Prologue: Strange Loops
‘Strange Loops’ are a concept used heavily in Gödel, Escher Bach, and also referred to in the title of Douglas Hofstadter’s ‘sequel’, I Am a Strange Loop.
This chapter describes, in parts, what Lord Voldemort should have done upon securing the stone.
The journey of the ‘curious bottle of black ichor’ is the first reference to the ultimate fate of Albus Dumbledore, forever being born and reborn alongside the World of Magic. Of course, he does make a slight alteration to the timeline and soaks the Philosopher’s Stone in Bahl’s Stupefaction. This is a callback to a popular fan theory-slash-grumbling, suggesting that Bahl’s Stupefaction was a Chekhov’s Gun meant to explain why Voldemort decided to take such a circuitous, irrational approach to terminating the Boy Who Lived.
Wilbraham, the place where ‘Everett Snipes’ (AKA Severus Snape) lives, aside from being a city quite near and dear to my heart, was the inspiration for the town of Dunwich from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”. Snape’s daughter is inspired by my own daughter.
Also, in case it wasn’t obvious, the Shichinin were asked to find Severus Snape.
The scene in King’s Cross is meant to echo the scene in the original Harry Potter series where Harry is sent beyond Time to King’s Cross. There is a reference to the fact that in Significant Digits, it was heavily implied that Nicholas Flamel provided Dumbledore with the Words of the First Enchanter which unlocked the entirety of the hall of prophecy.
Major Fall, Minor Lift
The title here is a reference to the lyrics from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, which remind me a lot of Harry’s speech at the end of ‘Pretending to be Wise’ from the original HPMOR.
“You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light in every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah”
Also, there’s a line in the song that goes like this:
And even though it all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah”
It seems thematically appropriate for the major fall that’s about to happen.
‘O Children’, featured heavily in this chapter, is the song that Harry and Hermione dance to in the Deathly Hallows movie, a scene which, in my opinion, is one of the most poignant scenes in cinema and a brilliant example of the use of film as a medium. The dance was something that mere words on paper could not really adequately capture. My use of this song in this chapter, on the other hand, was intended to convey that same sense of bittersweet melancholy, of finding a light in the darkness (which incidentally, is one of the major themes of Orders of Magnitude), in a way unique to the written word.
It always bothered me a bit how joyful the readers of Significant Digits were when Neville killed Bellatrix. Of course, I really hammer this home in a later chapter, but this is the first nudge at that.
Hermione’s Patronus is an otter. Draco’s being guided by the light to Hermione echoes what Ron experienced when he left Harry and Hermione in Deathly Hallows and eventually found his way back home
The Harry that dances with Hermione is in fact Harry from many, many, many years in the future. Incidentally, the song came out in 2004, but this scene takes place in 1999, and the original scene from Deathly Hallows takes place in 1997, which is why Hermione refers to the song as ‘out of place’.
Chapter 1: Put Your Little Hand In Mind
In the movie Groundhog Day, the main character, Phil Connors is stuck in a time loop and is greeted with the song “I Got You Babe” every morning on his clock radio. The song echoes the “light in the darkness” theme of Orders of Magnitude, and incidentally, the thing that finally breaks Phil Connors out of his infinite time loop is love.
The secret war being the battle against the last enemy that shall be defeated: death. John Merlin’s plan was to “cheat” the heat death of the universe by creating a time-looped simulated version of Earth, and create the perception of eternal life by way of implanting the memories generated by that simulation. Since the simulation would be a closed loop, those memories would feel like a Groundhog Day-esque infinite timespan from a first-person perspective. Of course, there are many flaws with this idea, which is quite the point.
The reference to Merlin’s flare for the dramatic is a bit of foreshadowing that John Merlin is a proto-Harry-Potter.
In Brandon Sanderson’s novelization of the Infinity Blade series, the future is ruled over by “The Deathless”, normal human beings who have been rendered functionally immortal via the use of advanced technology. The Deathless refer to computers as ‘deadminds’.
A ‘crab canon’ is a piece of music that is meant to be played both forward and backwards, simultaneously, similar to a palindrome. In the book Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, the author expounds on this concept via a piece of dialog that is similarly palindromic; it reads sensically both forwards and backwards. This was my attempt at such a feat; in the penultimate chapter, (the appropriately titled ‘Crab Canon’), the paragraphs starting with ‘John made the snap decision…’ and ending with ‘The system was procedurally generating…’ are repeated but in reverse order, with the only difference being the *snap* decision made by Merlin.
Everything from this moment forward is a simulation, facilitated by the Line of Merlin, which is a MacGuffin-esque AI with “Do What I Mean” capabilities. In this case, the Line recognizes the inherent flaw in Merlin’s plan and decides to forcibly illustrate those flaws by means of simulation.
The “old” man is none other than the Professor, who has chosen a form that resembles someone in their mid-to-late 30s. In the future, everyone is perpetually at their physical and mental peak around their mid-20s, hence the perception of him being old. The Line of Merlin being held by the professor is the version of the Line of Merlin that was simulated by the Line of Merlin, which is to say, it is the Line of Merlin.
These “ten million and change” are the original Muggles of the World of Magic, ~10 million homo sapiens that were procedurally generated and used to populate the world circa ~25000 BC. The “thousand or so genetic patterns it had recovered”, on the other hand, were the first descendants of Atlantis: the first potential Wizards of this new world.
Chapter 2: The Goat and the Ram
The Goat and the Ram is a biblical allegory featured in multiple books, representing in effect, the choice between life and death. In Daniel 8, it’s told as an apocalyptic prophecy, and as such it’s ripe with metaphor and allusion, with the Daniel 8 version of the tale encompassing Alexander the Great (in our story, one of the personas of Heraclius Hero), along with an emperor’s war on God.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the tale of the Sheep (Ram) and the Goats, wherein the sheep, representing the good of the world, are placed at the right hand of God, receiving eternal life, and the goat, representing the evildoers, are placed at the left hand of God, who are cast out of the kingdom.
Further, in Matthew 6, Jesus implores that good deeds must not be done with the goal of receiving recognition, but simply done for the sake of good (a lesson that Nell would have done well to learn). He says, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth”.
Maksimillian Koschey is Perenelle Du Marais. Gender norms are so 2000s.
Natalie Kyros is Ollivander / Helga Hufflepuff, and also a tribute to my two daughters.
The Hebrew translation of the term, “Abracadabra”, or “I Will Create As I Speak”, an appropriate description of Magic. This term is co-opted by the language of Magic into the incantation Avada Kedavra. Although in modern times is called the Killing Curse, it is (as Baba Yaga / Maximillian Koschey teaches in a later chapter) quite the misnomer; the true intent of the spell was to create renewed life from existing life. The Horcrux ritual is powered by this spell, both the original version developed by Heraclius Hero and the improved version developed by Lord Voldemort. Harry’s “Starfire Ritual’ from Significant Digits is, (at least in the canon of Orders of Magnitude), a third, even more sophisticated version which sacrifices potential life (rather than actual life) in the form of a star.
