Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Muggle in King's Cross Station

Image:  Chapel of the Thistle
As I mentioned in my last post, my mind has been on the topic of how environment and location can serve as writing inspiration for speculative fiction. I thought I might have spotted a bit of J.K. Rowling's inspiration when I visited Saint Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh. Here one can find the Chapel of the Thistle, home to the Order of the Thistle. Faded light leaks through stained glass illuminating the intricate carved seats, each of which holds the coat of arms of its current owner. I can see how something like this might influence the overarching mood of the ruling structure of the magical world. It is easy to imagine the High Mugwump in the center seat, while grave conversations of magical import lie heavy in the air. There may also have been inspiration here for the Order of the Phoenix as an "heraldic order" of knights errant.

Our trip from Edinburgh to London ended at King's Cross Station. Pulling in on platform seven meant that looking for platform 9 3/4 was almost an obligation. We certainly love the idea of doors to another world. Walking through a wall, a mirror, or an old wooden wardrobe full of fur coats - it is basically all the same desire to be instantly transported someplace new, amazing, and full of adventures. We are captivated by the idea that it might happen so fast, that it might be just around the corner, if only we knew what to look for.

As it stands, the "entrance" to platform 9 3/4 is actually on platform 8, and is a mural painted on the wall with half a metal cart sticking out. This might be a result of all the construction going on, or the fact that platform 9 can't be reached without a valid ticket. But I was not disappointed - you and I as speculative writers are supposed to be of a strong imaginative bent, right?  And it was great fun to stand in a short line of other fans waiting for their turn to get captured on film, pushing half of an immovable cart against solid cement.

I left thinking this - that speculative fiction is the muggle version of magic. Our imaginations create something that is real for us, alone, and then our pens (or computers) make it real for someone else. The magic is that starting place, where one person sees a wall, and another sees a door. Casting the spell is what comes after, when the second person writes a story that lets that first person see the door, too. Even more magical is that no two readers who choose to walk through that door will end up in the same universe. Our spell books have a power we don't quite understand, ourselves.

Definitely magic.

Image Credit:  snigl3t on Flickr via Creative Commons, CC 2.0.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the reminder. I forgot how magnificent St. Giles Cathedral was.

Amy said...

Well, at least you got to see that painted cart coming out of the wall. I suppose it's more about participating in the cultural and communal experience of the Harry Potter world than actually going to 9 3/4.

JA Grier (ee/em/eir) said...

Kay - Yes, a fantastic cathedral. I hope I can go back sometime and see more of Scotland.

Amy - Good point; that it is part of a cultural and community experience. Harry Potter fans all in a row, having fun with something that otherwise would look pretty pointless. I quite enjoyed it.