American Craftsmen: A Fantasy Techno-Thriller by Tom Doyle

American Craftsmen

American Craftsmen Blog TourAmerican Craftsmen
My debut novel from Tor, American Craftsmen, has been described as a fantasy techno-thriller. Ignoring the escapist elements of both genres, this sounds like a contradiction in terms. Fantasy is associated with magic, supernatural creatures, and a consciousness of the limitations of science and modernity. The techno-thriller is associated with gritty, concrete details of the latest gadgetry, weaponry, and military/intelligence practices; it’s excited by the newest tech and has little room for old-school magic. How did I go about combining these disparate story forms?

First, a quick summary: the craftsmen of American Craftsmen are magician soldiers and psychic spies. Two rival craft soldiers, Captain Dale Morton and Major Michael Endicott, must fight together against a treasonous cabal in the Pentagon’s highest covert ranks. They are armed with both spells and bullets.

Part of how I keep the fantasy elements in line with a “realistic” techno-thriller tone for my novel is by excluding any nonhuman magical entities. I’m as big a fan of a good vampire, werewolf, elf, or troll tale as the next fantasy reader, but some techno-thriller fans will tune out of a story that includes these preternaturally beautiful or grotesque creatures.

Another way that I keep the story tone appropriate for a techno-thriller is how I handle the magic itself. First, rather than contradicting what we know of the world, my magic system largely fits beneath the facts of science and history. Dale describes his spells as skewing the probabilities of events rather than running directly contrary to natural law. Certain uncanny incidents in American history, such as how George Washington’s army was saved at Brooklyn Heights, are almost as well-explained by magic as anything else.

Second, the magic in American Craftsmen has limitations similar to other armaments. It has logistical issues: craftspeople find it easier to recharge their power on home ground. Magic is also like a normal physical ability. A soldier’s craft improves with practice, much the same as her mundane shooting skill. A well-rested and healthy craftsperson will have more power than one who hasn’t slept or is wounded. Craftspeople in all-out combat will exhaust themselves within an hour at most.

Finally, the magic is largely separated from religious and occult belief and practice. Craftspeople come from the full spectrum of belief or non-belief. In terms of language, simple words in the native tongue of the practitioner seem to work best, so long as the mind is properly focused. The only ritual element that sometimes appears is blood, and that only for the direst spells.

On the techno-thriller side, I’ve changed some of the aesthetics and uses of the gadgetry to suit a more fantastic story. The tech that’s hybridized with magical power owes as much to alchemy as conventional science, with brass-colored metal alloys instead of stainless steel. The guns often have “Stonewall” chips that prevent a craft-confused soldier from firing at his own side. But overall, I’ve made most of my adjustments to the fantasy side of the story.

I hope that you’ll find few seams between these combined story elements of magic and technology. Arthur C. Clarke wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” What my characters think, and sometimes worry about, is that any sufficiently advanced magic is also indistinguishable from technology. Indeed, the mundane soldiers on craft missions are told that the bizarre things they may witness are simply secret advanced tech, and no matter how scientifically improbable that may be, those soldiers usually believe it.

By the end of my novel, both characters and readers may wonder what will happen in the future as the powers of technology increase. Should my characters continue to restrain themselves from the exercise of abilities, particularly life extension, that may be available to everyone within a generation? This question will continue to haunt my second book, The Left-Hand Way.

Thanks to for inviting me here. If you like to find out more about American Craftsmen and my other stories, please go to Tom Doyle’s Website.

    About Tom Doyle:

The Internet Review of Science Fiction has hailed TOM DOYLE’s writing as “beautiful & brilliant.” Locus Magazine has called his stories “fascinating,” “transgressive,” “witty,” “moving,” and “intelligent and creepy.” A graduate of the Clarion Writing Workshop, Doyle has won the WSFA Small Press Award and third prize in the Writers of the Future contest.





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