Constantine “Gus” Atreides is Heraclius Hero, AKA Meldh, AKA Herpo the Foul, AKA Lord Foul, AKA Alexander the Great.
Also, “L.E. Lines” = “Ley Lines”.
The Case of Charles Dexter Ward was a short horror novel written by H.P. Lovecraft. Incidentally, Dexter Charles would go on to become Shiggoth of the Spire, a direct reference to Yog-Sothoth of Lovecraftian lore, who ‘knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present, future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth. He knows where the Old Ones broke through of old, and where They shall break through again. He knows where They have trod earth’s fields, and where They still tread them, and why no one can behold Them as They tread.’ HPMOR fans will of course recognize this as part of the false incantation that Harry used to intimidate his classmates.
Janus Tucker is Draco Malfoy, who is a Gemini.
Kayla Rahl is Hermione Granger. I was pleased to see a reference to Terry Goodkind’s The Sword of Truth series in Significant Digits; the box that imprisoned Lord Voldemort was none other than a Box of Orden. In The Sword of Truth, the Boxes of Orden are stewarded over by the Rahl dynasty. This, as I allude to in my introduction, is one of those stories that I adored in my youth. Much like another one of my heroes from literature, Lyra Silvertongue, I was enamored by reductionist, Objectivist-influenced philosophy and its simplistic, black-and-white approach to right and wrong, good and evil. (Of course, for Lyra, she becomes enamored with The Hyperchorasmians, which is the His Dark Materials-verse’s version of Atlas Shrugged). I have since grown past that, and hopefully Lyra will too in the final book of the Book of Dust trilogy.
The power structure of the World of Magic can be separated into four layers, with an order of magnitude (see what I did there?) of power differential between each layer. At the top is Merlin himself. Below him are the Old Ones, true Atlanteans that entered the World of Magic directly as it was being created via various ‘hacks’, and retaining all of their memories, abilities, knowledge, and of course the anchors by which they were able to ‘hack’ their way in.
Below them are the thousand-or-so genetic patterns of Atlanteans that represent the first magic-users. Being simply rebuilt genetic patterns, they have none of the memories, abilities or knowledge of the Old Ones, but they do possess the capacity to use magic. Finally, there are the procedurally generated ‘baseline’ humans which represent the Muggle population of the world.
Given that this world is a simulation, it’s a bit of a misnomer to say that, for example, Draco Malfoy is Janus Tucker. In reality, Janus Tucker was born on June 5th, 1980, would later go on to meet John Merlin and Kayla Rahl and befriend the former and fall in love with the latter. In the simulation created by the Line of Merlin, he would ‘hack’ his way into the World of Magic and emerge carrying the Cup of Midnight and Cup of Dawn, calling himself Yanotuk of the Cups (among other names). He would eventually meet his simulated death alongside Kayla Rahl and Christopher Chang at the Battle of Olympus some 20,000 simulated years later.
Draco Malfoy, on the other hand, was a construct of the World of Magic, born on June 5th, 1980, who would later go on to meet Harry James Potter-Evans-Verres and Hermione Jean Granger, and befriend the former and fall in love with latter. Upon the termination of the simulated World of Magic in the simulated year of 1999 (and real world year of ~27,000), the memories of the life of both Draco Malfoy and the simulated adventures of Yanotuk of the Cups were superimposed upon the memories of the real-world Janus Tucker.
One of the major dilemmas that faced Merlin was the fact that some 100,000,000,000 lives were simulated throughout the duration of the World of Magic. Despite being ‘simulated’, these lives were no less real to the ones living it. The weight of this problem weighed heavily upon Merlin during his time in the World of Magic; every day, every second, more and more people were being born into this simulation who were doomed to die forever unless he came up with a creative solution. Simply instantiating 100,000,000,000 new people into a post-scarcity, far-future world would be an absolute recipe for disaster. Superimposing their memories was the most humane solution to this problem. For the overwhelming majority of people living in ~27,000 AD in the real world, this was not particularly impactful, as a few decades of memories pales in comparison to the millenia that most of them have lived for. However, for the Old Ones (who lived thousands, if not tens of thousands of simulated years), and certainly for Merlin/Harry, this was fairly significant.
Also – The mythology of the Old Ones suggested there were twelve, and yet only nine were featured in the story. I wrote backstories for two more Old Ones, but thy wound up being part of an arc that I cut when Fantastic Beast’s plot came out due to their stories not quite lining up with the new canon. One was Blackwolf the Grim, real name Sendhil Bakshi (a triple reference: Ralph Bakshi, the director of ‘Wizards’ from which the Blackwolf character came. Sunil Bakshi from Agents of SHIELD whose fourth season’s plot was quite relevant to OoM, and Sendhil Ramamurthy, an actor from Heroes). He provided military guidance to various bad-guy figures throughout history, was also Rasputin, gave Hitler the idea to use Swastikas, etc. He was one of the people that aided Grindelwald, but the storyline had the potential to conflict with Fantastic Beasts so I cut it. He was destroyed by the atomic bomb testing at Trinity.
The other was Danu of the Beast, a biologist who eventually created many/most of the unique creatures seen in HP, HPMOR and SD. She became bound to Nog’Nandh (and destroyed when he was), when her lifeline (her creatures) fled to Tir Inna N’oc. Her storyline was woven in with the North American mythology which conflicted with Fantastic Beasts.
The final one was a red herring. There were only eleven, but everyone assumed there were twelve because it was a nice round number and culturally significant. Eventually the Peverell family discovered that there were only eleven when they went on their quest to unearth the anchors. This subplot though didn’t really make sense when only nine of the twelve were featured in the story.
Chapter 3: The Fall
It’s not the fall that kills you…
This was actually one of the first chapters I wrote, meant to provide somewhat of an origin story for Tírr i’nna n-Óc. It’s basically the living nightmare of Adnan Nejem, who blames himself for the disaster. Several of the features of Tírr i’nna n-Óc are borrowed from Everquest, including the Amygdalan Temple and several references to The Sleeper. There are also elements from the game British Legends, also known as MUD1, the original “Multi-User-Dungeon” game written by Richard Bartle; in a way, MUD1 was the first virtual world.
Tírr i’nna n-Óc is also the place that the Peverell Brothers visit when they meet ‘Death’, AKA Merlin and Meldh.
Chapter 4: Pure Imagination
In addition to highlighting the fact that this world is nothing but pure imagination, this was meant to honor Gene Wilder, who passed away the day I released this chapter: ‘Pure Imagination’ was a song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: “We’ll begin, with a spin, travelling in the world of my creation… What we’ll see will defy explanation. If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world? There’s nothing to it.”
The sage, Kobayashi, is a reference to the famous Star Trek icon, The Kobayashi Maru, a training exercise intended to be an unwinnable battle, which James T. Kirk only wins via rank deception.
The armor of Constantine is modelled after the Space Marine armor from Warhammer 40k (the book from his youth an eternity ago). Natalie wears a similar armor, but feminized.
