I started writing rather idly in 2012 and was lucky enough to be accepted into the Viable Paradise workshop in 2013. I finished a first novel in 2014 and sold my first short story in 2015. Since then I’ve sold around 35 short stories to magazines ranging from Nature to the New Haven Review. That first novel was finally published by a small press in 2019, and now my first novella series is being published by Mirror World, with The Demons of Wall Street in 2020 and the first sequel, The Demons of the Square Mile, coming early in 2021.
The Demons of Wall Street started as a short story written for a Codex writing competition in 2017. I loved the characters and setting, but the plot was a bit iffy, so I took the opportunity to rewrite it into a novella for yet another Codex contest. Codex is a highly recommended online community of neopro SF and fantasy writers. Among their other benefits, they run a number of writing competitions every year. These competitions serve as admirable sources of writing prompts and deadlines. Highly rated stories almost always sell, and a significant percentage of my professional sales have come from competition stories. Codex membership requires either attendance at one of a few genre workshops such as Clarion or Viable Paradise, or a publication in one of a dozen or so leading genre magazines.
Anyway, The Demons of Wall Street was too long for the magazines, so I had to either self-publish or look for a small press. I soon found Mirror World and was fortunate to receive a quick acceptance in 2019. At about that time my first novel publication was being utterly botched by an incompetent publisher, so I was delighted to find in Mirror World a combination of production and editing competence that I strongly recommend to anyone else looking for a small press publisher.
Diving more deeply into the origins of the novella, I’ve always enjoyed the secret-world-of-magic brand of urban fantasy, which I think may have its origins in James Gunn’s novel The Magicians, published in 1976. At around this time, I’d been reading about the origins of sorcery in the steganographic writings of the renaissance. Several grimoires, most notably Steganographia by Johannes Trithemius, used sorcery as a cover for works of mathematical cryptography. During this period merchant houses and the first banks needed to communicate private messages using highly insecure paper correspondence.
My idea was to turn this notion on its head. Suppose that the ostensible magical purpose of these books was in fact the real one. Suppose that the nature of magic was essentially mathematical, and that through some combination of mental gymnastics and mathematical/geometrical formulations it was in fact possible to summon demons and spirits. Of course, anyone might want such power, but these period books of ciphers are associated with commerce and finance. And if you read through the lists of special powers possessed by the various demon lords, a high percentage of those not connected to sex have to do with uncovering secrets, increasing wealth, and finding treasures. So if magic actually worked and the finance industry was keeping it secret today, what would they use their summoned demons for? Why as analysts, of course. Uncovering secrets and finding hidden treasure, that’s really just revealing the occult secrets of the market, isn’t it?
And so a world was born in which all the world’s investment banks along with leading hedge and capital firms employ cadres of demons summoned into enchanted slavery. Naturally some oversight body would be necessary to prevent the secrets of sorcery and demons from escaping into the general public awareness, and thus the Commission came into existence. Nora Simeon herself came about from my general desire to write a Thin-Man-style Nick-and-Nora-esque series in which the two leads are established lovers and friends, but I wound up using this first novel to start Nora as an unhappy loner before she finally hooks up with the charming and mysterious Eyre. Not that Nora and Eyre won’t ever have any problems, but now that they’re together, they’re definitely going to stay that way. So happily-ever-after, as far as that goes….
Laurence Raphael Brothers is a writer and a technologist. He has published over 25 short stories in such magazines as Nature, the New Haven Review, PodCastle, and Galaxy’s Edge. His WWI-era historical fantasy novel Twilight Patrol was just released by Alban Lake.