Welcome. Who are you?
Michael Chang. I run a spiritual consultancy service. That’s legalese for ‘professional magician’. Think of me as the guy who solves problems that can’t be solved so easily. If you have a stalker, I can make him go away. If you’re struggling to make an important decision, I can read your situation and help you decide. And if someone you know has been possessed by a demon, call me and I’ll send it back to whatever hole it crawled out of.
Where do you live?
I live by myself in a studio apartment in Toa Payoh, the Republic of Singapore. Most Singaporeans live in flats with their families, what Americans would call ‘apartment blocks’. The government encourages this through tax breaks and propaganda, and it’s pretty expensive living on your own over here. But I have to. Need to. Only way for me to develop my skills and stay sane – and to prevent my enemies from causing collateral damage if they attack me at home.
What is your problem in the story?
In Eventual Revolutions, Anna Tan ran away from home. Her parents want me to bring her back. It’s supposed to be an easy job: cast a couple of spells that would re-arrange the universe and influence her to come home. But the demon who ‘encouraged’ her to leave home took offence. So do the gangsters who are holding her. And, along the way, I need to keep my cool, remain calm even though the clients resemble my parents so much it’s not funny.
Do you have a problem that wasn’t mentioned in the story?
Yeah. In my line of work, sometimes you make powerful enemies. Some of them aren’t human. Sometimes, you have to make difficult choices, and attract the wrong kind of attention. It’s bad karma all around. At some point, it’s gonna come around and sneak up on me with a knife in some dark alley. It’s inevitable. You can’t run from karma. So I’ll be preparing for that moment. This is why I need to be so careful in the story, why I need to study violence and magic, why I need to stay away from the law and violence lifestylers. Maybe it’ll reduce the karma coming my way, turn it from a runaway train to a sledgehammer. Or maybe not.
Do you embrace conflict?
It depends. Conflict is transformative. It is the furnace that forges steel from the soul. And to get things done, sometimes you have to put yourself in conflict with others. In my spiritual journey, I embrace conflict when it comes to me, when it serves a purpose. But I don’t drag it out any longer than I have to – I go into conflicts with a view to solving them, be it an obstructive bureaucrat, annoying demon, or criminal hunting someone down. I don’t start conflicts when I don’t have to. I don’t go around being rude, hunting demons for fun or provoking really powerful beings without good reason, and I sure as hell won’t walk into conflicts that are suicidal. Or just plain stupid. Sometimes it’s just not worth it.
How do you see yourself?
I’m a human looking for a quantum of truth in a messy, complicated world. And who is sometimes called upon to do some things most people can’t.
How do your friends see you?
I’ve got very few friends. They told me that they think I’m a complex, intelligent man who can be counted on to get things done and who demands the best of people. Also, a jaded man with many emotional issues, who lacks social skills, who has a penchant for violence. The kind of guy who might, someday, eat a knife in the back, or worse. The kind of guy who might change the world. Maybe both.
How do your enemies see you?
I don’t have very many enemies. I try to neutralise them as quickly as I can. I think they think of me as a smart, dangerous and ruthless person who will destroy them if they cross me. Usually they see me assaulting them or negotiating with them. If they see me at all.
Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?
I’d say so. He and I talk often. Compare notes. Helps that we think in similar ways.
What are your achievements?
Every time I complete a job, that’s an achievement. Every time I stop a predator from harming someone, that’s an achievement. Every time I finish a dangerous job safe and sane, that’s an achievement. Every time my work becomes one step closer to fiction, that’s an achievement.
Do you have any skills?
Magic, obviously. I’m not talking about Hollywood magic – I’m talking about magic that lets you change the universe to your will, act subtly yet powerfully on the fabric of reality. I’ve been studying the use of magic ever since the day I was cognisant of its existence. I’m a general purpose magician – I’ve studied healing, divination, cleansing, protection, destruction, enchantment…all kinds of useful stuff. But my talents seem to run towards divination and protection…and, arguably, destruction. And, well, talking to the gods too.
I’ve also studied violence. Since I was a boy, I looked into the employment of violence in all its forms. For entertainment, self-discovery, sport, self-defence, offence. To enhance social standing, to get what you want, to utterly destroy somebody. Much of what I know is self-taught – I could never afford formal martial arts training. My arsenal of techniques is actually very limited – it’s a patchwork of techniques from all kinds of martial arts, backed by knowledge of body mechanics. It’s closer to a set of combatives and tactics than any formal art. I’m not gonna win any competitions. But what I do know has seen me through many difficult situations. That’s good enough for me.
Do you have money troubles?
Yes, unfortunately. Singapore is the eighth most expensive city in the world to live in, and there’s very little demand for magical services in the First World. The majority of my actual income comes from my day job as a freelance writer, followed by various divination services. What I do earn is just barely enough to pay the bills. In a good month.
What do you believe?
I believe that reality is way more complicated than the claims of priests, scientists and ideologues. I’ve done things that should have broken the laws of science. I’ve seen things that defy religion and non-religion. I’ve experienced things that too many people say are impossible. I believe that if we are ever going to understand reality, we need to set aside every preconception, truly study the world for what it is, and base interpretations on that study.
What makes you happy?
When I complete something difficult. When a work of magic goes off perfectly. When I have a chance to appreciate the finer things in life. Good music, good food, good people. When I prevent somebody or something from harming others, preferably without violence. When I get a glimpse behind the veil and see something truly divine.
What are you afraid of?
That I’ve screwed up somewhere, somehow, and innocent people are going to suffer for it. Or that someone or something somewhere is coming for me and I won’t see it coming until it’s too late. There’s a lot I can’t see. And what you don’t know can kill you.
What makes you angry?
Lots of things. The whole gamut of human failures. Closed-mindedness. Hypocrites. People who cling to their beliefs instead of seeing reality. People who blindly follow tradition, just because it’s tradition. Unnecessary violence. People who, when given a chance to transcend their failures and weaknesses, choose instead to define themselves by them. Beings who harm innocents, or use them for their own ends without informed consent. Bad logic. People who prey on others.
What makes you sad?
People who squander their potential. People who make bad choices when they know better. People who close their eyes when faced with the truth. Victimisation by predators, tyrants and societies.
What do you regret?
Lots of things. Not learning social skills when I was younger. Not learning how to fit in until later in life. Not making more friends whenever I had the chance. Choosing violence when there was a better way. Failing to avoid the use of violence. Sometimes I wonder if this magic business is worth it.
Are you honorable?
I set myself a code of behaviour, and I live my life by it. If people think of me as honourable, well, I’m not going to stop them.
How do you envision your future?
Meh. I’ll probably continue to be the self-taught occult detective-cum-warrior poet-cum-mystic seeker Benjamin Cheah wants me to be. He tells me he’s got 4 more stories about me in the works. Along the way, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be inching this much closer to the truth and a greater understanding of what it means to be human.
Where can we find out more about you?
Eventual Revolutions can be found at the following sites:
Benjamin Cheah’s ebook store (preferred): http://benjamincheah.wordpress.com/ebook-store/
Click here for an interview with: Benjamin Cheah, author of Eventual Revolutions