Chapter 5: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
There are three ‘excerpts’ from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-related works in this chapter. The first is from Hamlet, wherein Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two side characters that help advance the plot.
The second is from Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a tremendously self-aware play about the titular characters realizing they are characters in a play (much like Constantine and Natalie).
The third is from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the movie, wherein Professor Slughorn waxes poetically about a fish he once had named Francis. Harry, in all three cases, is meant to be Hamlet.
Ὅρόσταυρός translates roughly to ‘false cross’, which could be butchered into a Latinization as ‘Horcrux’.
Διμάχαιρος, (dimachaeri) were roman gladiators that fought with two swords.
The ritual Meldh uses to bring down the tower is borrowed from Harry’s false ritual he uses to intimidate the students in the original HPMOR.
Kayla with the Boxes, Christopher with the Mirror, and Janus with the Cups end in a stalemate, with the void of the Cup of Midnight consumed by the Boxes of Orden, which were then contained within the Mirror of Volition (the other side of the Mirror of Noitilov). Only the Mirror of Noitilov, the Cup of Dawn, and the single Box of Orden remained.
Chapter 6: Cups and Wands
Two of the four Tarot suits, and two things that Ελαολογος (Ollivander) were quite well known for.
The original Three was comprised of Merlin, Constantine Atreides (Gom’Jorbol), and Christopher Chang (KriXiang), and they used Ελαολογος/Ollivander/Hufflepuff as a proxy (who is the future/past version of Natalie Kyros). The Coalition, on the other hand, was comprised of Janus Tucker (Yanotuk), Kayla Rahl (Kari) and Natalie Kyros (Neirkalatia), who recruited Heraclius Hero/Meldh (who is the future/past version of Constantine Atreides).
The Rod of Ànkyras was Constantine’s anchor to the world and the original prototype from which wands were developed.
Falx, in D&D Lore, is the original homeworld of the Tarrasque.
“Alexander” means “Protector of Mankind”, a reference to Meldh’s alter ego of Alexander the Great.
Chapter 7: Egeusly Stare
A cheap pun. There’s no set pronunciation for “Egeustimentis” but in my mind I say it like “eh – gyuhs – teh – men – tis”. So “Egeusly” would be “eh – gyuhs – lee”, which sort of sounds like “a gazely”. Like the lyrics from David Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, which always reminded me of Merlin’s character. “I gazed a gazely stare at all the millions here, we must have died alone, a long long time ago”.
Also, for some reason, Lyra Silvertongue’s journey into the underworld in His Dark Materials always reminded me of this song. To that end – The story of Orpheus and Eurydice has always been something that has resonated with me. When I was a kid, I had cancer. After one of my many surgeries, when I was probably five or six years old, my grandmother gave me a music box: a dancing skeleton that played “The French Can-Can”.
Kind of a weird gift to give a kid who might die, right?
Well, the French Can-Can is actually the Galop Infernal from Offenbach’s opera “Orpheus in the Underworld”. At that age, I thought, hoped, wished that if I died, someone would come to the Underworld and rescue me, just like Orpheus tried with Eurydice. So in a way, the macabre gift of a dancing skeleton was actually weirdly comforting to me as a kid.
Which makes the Harry Potter movie’s use of “O Children” that much more meaningful; the title of the album the sign is from is “The Lyre of Orpheus”.
The “Alethia Touch” is my attempt at the true etymology of “The Lethe Touch”. Alethia-, as a prefix, means “of truth”.
I played a lot of Hearthstone at the time I wrote this chapter, and the expansion “Whispers of the Old Gods” had just come out, and one of the most powerful decks was this Shaman deck with a bunch of sick totem synergy. Hence, “The world will and must be ruled by man and reason, not by old gods and whispers, or shamans with their totems of power.” FORESHADOWING BLIZZARDS SHAMAN NERFS!
Do I even need to explain the “African or European Swallow” reference?
The “rope that has hanged a man and a sword that has slain a woman” was from the original HPMOR, a ritual “which promised to summon Death itself”, which I assume to be a Dementor. This was originally a reference to the Legend of Ethshar series. I combined this with the Sandman mythology, wherein Roderick Burgess attempts to summon Death of the Endless with the following ritual: “I give you coin I made from a stone. I give you a song I stole from the dirt. I give you a knife from under the hills, and a stick that I stuck through a dead man’s eye. I give you a claw I ripped from a rat. I give you a name, and the name is Lost. I give you blood from out of my vein, and a feather I pulled from an angel’s wing. I call you with names, of my lord, of my lord. I summon with poison and summon with pain. I open the way and I open the gates.” In OoM canon, this spell explicitly summons a Dementor, a “Specter of Death”, which in turn is a reference to His Dark Materials.
One of the goals of this passage was to define the mechanism by which Dementors suck the happiness out of a person. It’s an extreme case of the unfortunate tendency people have to self-sabotage their own happiness in anticipation of being miserable in the future. The Dementors confront you with the inevitability of Death and you willingly give up your happiness so that when Death finally arrives, you don’t have anything to lose.
“…The sound of wings” is how the first book of the Sandman series ends.
Chapter 8: The Sudden Stop
When I was first writing Orders of Magnitude, I wrote a bunch of chapters in a short period of time, then took a hiatus for a few months. One might have called it a sudden stop. This chapter was the first released after that break. Also, it’s a brick joke, building up on the title to chapter (The Fall), completing the Douglas Adams quote: “It’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end”.
The chess game being played here is The Game of the Century, between a 13-year-old Bobby Fischer and chess master Donald Byrne, in which Bobby Fischer/Meldh sacrifices his queen so that he can dominate the board with his lesser pieces.
Helga Hufflepuff is another alter ego of Ollivander. Hankerton Humble, an alter ego of Meldh, was Hogwarts’ first groundskeeper.
“927 πατάτα” is a reference to Harry’s “Recognition Code 927: I Am A Potato”.
Gryffindor’s a bit of a perv.
Meldh hired Scabior to provide him with the necessary reagents for the spell required to transport himself to Tír inna n-Óc.
The Isle of Woe is a location from MUD1, which as mentioned above, was one of the first “virtual worlds”. Once you gained enough points in the game to reach the level of “Wizard” (or “Witch”), you became immortal, and your role transitioned to more of an administrative, moderator-type role; you don’t so much play the game as you do keep the game fun for the new blood. Adrienne was relatively prominent in that community in the late 80s and early 90s. I played the game for years as a kid during this time, and through bizarre serendipity, I found out that she was a teacher at the school I attended at the time. She passed away a year before I started writing Orders of Magnitude. Cancer sucks.
The statement “This is a lie” is a paradox, it cannot be true or false. Therefore, the statement, ” ‘This is a lie’ is false” must be incorrect. However, it is impossible, in a formal logical system, to formally prove this. (For more on why this is the case, see Kurt Gödel’s On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems, or the far more entertaining Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter).
