It's always interesting to see how urban fantasy authors seamlessly blend the familiar and the supernatural. It makes us wonder what's really going on in the cities we live in. Is the hustle and bustle just a convenient ruse for underground paranormal doings? What's our next-door neighbor really having delivered in all those boxes? Today we've got author Jaye Wells here to tells us what being left-handed — a seemingly innocent characteristic — has to do with her new Prospero's War series, which starts with RT Top Pick! Dirty Magic, out next week.
I don’t know what it is, but I am always drawn to writing about characters who are outliers in some way. For example, in my Sabina Kane series, I used the fact that many cultures view redheads with suspicion and used it to create an entire race of redheaded vampires. I’ve also written about drag queens, changelings, mixed-bloods, people with rare blood types and a whole host of edge-dwellers in my fiction. So I guess it was really no surprise that I would choose to based the entire magical world of my new series on people who are left-handed.
In my new Prospero’s War series, the ability to cook magic potions is tied to the same genetic marker that makes someone left-handed. Thus the easiest way to identify someone as an Adept — someone who can cook magic potions — is to watch which hand is dominant.
Once I had that idea, I began doing research into the history of left-handed people, and what I found is pretty fascinating. Not only have some very interesting people been Lefties, but the prejudice against the left-handed extends to our language and traditions, as well.
Did you know that only between 10 and 12 percent of the world’s population is left-handed? Eight United States presidents have been Lefties: Garfield, Hoover, Truman, Ford, Reagan, Bush the Elder, Clinton and Obama.
Plenty of crooks have also been Lefties, including John Dillinger, Jack the Ripper, the Boston Strangler and Osama bin Laden. But plenty of good people have been Lefties, too: Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Benjamin Franklin.
But what was most fascinating to me was the language surrounding all things left. We have plenty of terms in English that indicate anything left is unnatural or wrong, e.g. “a left-handed wife” is a mistress. In Scotland, an unlucky person was said to have “been baptized by a left-handed priest.”
The prejudices against Lefties can be seen all over the world. For example, in Latin, the word for left was “sinister,” a term that has evolved in English to be associated with evil. The word for right in Latin is “dexter” — the root of words like “dexterous” and “dexterity.” In French, the word for left is “gauche,” which in English is synonymous with clumsy or awkward. However, the word for right is “droit” — the root for “adroit,” which means skillful.
In addition, during the 1600s, moles found on the left side of a woman’s body were consider absolute proof of guilt of witchcraft. In Buddhism, there are two paths: the left, or wrong, way — and the right, which is the path the enlightenment. Greeks and Romans wore rings on their left hands to ward off the evil associated with that side. Pouring wine with the left hand is considered bad luck, and likewise making a toast with the left is considered to be insincere.
As you can see there are plenty of examples of how left-handed people have been labeled as different. It worked out well, then, to make them also be people who are capable of wielding magic. In Kate Prospero’s world it makes Adepts objects of scorn and suspicion — kind of like lefties in real life.
- Jaye Wells
Curious to know more about how left-handedness plays into Jaye's new series? Pick up a copy of Dirty Magic, available January 21. For more supernatural stories visit our Everything Paranormal & Urban Fantasy page.