A Lasting Cure for Magic (Contagious Magic Book 3)
This, I think, is what people decry when they talk about the importance of magic systems. We can not always safely, but frequently reasonably assume that the protagonists will emerge victorious and, if they follow these rules, they will probably do so pretty easily. It is procedural fantasy and I think magic systems are a big part of that. The way I use them is the same way I use every rule: challenge it.
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Wizards not only know where magic comes from, they can explain it, observe it and categorize it as scientific phenomenon. This leads to them applying the same logic to everything they see. But I think the most unsuccessful way to use it is as a guard rail over a steep cliff. This post is perfect, and strikes at the heart of one of one of my great fantasy pet peeves.
For the sake of story, magic obviously has limits. Unlimited magic leads to either instant total destruction, or simplistic solutions to complicated problems. The idea that magic needs to conform to some set of logical rules, laid down like scientific laws, is crazy. The magic, and how it is truly performed, is never fully explained. The magic there is wonderful, and it remains that way because it remains mysterious. What is intended to be mysterious, remains mysterious. Even extremely well. But it is neither necessary nor preferred. And sometimes it really does kind of take the fun out of it to overexplain things.
On the other hand…I kinda like science-magic too, if it works in a story. If you could put the right combination of flowers and ribbons under your pillow and dream of the future, or whatever.
It makes magic smaller, maybe, but that can be cool too. More intimate, more matter-of-fact magic can be just as interesting as the totally wild, huge, unpredictable magic. There should be plenty of room for hard and soft fantasy as well. I personally love stories of both stripes. But go into real world applications, particularly where variables are less controllable, and predictability gets a lot more shaky. I totally agree that historical fiction should be accurate and consistent. Magic, however, is not.
Magic by definition is not based on anything we can measure or readily grasp. So it seems a bit silly to me to insist that it be consistent and explained. I see magic the way I see scenery description; some people prefer more or less. Likewise I imagine there are readers who really really really want lots of detail and near-scientific rigor in their fantasy. I would disagree about magic in Tolkien being used as a solution to the major problems of the story.
In fact they were not solvable by magic. My point is that the genre as a whole insists that only hard fantasy is desirable, and that needs to change. Or God did it , or any variation thereupon. Science is the search. Science does not stop. Magic, on the other hand, by definition is rooted in things that cannot be understood beyond a certain level. Brian F, that Brian Sanderson link was interesting.
A Lasting Cure for Magic: Contagious Magic
And deus ex machina magic just makes the reader angry. His books are so gritty and realistic, but he still maintained a sense of mystery and awe in his presentation of magic. Perhaps fantasy has become saturated with magic that feels a little too easy. I agree about Earthsea — the magic in those books is beautiful and mysterious. When you read a book, you know if the magic feels right for you. I think, in the end, that the magic in a story should reflect the world and feel of that story.
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Some people are more comfortable writing about one kind than another, and there will always be readers for all types! But I think at its heart fantasy is almost always about people problems. Both vague magic and system-based magic can coexist with that, if done well. For another thing, that distinction is a primarily scientific one, and given that my whole point is that we should not treat magic like science, well.
I kinda think that even magic needs at least a minimum of consistency, if only for the sake of the story. If part of that consistency is that the magic is by nature inconsistent, then so be it. Besides that, presumably the story world has had magic-using characters for a while.
Or hedgewitchery v. The Numinous? I have said that in a fantasy novel, the magic must work in that world as surely as gravity does in ours. But how many people in our world understand gravity absolutely? For me, that is already a kind of deep Earth magic. Or be used by it. You have to be an older woman to really get that! I think setting science against magic is a category slip. Whatever the natural law in a fictional universe, people can engage in science, engineering, and technology: Science, to figure out how the universe works, using statistics and the scientific method; engineering, to build custom-designed, one-off things like bridges, factories, or palaces in the sky; technology, to produce multiple girders or computers for unknown future uses.
A fully realistic novel could feature characters confused by a bounced email in one chapter and an internetworking expert in another. With passive natural law on one side and intelligence on the other, scientists will eventually figure out how to look under all the other hoods just to see what keeps working. This has happened in our universe.
I think this can only be prevented if something—gods, aliens, monsters, ancient technology—is actively disabling scientists. For example:. This even works if you do the math in your head. I largely agree. Over explaining or mechanizing magic is usually, well, disenchanting. Later, when it was revealed that it had something to do with the level of space germs or something in the bloodstream, I immediately checked-out, and not just because I was a few decades older.
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It can cause amazing, not-yet explainable effects in nature, but if humans want to use it, there needs to be some kind of consistency so they CAN use it. Similar for the Inheritance Trilogy — gods have a more direct approach to magic, humans need to work through a rigid system. Focusing too much on the mechanics would probably have a similar effect on me as, say, that pages-long aside on the history on the development of FTL travel in the middle of a chase scene had in the last military scifi I gave a try — that is, exasperation and frustration that the story is interrupted for info that belongs into an appendix or RPG manual — though I guess it could be done well, too.
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For me, personally, I think it depends on the type of story one is trying to tell and what one wants the magic to be able to do. For example: is there a school to learn magic? Have you read any of Patricia A. Who am I to say what the Faerie King can and cannot do? The American fantasy publishing genre unlike the British fantasy publishing genre grew along with science fiction and horror out of American pulp magazines. In the s and early s, a large percentage of adult fantasy was written and edited by people who had whet their teeth on the pulps, and who were primarily interested in science fiction.
Throughout the s, we all worked hard to broaden the American fantasy field, including actively seeking out and promoting writers of the more numinous kinds of fantasy. Today, the American fantasy field has plenty of room for both strains of the literature: fantasy-with-rivets and numinous fantasy…along with works that fall somewhere on the spectrum between the two. Instead of arguing back and forth, I just list those works, where magic did not have any real magic system, yet it worked for me.
But it was cool and funny. The same goes for Discworld. Actually, there is not any magic system, but clever people — like Granny Weatherwax — can turn the table with using their brains like headology , not just in the case of magic, but in the case of anything, where preconceptions can apply. Still, when magic appears, it is wonderful. The magic in the works of Neil Gaiman are not explained, either… they are haunting forces beyond mortal ken. But this is what it makes so enchanting, it heightens the vulnerability of the characters for supernatural power.
Yet when for example Morpheus uses his power to reprimand and punish the serial killers, it is freaking awesome. In The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, Bastian can wish anything to come true, but in turn he lose one of his memories — this is the price, and only rule.
If there is a logic behind this magic, is purely metafictional — but TNS is all about metafiction. Do we know, how the magic works in Osten Ard? The information about the Words of Making, Changing and Unmaking is very vague. And I also wish to mention a comic book example — despite I would not live in a world where The Authority reigns, I actually really love the magic of the Doctor, which is just changing things like in a whimsical cartoon. Sometimes he uses magic through associtation… but it is not how his magic works, it is how he uses his magic.