So, suppose that ‘This is a lie’ is Statement X, a paradox that is neither true nor false. And let’s say the meta-statement, ‘X is false’ is Statement Y, a syntactically valid statement which we know implicitly is false but cannot be proven. Therefore, the assertion that ‘Y is true’ (or, in other words, “As true as ‘ ‘This is a lie’ is false’ “) is wrong, but in a fundamentally unprovable way. We know it’s wrong. We just can’t prove it formally.
“At some arbitrary point, you have to decide that you have enough Significant Digits.” A little meta-joke about the source material of this fic.
Chapter 9: The Transmigration
Anwu is one of the Gods of the Odinani religion practiced by the Igbo people (who were featured in the Chinua Achebe novel, “Things Fall Apart”, which in turn takes its title from the Yeats poem, “The Second Coming”.)
“THE FOUR SIDES OF THE SQUARE HAVE ENTERED THE BOARD” – The four founders of Hogwarts.
“THEIR CRESTS SHALL BE THE BLOCKS BY WHICH MANKIND’S CUNNING SHALL WAX” – The crests of the four houses, and a reference to the original Significant Digits’ text of The Transmigration.
“THOSE WINGS WILL BEAR MAN TO THE STARS, BUT THEY AS ALL, MUST MELT” – Icarus’ wings must melt, as must all things.
“AND THE FALLEN HERO SHALL SWING HIS BLADES” – The fallen “hero” (both the adjective and the name, Heraclius Hero) will swing the blades of his windmill attack.
“AND IN RETURN THEY TOO SHALL SWING” – Dirty humor.
“BY THEIR ASHES THREE OF THE THREE THREE SHALL RISE” – There were three groups called “The Three” over the years; the original from Ancient Greece. The next group that would rise from the ashes would be Merlin, Meldh and Nell. And the final Three would be Harry, Draco and Hermione.
“”THE ENLIGHTENED TOWERS, THE HALLOWED GODDESSES, THE STOWN-HEWN SERPENTS” – The Tower: Harry, Merlin. The Goddesses: Nell and Hermione, “hallowed” because both of them possessed all three Deathly Hallows at different points in the story. The Serpents: Draco and Meldh. “Stown” is both a homonym for “Stone”, and also the past-tense of “Stow”.
“TOGETHER THEY MUST CHOOSE TO FOLLOW THE PHOENIX OR SOLVE THE RIDDLE” – The ‘Follow the Phoenix’ series was probably the most well-received of the HPMOR sequels aside from Significant Digits. So it’s a sort of a meta-joke here as to which canon you prefer to accept: the SD/OOM canon, or the ‘Follow the Phoenix’ canon.
Emperor Heraclius was said to have returned the True Cross to Jerusalem in the 7th century, which was controlled by Arab powers until the holy land was conquered in the crusades.
The remainder of the chapter is, in effect, an English translation of the middle-English of the original Transmigration text from Significant Digits.
“Mundre of the Brook”, in this case, is translated to “Mundre, from the City on the River”. The city, in this case, being Constantinople, and Mundre being a corruption of Meldh.
Lord Edmond Black is a reference Edmund Blackadder from the BBC comedy series of the same name.
Ha-rova ha-Yehudi was one of the four sections of Old Jerusalem. Anka should have been able to grasp the foundations of Levitation but due to the newly-laid Interdict, that information now needed to be passed from one living mind to another.
Georgi Abashvili was the name of the corrupt governor from Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Brecht was famous for breaking the fourth wall and directly addressing the audience with his plays, the goal being to prevent the watcher from simply accepting the events as an observer, as passive entertainment, and instead to view things critically and analytically. I draw on this technique quite frequently in both Orders of Magnitude and also The Longest Day.
Misqat’nk is intended to be the etymology for the Lovecraftian “Miskatonic River”. Originally, I had written about 25,000 words about the history of Magic in the Northeast Americas, but this was shortly before Fantastic Beasts was announced (which heavily deals with this same area), and JK Rowling has much more time and inclination for worldbuilding than I do. In short, the mythology of the Nipmuc tribe was that the Scrolls of Shiggoth would be used to waken the Sleeper, Nog-Nandh. But since there were no longer any living minds to transfer the knowledge of their function, the scrolls are now useless. Ironically though, their prophecy was true; the one marked by lightning (Harry/Merlin) would eventually wake the Sleeper. They just had no part in things.
In one version (Orders of Magnitude) of the Igbo tale, Chukwu (Voldemort) creates Amadioha (Harry), and despite their fights, they eventually band together to defeat Ogbunabali (Death). In another version (JK Rowling’s canon), Chukwu is defeated by Amadioha, who then goes on to live his own life and raise his own family.
Chapter 10, I Love The Way You Lie
“On the first page of our story, the future seemed so bright
Then this thing turned out so evil, I don’t know why I’m still surprised
Even angels have their wicked schemes, and you take that to new extremes
But you’ll always be my Hero
Even though you’ve lost your mind”
I felt the lyrics to that song quite appropriately describe Meldh and Ollivander’s relationship.
The Ballad of Ulak the Unconquered is intended to be the original music and lyrics of what would eventually become the Irish folk song, The Foggy Dew.
“Bás Cliábhan”, which would eventually be corrupted to “Azkaban” roughly translates to “Death’s Cradle”.
“The Gray Slayer’, “The Enemy”, “a-Jeroth” were all names for Lord Foul, from Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant novels. Also, on a personal note, when I used to play MUD1 back in the day, I was good friends with a player named Lordfoul. Unlike Adrienne the Witch, I never did meet Lordfoul in real life.
“Ef yn dod, mae’r grissa ost drauka. Yw ef yma, yr un sy’n proffwydoliaeth dweud ewyllys i ddod â’r cleddyf y ffurlfen gwir rhyfel.” roughly translates to, “He’s coming. The bringer of death. He is here, the one who is prophesied to bring the sword of war.” (Fuer Grissa ost Drauka is High D’haran, from The Sword of Truth series)
“Ti’n gweld? Mae ei ei farcio fan fellten…” – “You see? He is marked by lightning.” The prophecies seem to be coming true.
“This was a triumph… I’m making a note here, huge success. It’s hard to overstate my satisfaction.” Incidentally, the portals summoned forth were colored blue and orange, just like the game.
Meldh showed Godric what would happen if Magic were allowed to persist. Once you know something, you can’t make yourself un-know it.
Fuckin’ hell, I can’t believe it’s already been four years. I went to bed the night before after drinking heavily, and had several fevered dreams that all in some way involved the results of the previous night not being true. I woke up at like three in the morning, checked my phone, saw it was still true, and did what any sane person would do: write a scathing chapter of Harry Potter fanfiction! How effective!
The Drongo birds are telling their own version of the Igbo tales, with the men telling the story of HPMOR, and the women telling the Rowling canon story. And if you want to know the tale that the birds tell among themselves, check out The Longest Day! /shamelessplug
“That is the curse of competence, that you are forced to make those choices, between ‘right’ and ‘more right’.” If I were to ever write another fic (which after the two year slogfest that was The Longest Day, I don’t think I will), it would use this as the central theme.
