His Unpleasant Profession
Once upon a time, Jonathan Hoag politely watched a Magician spray sparkles out of his wand. “Very pretty,” he said, “but what does it mean?”
The Magician said, “Magic manifests the force of the soul.”
Jonathan Hoag said, “What are magic’s laws and limits? Or is it pure wish?”
“It is power and mana and glory.”
“Then it’s wish. Do your tricks advance the action or substitute for it?”
The Magician frowned. “Know, sirrah, that my spellcasting, with King Thoron’s help, defeated – ”
“ – yes, yes, you defeated the Storm Goblins of Iron Mountain! A most valiant and colorful genocide, that one! Thumbs up, if you like vulgar spectacle!” said Jonathan Hoag. “But two days later, the same gaudy spell failed to fend off the far weaker Hoka of Groll’s Valley! Explain that!”
“It was young Prince Nimrod’s unexpected courage that saved the day. It was his turn to shine. And so – ”
“ – so the rules changed in mid-battle to accommodate one pup!”
Jonathan Hoag frowned. “Sloppy work. Inelegant! This world’s Author has much to learn about good form!”
“O unpleasant skeptic, who are you to judge a God?”
“Given his slapdash work, why shouldn’t I judge?”
“Your lack of faith disturbs me.”
“And your lack of finesse disgusts me!”
The Magician pointed his wand at Jonathan Hoag and intoned “Avra Kadavra!” A few sparkles sputtered forth and flickered out.
Jonathan Hoag smiled. He said, “Excuse me, but was that supposed to be a death spell? Fatal to all who hear it?”
“Yes! Why isn’t it working?”
“If it worked, then how could anyone learn it? Or survive speaking it?”
The Magician threw down his wand and said, “Who are you? What are you? Are you a sorcerer? A demon? A rival God?”
“I am nothing so trivial. I am a Critic.”
“Of what? Tales? Men? Kingdoms?”
“Nothing so trivial. I critique worlds. And as for this one…” Jonathan Hoag shook his head. The Critic said into the air, “O Audience and Publishers, hear my critique! These Magicians are absurd! Their world is simplistic, ill-fashioned, brutal, inept and in bad taste! Its Author needs an Editor! Thumbs down!”
The sun went out and the world crumbled to dust. The End.
Moral: Good taste counts.
Comment: Critical thinking nullifies magic. Skeptical vibes interfere with spellcasting; a powerful meta-magic. This annoys magicians.
This tale is a tribute to my favorite off-beat Robert Heinlein story, “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag”. Hoag is as fantastic a being as any I’ve ever read, but on another level.