I've taken to setting aside some time now and then to write. I don't typically have a particular task in mind when I sit down to do this and so things ramble a bit. But I store the result away by date and went back to look the bits over a couple of days ago.
One of those bits became the start of the screenplay I have 1/3 of a first draft of. Two other parts seem to be converging. One is notes for a novel based around the idea of an impending world-changing magical event set in modern times. The other is notes for a role-playing game or scenario that deals with the way that magic works.
My take on magic is heavily influenced by Ursula K. Le Guin's Earthsea novels. The power of True Names is critical to the magic in those novels. Also influencing these thoughts is the role-playing game Ars Magica, written by my friends Mark Rein•Hagen and Jonathan Tweet. The game is based around a magic system that uses combinations of Latin verbs and nouns to invoke its effects.
So as these ideas converge I'm thinking that magic may have disappeared from the "modern" world a while ago. During Egyptian times, perhaps (and maybe around the Exodus). Right now, it seems a powerful magician did a big ritual in which the True Name of magic, itself, was somehow removed from the knowledge of men. With this removal went all ability to do magic.
Magic's True Name was buried. Locked away and forgotten until dug up in an archaeological dig. It was not paid any attention to by the very rational Victorians and languished in a museum until a few years ago.
Then a researcher stumbled upon it, came up with the correct translation/decoding and spoke Magic's True Name. Magic began to creep back into the world but the rest of the True Names were long since forgotten. Or corrupted in magical practices that have not been truly practiced in centuries.
The first bits of magic that come back in an effective manner are those based on symbolic languages. The Tarot, Feng Shui and I Ching, for example, but also shamanic practices around the world. At first, even the practitioners of these arts don't recognize the difference. Readings are accurate, the ailing are healed; but these things happened all the time anyway, through happenstance. It's only when the level of effectiveness becomes so accurate that it becomes reliable that people start to notice.
At that point, people of all stripes begin to exploit this phenomenon. Some for money or other gain. Some for "good."
One of the characters in the novel that's bouncing around in my head is a business man who, through design and happenstance, owns a number of geomancy-significant buildings or land holdings. He has a terminal illness and is looking for a cure and/or immortality. Once the magic starts to come around, he begins to become aware of what his holdings mean and works to improve his standing with them.
Running counter to him are a group of unconnected individuals that are drawn to this focus of power. At least one of them sees it as a bad thing in and of itself. That the balance of power should not be shifted so strongly in any one direction, no matter the short-term good it might do.