‘We Seek to Know the Needful’

Dale Stromberg on magic, bravery, and the four main characters in ‘Mæj’

Tucker Lieberman
6 min readFeb 13, 2024

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I talked with Dale Stromberg about his stunning debut high fantasy novel, Mæj. You can’t buy it quite yet, but that time will come. You can keep up with Dale seldomly by adding your name to his email list, The Seldom, and that is how you will choose Mæj as part of your fate.

Does mæj (magical energy) exist in our world, at least figuratively?

woman in white dress on a green leafy background with sweeping white clouds
White dress by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Dale Stromberg: If we ask ourselves, are there energies or forces originating in our bodies, energies which can be employed creatively or destructively, or which can even be alienated from us (voluntarily or involuntarily) and transformed into some fungible commodity? — then yes, things exist in our world which could figuratively be thought of as analogous to mæj. Labour? Creativity? Emotion? Life itself?

Whether or not real magic exists is a question on which I am agnostic. As much as I enjoy reading and writing stories about the fantastical, my outlook on the so-called real world is rather mundane. Part of me hopes that magic exists, or wishes that it could.

Did you have a real-life political conflict in mind when you came up with this story?

army raising swords against a bright red fog
War by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

DS: I did not, nor would I have been the right writer to approach such a task. Sadly, the world in which we live furnishes innumerable examples of political conflict, exploitation, apartheid, cruelty, and xenophobic hatred, so that the scenario in this book could probably be seen as a rough parallel to any number of real-world situations.

For me as an author, it makes more sense to approach things that way, taking inspiration from varied tragic sources to create something more ambiguous in its relationship to reality; there are people out there who can write excellent political allegories, but I would never be able to pull off something like that.

To which character do you feel closest?

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Tucker Lieberman

Editor for Prism & Pen. Author of the novel "Most Famous Short Film of All Time." https://tuckerlieberman.com/