular.

    I’ll be pointing these out to all my friends who have never gotten a chance to read the books! :-)

  6. Good to see these books getting back out there. I own paperbacks of all of them so it doesn’t effect me much but I hope it brings the author much deserved new success.

    P.S. It’s a quartet, not a trilogy :)

  7. These stories also have some great examples of mystical reverse engineering and spell “hacking” as Max and Karlini try to figure out some of the mysteries of the gods.

  8. Just read the first one; it felt more like enginnering-as-magic than procedural code, though there were some places where one could get that feel. More than either, however, it felt like Star-Trek-technobabble-as-magic. Not that that’s a bad thing; Star Trek’s “technology” has a very different feel from standard fantasy magic, and seeing the former used for the latter was definitely worth reading. The boook had a nice ensemble of characters, too, which is always good.

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