Dear readers, tonight with us is a man known by many — usually unflattering — nicknames. He’s here to tell us about trading mystical goods and services, about meeting mermaids in San Francisco, Midwestern leprechauns, Icelandic dwarves and the girl of his dreams, who happens to be a cultist.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
I was born right here in the U.S. I had friends who would tease me and call our house a mansion, but it wasn’t really. No servants or anything like that. We’d traveled for vacations, which was always fun, and helped prepare me for all the travelling I ended up doing. My dad was always getting my sister and me ready to work for the family business. Looking back, I’d say I really “grew up” during my adventures after my 23rd birthday, which is where the book I wrote begins.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
I always loved Transformers. I had a vintage “Soundwave”, he was the one that turned from a robot into a microcassette recorder and had the cassettes that also transformed! When I was eight, some nymphs who my dad was doing business with gave me a magic sword, but my parents took it away from me when they caught me cutting a boulder in two in our backyard. I was angry at the time, but they were totally right – that was no toy for an eight year old to be playing with. It’s like in that old Christmas Story movie when everyone is telling him he’s going shoot out his eye. “You’re going to chop off your own leg, kid” is what I’d say to an eight year old with a magic sword today.
What do you do now?
Busy setting up deals and trying to build my business. My expectation was that running my own shop would give me tons of freedom, but it’s just been putting out one fire after another. Just arranging the fair dealing guidelines with the demons has been almost impossible. Things with the dwarves have been going smoothly, but it’s obviously very time consuming. Financing the vampire hunters has probably been the easiest project, but smoothing over the strong personalities is a bit of a pain in the ass. I haven’t been having nightmares about the mermaids since we started dealing with one another over Zoom, so that’s been a big improvement with them.
What can you tell us about your latest adventure?
I saved reality as we know it and no one gives me the slightest bit of credit for it. I wasn’t expecting parades or anything, but my father was more proud about the deal with the dwarves. Your blog has been the first press I’ve gotten! No other interviews!!! It’s as bad as people ignoring information about the supernatural, except even supernatural beings themselves act awkward and change the subject whenever I bring up saving reality.
My big advice to anyone on a quest to save reality is: Do it. If reality needs saving, you gotta do it. But don’t expect any accolades at the end.
What did you first think when you met the cultists?
I was worried about making a good first impression, of course. They were Sheena’s family, so I wanted them to like me. There were so many of them, it was hard to get to know any of them individually. Her dad Hank is a really good guy.
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
Definitely the mermaids. I got through all my adventures without any violence, but the mermaids were the most dangerous part. I probably should have been more frightened of the angel than I was, but it’s the mermaids that gave me nightmares.
What is the worst thing about trading with the supernatural?
I’d actually be hard pressed to come up with anything bad about it. I love it! It’s always different, you’re always learning, and meeting new creatures and people. I’m only human, of course – I don’t like it when something gets angry or aggressive with me, but I’ve found that’s usually a misunderstanding and if you can stay calm, they’ll usually calm down too.
What is the best thing about it?
When you figure out what someone wants and a deal that will work, it just feels amazing. They’re happy, you’re happy, everyone is happy. It’s the best magic there is. For example, the Lincoln, Illinois leprechaun who I did a deal with has gotten a steady stream of treasures, my friends in town who are putting out the treasures for him get a steady stream of good luck into their lives, and I get a share of it too. Everyone is better off!
Tell us a little about your friends.
It’s always great to catch up with old friends, and I was glad that I got to reconnect with my college friends Umar and Shannon. Umar is living the life that could have been mine, working for his mom at the family business. I was shocked that Shannon had become a vampire hunter (never would have guessed that’s what she’d do), but that turned out to be a stroke of luck for me that I knew someone who could introduce me to the professor she worked for.
Any romantic involvement?
I want to say yes, but it always gets me in trouble. If you end up reading this Sheena, be as irritated as you want, but you know it’s yes.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
Hatred is somewhat childish, you know? Everyone I met caused me some trouble, but ultimately helped me. I hate the impact vampirism has, but I don’t blame any of the victims. I hate how dangerous the elder gods were, but it’s pointless to hate them personally. I would take great efforts to avoid dealing with a dragon, but I don’t hate them.
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
Coffee, blue, and board games. My college buddy Umar has been getting me into his latest business venture, which is basically live action role playing, but with some illusions to make it seem more real. That’s been fun.
What does the future hold for you?
My sister is coming up on her 23rd birthday, so I’m excited to see how that shapes up for her. She’s told me that she isn’t the egomaniac I am, so she won’t try to squeeze a book out of her coming-of-age. I wish she would, I’d like to read it!
With running my own business, I’m at a cross-roads about how I want to develop it. My dad was always more focused on the contacts he already had, like the leprechauns, the nymphs, the demons and the minotaurs. When we were trying to establish trade with the air elementals, it was very unusual for us. My dad always avoided dragons, mermaids, angels, dwarves and other groups he wasn’t familiar with. I wouldn’t touch a dragon with a ten mile pole, but dealing with the mermaids helped me at a time when I really needed it. I did really good deals with the angel, the dwarves and the vampire hunters. My deal with the cultists helped me as much as anybody else.
I suppose I’ve really seen the benefit of working out deals with groups you haven’t dealt with before. There’s always challenges, but there are big benefits too. I suspect the future holds more of that.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
I still worry about how the angel changed me. Everyone I’ve asked says that I seem just like I’ve always been, but after everything with the elder gods you know what that’s worth. He made me 5 offers and I completed 3 of them. Where does that fall between Zeno of Citium and Ghengis Khan? Whatever the cost, it was obviously worth it. But is losing myself a price that I’m supposed to happily pay?
John Champaign grew up in Northern Ontario, Canada. He’s worked as a software developer and computer science professor and lives with his beloved wife, frequently moving.
You can meet the Merchant Magician on his eponymous novel.
Join us next week to hear from a character out of a Jane Austen novel, who found a second life. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.