Over on Pinterest, I've been keeping a pin board full of images that inspire and capture the spirit of the Scorched Continent series. With book one, Steal the Sky, coming out January 5th, I plan to explore some of these images here and explain what they mean to the world and the characters which inhabit it.
From my previous post about selium, we know that it's a lighter-than-air gas made up of molecules that are prismatic in appearance. What, then, of the world's magic users - those sel-sensitives who can manipulate selium?
Sel-sensitives are the magic users of the Scorched, but there's no fantastical magical school awaiting their talents. They are, primarily, used for grunt work - moving selium from mines into pipeways from which the raw material can be stored and shunted into the buoyancy sacks attached to airships. Those with refined ability - and political connections - may be able to train as airship captains, or work as diviners sussing out new pockets/mines of selium, but for the most part sel-sensitives on the Scorched work as little more than glorified miners.
But, of course, sel-sensitivity doesn't always manifest in ways appropriate to imperial needs. The backbone principle behind sel-sensitives is simple: they can move selium. The ability doesn't care that Valathea wants those talents standardized. Consider that varying individuals can control a wide range of amounts of selium, at different speeds, and have control on both macro and microscopic scales, and things get complicated.
Doppels, for instance, are still just moving selium around like their miner counterparts - they just happen to be very, very good at it. They can control small amounts of selium without much effort, and adjust the prismatic nature of the selium by reflex to turn it into the colors they desire. But doppels, like all other unique variations of sel-sensitive, are labeled deviant by the empire of Valathea. They must either learn to hide their odd abilities, or else face either imprisonment or death.
The big question currently plaguing the citizens of the Scorched, however, isn't how many variations of deviants there are, it's: where do sensitives come from in the first place? When Valatheans first arrived on the Scorched, they suspected the ability was tied to the bloodline, but after three generations of intermingling with the native Catari population they've yet to discover any meaningful correlation that would imply genetic inheritance. The current rumor is that it has to do with place of conception, and many well-to-do are vacationing back in Valathea to conceive their children as to avoid producing a sensitive of any type, let alone a deviant, but it's too early to say if this correct thinking. Only the Catari have an inkling of the truth, and they're not about to share with their imperial invaders.