Pictured here is me on my graduation day from the University of Connecticut. It had been a miserable, freezing raining day in May 2019, and as you can see by the date, I just barely missed the COVID pandemic. But, hey, I graduated, and with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Hasn’t gotten me very far given the state of things, but that’s a whinefest for another time.
We’re here to talk about something far more interesting – magical academia. Most people think of a series-which-will-not-be-named-due-to-its-horrible-bigot-author (see a video on this), but magical schools are far more than said series. Something I notice a lot of, however, is that they take place in high school, where many people say they have miserable memories. It makes sense to place it in that setting, given the target audience of young adult, but I really want to see the rise of the new adult genre.
I want to see more magic in colleges. I’m not interested in writing for kids myself, perhaps someday, but for now, my target audience is adults. I want to explore darker themes and topics, going into explicit detail with gore and intimacy. There’s themes like BDSM & consent that I want to cover, which I would not be comfortable doing so (personally) in a YA sphere. Plus… college can be made into something, well, magical.
My college experience was alright, and I enjoyed it. I’m very shy, not social, so I didn’t end up making friends, nor did I go to clubs. It’s something I somewhat regret, but I do love the setting. Walking around on campus and seeing the busy people rushing past to get to classes was fun. I had a sense of purpose then, I felt like, and a much brighter future, because I thought I’d end up getting a job I loved after college. I woke up from that dream, sadly, but that doesn’t mean college has to be any less magical than it felt.
The college setting is a great place for magical academia, because classes can be morphed to teach about magic itself or mythical creatures that might exist in your setting. Plus, the college party trope is super fun to play around with, especially if some of the toxic elements are gutted from it a bit more. I know of a series that had sort of a college feel to it, The Magicians, that I enjoyed up until a point where I fell off for various reasons (in other words, heavy frustration). But, like I said with the other subject, that’s a rant for another day. The point is, the setting itself was extremely appealing.
That’s why I chose that for a book in my series, Cobratongue University: Professors & Kings. It’s coming out on October 9, 2021, and takes place in a college I modeled after the one I went to, University of Connecticut. I even looked up pictures to describe some scenes! Here’s an example:
The Beanery was a café I went to quite often when in college, like when I arrived on campus and wanted a pastry to eat, or was swapping classes and needed something to fill my belly. In my book, a vampire known as Jasper meets Professor Luna for a tour of campus! Here’s how I described that scene:
Utilizing various building and landmark descriptors helped me build the world I wanted to, turning my college experience into, well, a magical one. Buildings obviously aren’t the only draw, as I tried to also capture what some classes would feel like with very eccentric teachers indeed. Now, my book is in a dystopic setting, so there’s many dark scenes to accompany the more lighter, college-y scenes. But I feel like fantasy authors can greatly vary from dark to light, which is the beauty of creativity.
This is a setting I really hope picks up. I write what I want to read, so I’d be delighted to see magical colleges taking off more, and would read quite a few of them. MAJOR bonus if everyone can learn the magic should they put the work in, of course, as I’m not a fan of ‘only certain people can learn magic’.
Hopefully this article gave some insight to my thoughts, and possibly inspires some fantasy authors to consider the setting! I’d love to explore more adult themes and lessons, but in a learning environment, and college is the perfect place for it. Not to mention, there isn’t an age limit, as any age group can attend college!
If you’re interested in the college I wrote, give my book a look here!