Chapter 11: Things Fall Apart, The Center Cannot Hold
A quote from Yeats’ “The Second Coming”, as mentioned above.
“”Yes, well, Madame Ollivander is not here, is she?” William Umbridge piped up.” Whoops.
“The Elizabethan Tearoom: This cosy, Tudor room is where all British Legends adventures start. Its exposed oak beams and soft, velvet-covered furnishings provide it with the ideal atmosphere in which to relax before venturing out into that strange, timeless realm. A sense of decency and decorum prevails, and a feeling of kinship with those who, like you, seek their destiny in The Land. There are exits in all directions, each of which leads into a wisping, magical mist of obvious teleportative properties…” The room that you start out in MUD1. If you tried to exit the tearoom without sipping tea first, you would be prevented from doing so due to a strong feeling of dread.
“All too easy…” Hsssccchhhhh…. Hooosssschhhhhh…
Chapter 12 + 13: The Battle of Hogwarts
“But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living… for the price of wisdom is above rubies.” – This quote from Job was also quoted in the first book of the Sandman series.
The Portugese being used is the translation of the ritual used to summon dementors. Meldh then summons forth his Patronus to destroy the Dementor he created.
“Hope” is a major theme in both Orders of Magnitude and The Longest Day. It’s also the mic-drop moment in Morpheus’ battle with Choronzon in The Sandman. It’s also the thing with feathers, that perches in the soul…
“Piertotum Locomotor!” is also the spell that McGonagall uses in the Deathly Hallows movie to reanimate the statues to defend Hogwarts.
Kaspersky is also a company that specializes in cyber-security. The sound he summons that winds up being effective is the sound of a rooster crowing, which is fatal to a basilisk.
The Fae are the original House Elves.
Charkie is the name of the dog from Curious George.
Nagina, the basilisk which Slytherin spares, is not lying, per se. She’s just wrong. She thinks the secret to the true Horcrux is to ensure that all your knowledge is preserved in another living mind… Namely, herself.
Rowena Ravenclaw battering away at the fourth wall: “”Can you hear me?” She screamed at the reader.”
Drowning is one of the few means by which one can slay a Tarrasque.
The leverage that Meldh has over each Founder is such:
Slytherin: Meldh alone knows the secret to the true Horcrux, and if he dies, Slytherin will never live forever.
Ravenclaw: Meldh alone knows the secret to reversing the cost of Sacrifice, and if he dies, Ravenclaw will never learn its secret.
Gryffindor: Gryffindor knows that what Meldh is doing is right, and the Phoenix arrives, presenting him with the choice to do the right thing as well.
Hufflepuff: She still, despite everything, loves Meldh.
The one and only time Gryffindor summons a Patronus is to stop Hufflepuff from losing her humanity.
Chapter 14: Beautiful Lost Nebula
“Beautiful Lost Nebula” is the full name of a character from The Sandman, whose short name is simply “Hope”. The Bok Globule that Ollivander shapes when she departed this world could also be described as a beautiful, lost nebula. Incidentally, this is also the star that Harry sacrifices in order to revive Lucius Malfoy in Significant Digits.
In absence of a true Horcrux, Slytherin transfers his knowledge into Nagina and then turns her into a Horcrux, using his own life as the spell to power it. He tries in vain for centuries to lure worthy Slytherins into his chamber to resurrect him when the time is right. And then of course, Tom Riddle comes along a few centuries later and kills her, and by extension, also kills Salazar Slytherin.
Ravenclaw’s riddle points to Matthew 6, beyond the prayer of the faithful (“hallowed be thy name”), wherein Matthew says “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” which also happens to be the family motto of the Dumbledores.
Ultimately, Ollivander sacrifices herself so that Meldh can return to the world.
Chapter 15: The Walrus Was Paul
In the song “Glass Onion” by the Beatles, John Lennon wrote the lyrics basically just to mess with people who tried to read too much meaning into Beatles lyrics: “I threw the line in—”the Walrus was Paul”—just to confuse everybody a bit more. It could have been “the fox terrier is Paul.” I mean, it’s just a bit of poetry. I was having a laugh because there’d been so much gobbledygook about Pepper—play it backwards and you stand on your head and all that.”
The dialog from “The Last Days of Exses O’Bruinan” is paraphrased from Alice in Wonderland, and the names of the Three in the play are the names of the three Furies.
Merrick’s Tavern was named after Timothy Merrick from the American ballad, “On Springfield Mountain”, which incidentally is quite near to the location of Ilvermorny.
Eloise Mintumble, in Potter canon, was subject to a time travel catastrophe that sent her back several centuries. Jeremiah Croaker, the father of Saul Croaker, coiner of “Croaker’s Law”, which states that the limit of time-turners are five hours. The “true time turner” which Mintumble uses, (and the same “true time turner” as featured in Cursed Child) is powered by an Obscurus.
The “Timely Hallows”, besides being an obvious parody, refer to the Line of Merlin, the Time-Turner, and Comed-Tea.
Henry Armitage, in Lovecraftian Lore, was the librarian of Miskatonic University, which in this universe is another name for the Salem’s Witches Institute. Old Whately is another character from Lovecraft, who summoned Yog-Sothoth to impregnate his daughter, giving birth to Wilbur Whately (who is killed at a young age due to the taboo against twins), and Credence Whately, who would later become Credence Barebone. The events of The Dunwich Horror play out (referred to later in this chapter as “The Wilbraham Incident”), and they manage to harness the Obscurial to create a True Time Turner. Incidentally, the pattern used to harness the Obscurial was a Grace from the Sword of Truth series.
It’s often stated by people who don’t really think things through that an infinite timeline implies infinite possibilities and that all things will eventually happen. This, as Ignotus illustrates, is false.
The prophecy that Mimtumble speaks is the one that Harry hears in the graveyard in HPMOR.
Chapter 16: Huis Clos
The Sartre play, “Huis Clos” (known in English as “No Exit”) is the origination of the phrase “Hell is other people”. L’enfer, c’est les autres.
Meldh visited the Peverell Brothers (and Ignotus) in their dreams, passing on the knowledge necessary to create the Deathly Hallows.
Hugue de Payens was the leader of the Templars, and an alter ego of Cadmus Peverell.
Iolanthe and Celia Peverell were Antioch Peverell’s daughters. Iolanthe would marry Hardwin Potter (son of Linfred of Stinchcombe), and Celia would marry Greybold Gaunt; it is to them that the Peverells passed the Invisibility Cloak and the Spirit Stone, respectively.
Chapter 17 + 18: Mad & Ordinary World
“And I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad, that the dreams in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had.”
Череповец, Вологодская область is Cherepovets, in Russia, one of the supposed locations of Baba Yaga’s hut. Note that February 2 is Groundhog’s Day (see: Put Your Little Hand In Mine).
Professor Gagwilde was the Headmaster of Hogwarts in the 1300s.
