“In the fantasy world of Diane Duane, whose cult favorite young-adult Young Wizards series began more than 30 years ago and continues this month with a new novel, the 10th, power is made manifest through Speech, a universal language a bit like Esperanto but much like math. It binds every living and nonliving thing, including crabgrass and single-celled aliens and comets and kitchen appliances. Magic runs on perfect description. To perform a spell, a wizard must articulate its desired effect, and exactly, through spoken or diagrammed Speech. This system of energy is tied to an ethical code, with an appealing clarity of purpose. Practitioners swear an Oath (Hippocratic-style) to use their art to “guard growth and ease pain,” and undergo an Ordeal in which they are tested by the (Satan-like) Lone Power who invented decay.
“Growing up, I didn’t know anyone else who knew the Young Wizards series. But the smaller the fandom, the deeper its members’ affinities. Readers of Diane Duane—and these are longtime readers, spanning generations—share a basic understanding of how the universe works. It’s continually threatened by entropy and continually defended by the efforts of ordinary, decent people. As I got older, it surprised me whenever I met someone who was a fan. But it didn’t surprise me that those fans were poets and programmers. In these novels, systems inevitably run down, but properly understood, every problem has a solution. It just takes the right combination of words….”