A Quick Note on Alchemy

‘Honestly, real alchemy is probably more interesting than Fantasy alchemy.’

So, as one might be able to glean that my next story if going to be called The Alchemist of Middlesbrooke (preliminary versions of several related scenes here; expect changes in the published version…), I’ve been reading up on the history of real-life alchemy.

Several flasks of liquid on a pink backdrop.
Wikipedia links don’t embed directly, so that picture and this text are links to the Wikipedia article about Alchemy.

Photo by Alena Shekhovtcova on Pexels.com

And what I’m realising is that in the Fantasy genre in general, “alchemy” is really just shorthand for “chemistry” — incidentally, both words share the same Arabic root and are ultimately derived from a word meaning “the Egyptian science” or “mixing together.”

Real life alchemy, however, has a whole lot of mystical, spiritual, philosophical components that don’t really get reflected in the Fantasy version of alchemy. Like, Fantasy alchemists, mix stuff with other stuff and maybe do a little magic and end up lobbing bombs at the bad guys.

While real-life historical was significant to the development of modern scientific knowledge, historical alchemy was almost a religion to itself and there is a lot of mysticism and a clear Neo-Platonic influence on the understanding of how alchemy worked and what it was trying to achieve.

But, seriously, read up on it. It’s fascinating. Honestly, real alchemy is probably more interesting than Fantasy alchemy. Though, admittedly, probably much less effective…

Now, for the most part, I’m going to be focusing on the “basically chemistry” angle in my own writings, largely because I haven’t worked out very many of the finer metaphysical details of my world.

Stay tuned for The Alchemist of Middlesbrooke to see the end result. And allow me to remind you that The Alchemist of Middlesbrooke will be available for free download when it’s published (and, also, when I figure out the best way to make it available for free…).

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