“Finishing each other’s sandwiches” is both a reference to Frozen and Arrested Development.
In the 1300s, Hogwarts is far from heteronormative. Helena has a crush on Nell that is obvious to the entire school with the exception of Ollie.
The Bawdy Brothel of Bathsheba, is sadly, not a real portrait. Runcible LaValley was a character briefly mentioned in Significant Digits. Edward Lear coined the word “Runcible” in his poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat”, where they ate both mince and quince, using a “runcible spoon”. Lear later went on to coin another nonsense word, “Dolomphious” to describe a duck.
The Porpentine was a magical device that powered “The Land” in one of the Sandman stories. Incidentally, the world of MUD1 was also called “The Land”.
Chapter 19: A Song For You
“I love you in a place where there’s no space or time
I love you for my life, you were a friend of mine
And when my life is over, remember when we were together
We were alone and I was singing this song to you”
Given that Baba Yaga is the future version of Perenelle, “we were alone” is meant quite literally.
With Festivus and Ollie, I tried to recreate the dynamic of the Weasley twins from HP canon.
I always feel a bit gross writing scenes that sexualize characters. For that matter, I always feel a bit gross reading passages that sexualize characters. It always seems to play as weirdly self-indulgent. But at the same time, sexuality IS a thing, and people (including fictional characters) sometimes make less-than-rational decisions because of that sweet, sweet ass. And I’m very much a believer in “show rather than tell”. So it’s either “She was like, super duper hot!” or “…snow white skin, smooth, taut, and unmarred….”
When writing Nell’s inner monologue, I tried to tap into my inner teenager. Hence the ubiquity of swear words and overdramatized dialog.
Chapter 20. Ms. Phaethon
/u/mrphaethon was one of the names of Alexander D., the author of Significant Digits. Phaethon was also the name of the opera that Richard Halley, from Atlas Shrugged, wrote. I was absolutely enamored with Objectivist themes and literature in high school and college. Of course, after experiencing just a little bit of the real world, I quickly realized the folly of this line of thinking. But, in the context of this story, Phaethon, the son of Helios, was something of an Icarus; he flew too close to the sun, much like a certain heroine of ours.
These chapters are some of the most straightforward in the book. Despite the actual plotting that occurs being fairly complex, it’s also all surface-level. The outcome of the plot is entirely explained in the text, and it’s nothing more than what it is; the overly complex plotting of a teenage girl.
Nell is a good person; she’s powerful and skilled, and she knows it. And she craves recognition, but she doesn’t want the world to know that. So she says and does all the right things, she’s reasonably effective. But she hasn’t quite learned a very critical lesson: being better than 99.9% of people might sound impressive, but that just puts you at the very bottom of the ladder of the exceptional.
Incidentally, Nell’s character is the most autobiographical.
Bertoxxulous is the god of Plague from the Everquest MMORPG.
Ceti Eels are, of course, the mind-controlling earworm-cum-nightmare-fuel from Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan.
“On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related Systems” is Kurt Gödel’s famous work that proved, among other things, that no matter how much you try to prevent it, any formal system will be able to self-reference. And the Principia Mathematica was particularly famous for taking roughly 300 pages to prove that 1+ 1 = 2.
“Ma” and “Ntok” are a reference to the original HPMOR spell, “Hyakuju Montauk”, used by Quirrel against Snape. That spell itself was a reference to the SCP procedure, “110-Montauk”, which was so horrifying and traumatizing that no one in the SCP foundation can even agree on exactly what it even is.
Much like Principia Discordia and Principia Mathematica, the tenants of Ayn Rand’s Objectivism are rooted in the Law of Identity as the ultimate axiom.
“When preceded by its incantation” is a derivation of the original quine: “‘Yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation’ yields falsehood when preceded by its quotation” It’s a statement that can neither be true nor false.
In Significant Digits was the fact that the Three “[c]onferred in a dialect of Norman French now entirely extinct.” I am unsure as to whether the author confirmed this, but in Orders of Magnitude, I canonized the fact that this language was Auregnais, which is a Norman French dialect of one of the Channel Islands called Alderney. Of particular note is that there is a landmark on Alderney called Marais Hall, and it just so happens that Perenelle’s maiden name is “Du Marais”
Chapter 21. A Million Same
“Threw you the obvious, and you flew with it on your back
A name in your recollection, down among a million same
Difficult not to feel a little bit disappointed and passed over
When I look right through, to see you naked but oblivious”
Drawn from the song “3 Libras”, by A Perfect Circle. The Deathly Hallows were created, in the Orders of Magnitude canon, as devices intended to destroy the anchors of The Twelve. One might say they are the scales of balance, after a fashion.
Additionally, Perenelle is a Libra, and the parallel battles that are laced throughout the chapter involve three instances of her: Perenelle from six centuries in the future, battling against Hermione. And Perenelle of the present, battling against the version of herself from the real-world: Maximilian (nee Maxine) Koschey, AKA Baba Yaga.
“Elijah Solomon”, of course, is a reference to Eliezer Yudkowsky.
The name of Babette’s diary was “Lost”. Also, the name of Babette’s diary was lost.
Another song from the same album as 3 Libras was a song called “Magdalena”, a verse of which went: “So pure, so rare, to witness such an earthly goddess, that I’d sell my soul, ,y self-esteem a dollar at a time, for one chance, one kiss, one taste of you my black madonna”
Time’s up. Let’s do this.
Chapter 22. The Tragedy of Light
My attempt to flesh out and realize “The Tragedy of Light” from the original HPMOR, which of course was a retelling of the anime Death Note. “The Rook” as Ryuk. Light Augurrey as Light Yagami, Neal as Near, Isaac as Aizawa, Monica as Matsuda, McNamee as Mikami. m
The introduction is cribbed from Bertolt Brecht’s “The Caucasian Chalk Circle”, which itself was a play-within-a-play. Brecht’s play was referenced earlier in this book as well.
Nell ran headfirst into Chesterton’s fence.
“He has learned what it means to lose”- one of many bits of foreshadowing that Merlin is, in fact, Harry.
The final scene of The Tragedy of Light is taken almost word for word from the final scene of Death Note. So, uh… spoiler alert?
MATSUDA, YOU IDIOT!
The interaction between Draco and Lucius is also an attempt to flesh out one of the scenes that was only alluded to in the original HPMOR.
The self-burn of “if the author were as clever as his characters, he would be doing impressive things instead of writing about them” is not lost on me.
Chapter 23. Saturn Ascends
“Clutch it like a cornerstone, otherwise it all comes down
Justify denials and grip ’em to the lonesome end
Clutch it like a cornerstone, otherwise it all comes down
Terrified of being wrong, ultimatum prison cell
Saturn ascends. Choose one or ten. Hang on or be humbled again”
The first astrological house is that of Aries, the Ram. The tenth astrological house is that of Capricorn, the Goat. The Goat and the Ram. The left or right hand of God. Choose one or ten.
The last lines of “The Grudge”, from which this chapter derives its title, are “Let go, let go, let go, let go, let go”.
Æsahættr was another name for The Subtle Knife from Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series.
After a fashion, Antioch killed a man with whom he once quarrelled…
The Words of Power And Madness are just the chapter names from Orders of Magnitude. Appropriate for something meant to be the keys to all of prophecy.
“εσχατος εχθρος”: The Last Enemy.
THE ONE WITH THE POWER TO DEFEAT THE DARK LORD:
The prophecy from the original Harry Potter
…STONE IN THE WINDOW MUST BE DESTROYED AGAINST THE ANVI–
HJPEV’s poor pet rock.
…NEW RISE AT THE SOLSTICE IN THE AGE OF THE GOAT–
A reference to Tom Riddle.
…CHOICE FOR ONE MUST BE MADE FOR THE TE–
Choose one or ten.
…TEAR APART THE VERY STARS IN HEAV–
The critical prophecy from Significant Digits.
…STARS SHALL COME BY THE ONE MARKED BY LIGHTNI–
Another prophecy from Significant Digits, but this one originally in Hungarian.
…SOLSTICE AND NONE WILL COME AFTE–
He he cum jokes
…THE DE-ARMED SERVANT SHALL BE FOUND WHEN SHE COME–
Bellatrix, (who has been ‘de-armed’) gets found by the dial in Dumbledore’s office which “counts the number of, let’s call them sneezes, by left-handed witches within the borders of France”. So in other words, more cum jokes.
…REX QUANDAM, REXQUE FUTUR–
The once and future king.
…ONLY BY THIS PATH SHALL THE CRUX SUCCEE–
Lots of choices to be made.
…THE CHOICE TO FOLLOW THE PHOENIX OR SOLVE THE RIDDL–
Like whether you prefer the Follow the Phoenix post-HPMOR mythology or the Significant Digits post-HPMOR mythology.
…LIGHT SHALL PLANT A SEED IN THE DARKNE–
Like Harry supposedly getting Draco pregnant.
…IN A TIME OF GREAT STRIFE WHEN ALL WORLDS NARROW TO–
Lawrence Ludwig Bradwian’s prophecy from Significant Digits.
…DOWN ON THE SERPENTS’ CROWN THE STONE SHAL–
The Crown of Serpents being the device by which Tom Riddle supposedly used to locate the Philosopher’s Stone.
Chapter 24. The Fault in Our Stars
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
Also, the classic angsty teen drama with music by Charlie XCX.
Merlin used the Cup to destroy the Cup.
The True Cross, which can assemble itself into any shape, was ordered to form an impossible shape, and it obliged.
Merlin acknowledged that it was he who was responsible for the destruction of Atlantis, absolving Adnan Nejem of his self-inflicted blame.
The Mirror, which held all of Earth within its purview, was used to destroy Magic.
There are roughly 100 billion people who have ever lived, and also roughly 100 billion stars in the galaxy. A neat little coincidence, I thought.
Chapter 25. Something to Protect: Bellatrix Black
This chapter made me very sad to write. But I was really perturbed by how people seemed to be so excited that Neville killed Bellatrix Black in Significant Digits. So I wanted to do as much as possible to humanize her.
Gilles de Rosier, much like Gilles de Rais, was not a nice man.
Yes, that is what is happening.
The shadowy black cords are also used by Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter movies in Malfoy Manor.
In the Cursed Child, Bella finally got her Delphini.
In Orpheus and the Underworld, Orpheus is given the chance to rescue the one he loves from the clutches of death, all he has to do is simply not turn around and look back. So Bella is determined to learn from his tale; she gives herself completely over to Lord Voldemort, never once looking back.
“Spectacular, spectacular, no words in the vernacular!” from ‘The Pitch’ from Moulin Rouge. Sung of course, to the tune of ‘The French Can Can’, AKA, ‘Infernal Galop’ from Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach. Given Bella’s fondness for the tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, the song is appropriate.
In the first few chapters of HPMOR, Harry proposes the following scenario to McGonnagal: “…as I scrabble frantically in my mokeskin pouch for something that could help her, she looks at me sadly and with her last breath says, ‘Why weren’t you prepared?’ And then she dies, and I know as her eyes close that she won’t ever forgive me -“. Similar to Harry’s usage of the term “crucify”, this is a little remnant of Voldemort creeping out from behind the curtain.
Chapter 26. Will We Die, Just A Little?
This is what Grindelwald says to Newt at the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. In this context, it’s a sort of nod to Harry’s plan for himself and the Professor. When they arrive at the End of Time, utterly destroying their physical bodies and any connection to the World of Magic, will they die, just a little?
In the original ordering of the story, the first half of this chapter was one of the first that I released, and was a standalone chapter. The reveal that Harry was providing the Professor with false hope would only come much later in the story. I tend to prefer that my plot twists be foreshadowed with plot-relevant points from the story. But as I moved to formalize the ordering of the story, it occurred to me that the foreshadowing of this shift was primarily thematic rather than plot-driven. Plus, I didn’t want readers to think that the upshot of the story was going to be that Harry and the Professor beat Heat Death by building an AGI.
I come back to this point of “infinite time doesn’t imply infinite possibilities” multiple times throughout the story, because one of the potential downsides of introducing a time loop as a story device is that it raises pesky questions like, “Well, why doesn’t one of them just try every possibility until one of them works?”
The quote, “Harry had from now until the End of Time” deliberately stylized the capitalization to indicate that it was referring to the place rather than an event. The actual reason behind introducing the “second Box” was to provide a plausible mechanism by which Harry and the Professor could travel 26,000 light years together in a spacecraft without going insane with boredom. Not to mention, I needed some in-universe explanation for how they survived entering a black hole, and I wasn’t content to simply wave my hand and say “Magic!”
Chapter 27. Infernal Galop
Better known as “The French Can Can”, the Infernal Galop is a song from Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld”. As mentioned earlier in the author notes, when I was five years old, I had cancer and had a number of surgeries. Before one of them, my grandmother gave me a little music box, it was a little skeleton that danced the French Can Can. In hindsight, it was a rather morbid gift for a five year old trying to grapple with the concept of mortality, but hey, she meant well. When I went under general anaesthesia for the first time in my life, five-year-old me thought that I was dying. The doctors either didn’t explain what the experience would be like, or I didn’t listen (probably the latter). My vision narrowed to a tunnel of light, and the world around me sort of faded away, and then there was nothing.
Then, the tunnel came back, and the world started to return, and I thought that I was in heaven. That is, until I realized that I was still lying on a hospital bed with a tube shoved up my ass, and then proceeded to vomit.
That experience, and the ones that followed (I had a total of thirteen surgeries between the ages of five and fifteen that required going under), gave me a very deep-seated adversarial relationship with the notion of Death. Perhaps having internalized the Orpheus myth a bit too much, I felt convinced every time that I came back from anaesthesia, that I would be safe, as long as I didn’t look backward, which led to some rather unhealthy attitudes about my own invincibility. This led to a lot of silly, reckless behavior as a teenager, including, at one point, accidentally driving my car off of a bridge (it was a small bridge).
During those dramatic teenage years, I had resolved to fight back, to look back and stare Death in the face and return. And so I did; as my vision started to return, I tried to look back into the darkness, and the darkness obliged, and I started to sink back into oblivion. It was all quite terrifying and I struggled against it. Earlier that year, I had found my mom’s old collection of Harlan Ellison books and comics, including an illustrated version of “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” and I quite distinctly remember thinking that very thought. I was a disembodied consciousness about to die, and I couldn’t do anything about it.
As it so happened, I did have a mouth, and apparently, I did scream. A lot. And used a lot of very creative profanity, supposedly (according to my brother or Dad, I can’t remember which), calling the nurse a “shit fucking cunt” among other colorful invectives. The reason that I was unable to emerge from that torporous oblivion was not because death was engulfing me, but because they loaded me up with a few doses of sedatives because I wouldn’t stop struggling and swearing.
That rather mundane explanation to such a harrowing experience resonated with me on a rational level, but my ever-growing teenage Death complex gladly internalized the notion that I was still fighting, and that I was angrier than ever.
So the moral of this story is, if you happen to become a kindly grandparent one day and ever have the misfortune of having a grandchild with cancer who is about to have a terribly invasive surgery, maybe pick a less metaphorical present than a dancing skeleton.
Oh, and did I mention that every now and then, the music box would randomly turn on in the middle of the night?
This passage is cribbed directly from the play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead”, which quite aptly describes the nature of Harry and the Professor at this point.
This, apparently, is what it would actually look like if one were to enter a black hole.
“It does not do, Harry, to dwell on dreams and forget to live” Both an admonition to those who live in the World of Magic, but also to the readers. Magic isn’t real, science isn’t Magic, and reading about rationality is not the same as living and acting rationally.
I had this speech written in my head from the very beginning. And I had thought that it was a magnum opus of sorts, and that the masses would stand up and applaud upon reading it and rise up, feeling life-affirmed and blah blah blah. When it actually came time to put pen to paper and I was done writing it, in some dim part of my mind, I had expected more. An applause, maybe? Apparently I have not quite shaken off my penchant for the expectation of the dramatic. Nonetheless, this seemed quite Harry-like, so I decided to give Harry similarly lofty expectations (and a similarly anti-climactic response).
Chapter 28. If Only In My Dreams
If we look at the timeline of 1999, it looks something like this:
May 30, 1999: Harry tells Hermione of his intention to leave on a spacecraft
June, 1999: Harry recreates a Box of Orden, places it on the spacecraft, and Box-Harry and Box-Professor begin their journey to the End of Time.
July, 1999: Future Harry emerges from the End of Time and begins the final preparations for ending the World of Magic.
December 25, 1999: The Mirror severs the connection between the world of Magic and the real world.
?: Box-Harry and Box-Professor emerge at the End of Time.
?: Box-Harry departs the End of Time and emerges at July, 1999.
?: Box-Professor departs the End of Time and emerges in the Real World right before the Atlantis Disaster.
The Mirror, at this point, preserves the memories of every living being and every being that has ever died in the World of Magic. It stores these memories in the Line of Merlin, and the last act of Magic in the world is transporting the Line of Merlin into the pocket world created by the Box. When the Professor emerges shortly before the Atlantis Disaster, he carries with him the Line and all of the memories it contains.
In the real world, on Saturday, December 25, 1999, Commander Curt Brown and his crew awoke to Bing Crosby’s “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” as part of the STS-103 mission to repair and service the Hubble telescope. In the story, he reminisces about the fact that almost a decade before, almost a decade before, the primary mirror in the telescope had a miniscule flaw, nearly undetectable in size, almost 1% of the width of a single human hair. The Hubble, much like the Mirror itself, is as Harry said in Chapter 50 of Significant Digits, “High above us… Six hundred kilometers high, so that its field of view encompasses the whole planet.” Or in the Hubble’s case, precisely 547km above us.
Chapter 29. Crab Canon
John made the snap decision to pipe the data from the payload back into the system.
No. Yes, there was noise. There was too much noise. The payload was already constructed. He’d saved the people. He didn’t save the world… And that’s when he saw him. The man who was out of place, out of time… He was old. Old. No one was old anymore. This was his doing. The old man was holding the Line. No, no, no, no, NO. Flight. It was done. No. No time. He didn’t have time. Questions, questions, questions. All the answers would be there eventually. The system was procedurally generating humans as fast as it could churn them out.
And then with all the fury of an exploding star, a new world was born.
And then with all the fury of an exploding star, the old world died.
The system was procedurally generating humas as fast as it could churn them out…. Questions, questions, questions. All the answers would be there, eventually. He didn’t have time. No. No. No time… Flight. It was done… No, no, no, no, NO… The old man was holding The Line… This was his doing… He was old. Old. No one was old anymore… And that’s when he saw him. The man who was out of place, out of time… He’d saved the people. He didn’t save the world. The payload was already constructed. Yes, there was noise. There was too much noise. No.
John made the snap decision. He couldn’t save the world by himself.
Merlin had a choice at that moment, to either try to force his experiment through, destroying the physical bodies of every living being and piping them into his constructed world… or to admit defeat, and end things.
Merlin’s creation, at the end of it all, did one simple thing: it simulated an entire world, an entire universe, to show what would happen if Merlin made the wrong decision. It generated two things as output: firstly, a version of the Merlin’s Line that contained the memories and stories of every living being produced by that simulation. And secondly, a human being of about forty, which is unspeakably old in the eyes of a society where everyone perpetually lives at the peak of physical health.
Ultimately, it seems that Merlin did learn to lose.
Chapter 30: The Day After Tomorrow
This chapter was supposed to be the end, but it seems as though the story was meant to go on. I had written the first pass of the story, with little teasers for each storyline I intended to wrap up. Then I went through and fleshed out the stories. At some point in this process, I had opened a second window of my text editor (but not ever closing out the first one). I finished the story and saved it. I then did a bunch of editing work, wrote up a Reddit post, and went to upload the story. I clicked back into the first window (which still dutifully contained the version from several hours before that was unfinished), clicked “Save” out of habit, and uploaded it, and felt satisfied.
It wasn’t until a few days later that I re-read the final chapter that I realized, to my horror, that it was about half as long as I had written it and it also left out the entire resolution to Perenelle’s story.
Like Bach, I simply cannot stand an unfinished melody, and so the story weighed on me for the better part of four years. I took a break from the story to write The Longest Day, which was an odyssey unto itself, taking almost two years to complete. But upon its completion, I planned to finally wrap up Orders of Magnitude. But then the Coronavirus struck and business and life was turned upside down and it hasn’t been until the last month or so that there’s been some semblance of normalcy to where I could sit down and finally finish things.
So as a Christmas gift to both my readers (all three of you that are left, anyway), I present the rewritten final chapter, along with an epilogue. And as a Christmas gift to myself, I can finally move on from this magical little world.