Monday, January 15, 2007


Here it is, my all time favorite thing about fantasy books. Magic. I like it in all forms. I love how author's play with the idea and come up with so many variations on the same idea. I love the idea of focusing the will, or saying some special incantation to achieve the desired results. When I was younger, one of my favorite authors was David Eddings. Now that I'm older his style doesn't appeal as much, but I still think he came up with one of the best depictions of magic in his series The Belgariad. He called it "the will and the word." Simple and accurate. In his world there aren't a lot of wizards or sorceresses, but the one's who do exist focus their will and release it with a spoken word. The gathering a releasing of power causes a psychic noise of sorts that only other magic users can hear. The more powerful the person, the louder the noise. Simple huh? But the fact that he came up with a whole theory behind the magic adds so much to the story in my opinion. Mercedes Lackey is another favorite author of mine. She also took the time to explain how magic occurs in her Valdemar series. What I especially like about Lackey is that she explains that there are many ways to be a practitioner of magic. One type of mage draws power from "nodes" that are natural occurring focal points of magical energy. Other types of magic involve invoking demons through the use of various spells and artifacts. I tend to prefer when an author clarifies where magic comes from. As enjoyable as Harry Potter can be, it always strikes me as a bit inconsistent. Anyone, whether born into a wizarding family or not, can be born with the ability to perform magic. Sometimes the wand is needed-- to focus the power I suppose-- and other times all that is needed is a special word. But author J.K. Rowling never really offers us a clear idea of the magic or its boundaries. The movies aren't half bad though. But magic in fantasy runs the gamut. The power has so many sources. It can come internally, from within the magic user, or from any number of outside sources. It can come from harnessing the elements or drawing on magical energy wells that only a magician can feel. Magic is only limited by the author's imagination. More and more authors like Jim Butcher are also bringing magic into the "real" world. Most of the authors that write these kinds of books seem to think that the best fit for magical creature in our world are in the form of vampires and werewolves. Maybe they're right, after all, those creatures come from our own superstitions. Judging from the number of fantasy books out there, I am not alone in my fascination with magic. And why not? The world of magic is full of possibilities and wonder. I don't know about you, but it's my favorite escape from the mundane.


Stewart Sternberg said...

Aleister Crowley once defined magick as the ability of man to impose his will on nature. Of course, one could almost call Global Warming "Magick" by that definition.

Magic in fiction taps into the reader's desire for wish fulfillment, don't you think? For a writer, it's sometimes a literary device that allows for levels of metaphor.

As long as we need God, we'll need magic.

Now, that last statement may spark controversy. But I won't justify it or explain it.

SQT said...

Magic in fiction taps into the reader's desire for wish fulfillment, don't you think?


I think as a writer it gives us freedom to make anything possible. The use of magic also makes magical creatures like dragons seem reasonable.

Speaking of God.. I like it when authors bring various Gods to life in books. Maybe it's an extention of my love of Greek myth, but I love it when God or The God's takes a direct hand in mortal events. That is wish fullfillment in my opinion.

jedimerc said...

Ah, the classic Ravenloft boxed set art :)

Not as much a fan of magic, but we need a little magic in our lives, and thank goodness for novels and role-playing games so we can achieve that wish fulfillment, if only for a little while.

Stewart Sternberg said...

jedi are you a role play gamer? What a shame we don't live near one another. Something tells me we would enjoy one another's company.

DesLily said...

Ohhh SQT .. did you know that I am engaged to Belgarath? lol... I love him! I have a few new books to get thru and then I know it's time for me to re-read that series... again. (not the first reread lol)

Stewert couldn't have said it better.. magic is for wish fulfillment!! Nothing can happen that can't be fixed with magic, so life is good!

SQT said...

I like Belgarath too. I think the Belgariad is really the only series that Eddings has done that holds up. I like the Mallorean at the time, but it's too repetitive to appeal to me now. But if there's anything Eddings did right, it was his creation of Belgarath.

Stewart and Jedimerc
I've never done any role-playing games, not for lack of wanting to, but lack of opportunity. But isn't the use of magic a big part of the whole thing?

Sunflower said...

I like sic-fi too.
They are so creative and inpired.

Welcome back to my Sunflower blog anytime!

Have a nice week.

I will Exercise for Comments!

jedimerc said...

Magic is used a great deal in most rpgs, and of course in the fantasy genre the most. But even some sci fi games use magic, for the Force can be considered magic to those who don't understand it. And any sufficiently advanced technology can be seen as magic :)

Stewart, I've been gaming for about 20 years now... mostly Star Wars and other sci fi rpgs, but I have run and played in a few D & D and other fantasy games... some modern stuff as well.

Stewart Sternberg said...

The most important and most powerful magic used in any role play game is imagination.

ShadowFalcon said...

I'm with you on the magic, even the hint of it will make my buy a book.

I love the different explainations for it from Earthsea, Lord of the Rings, Abhorsen, Magician etc its great to see how different authors appraoch it and leave thier mark.

Asara said...

I love magic. I love how it really can be used to do just about anything. One might find it strange then, that when I RP, I tend to shy away from the magic classes. My first MUD, I was a warrior. Diablo, I was the archer. Even in WoW, I'm a hunter. The most magical thing I can do is shoot arrows that poison, or weaken.. oh, I can heal my pet too. I think it's because of the weakness that can be associated with magic users. They can usually only wear cloth armor, because metal disrupts the energy they use when they cast. So they're "squishy", as the term goes in WoW. I have a character now that's a priest, because I'm trying to get over this aversion to casters. But what really drives me crazy is the time it takes to cast a spell. You can't say to a mob or NPC, hold on one second, don't hit me, I've got something going on here, and you're not going to like what it's going to do to you, but just give me a bit to finish my chanting anyway, will you? They'll keep on hitting you, and unless you've got another spell to make them stop, it jumps back your casting bar, making it take that much longer to actually cast the spell, and in the meantime, you're stuck just standing there with glowy hands, taking damage. I like to run solo, and it makes things take FOREVER when I have to stop and heal and replenish my mana after EVERY fight. I am a worthy ally though, when you can get me in a group. It's just hard for me to get into that mindset of "supporter" rather than stand-alone hero. Guess I'll just have to work at it some more :)

Angela/SciFiChick said...

Growing up, I never read much fantasy other than the Narnia series. I was more into SciFi and mysteries.
But as an adult, I've grown to love a few fantasy series' too.

SQT said...


It's so interesting that you brought up Star Wars and THE FORCE. I thought about that as I was writing this post. It's one of the few sci-fi stories that I can think of that has a mystical, almost magical element to it. And if I remember correctly, wasn't Anakins conception basically an immaculate one? His mother was in essence impregneted by THE FORCE. That's how it seemed to be explained in the movie.

Hey there, Skippy said...

There's always the old Arthur C Clarke quotation: "Any technology sufficiently advanced will appear as magic", which I rather like...

I think the best worked out magic system in current Fantasy literature is the 'channeling' of the 'One Power' in Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series. Sure, the damned things been going on for about fifty-three books too long, now, but that has given him the chance to make the One Power a remarkably coherent system. I also like Katherine Kerr's magic system of 'dweomer' in her "Deverry" books - which shares with Jordan a focus upon the five (rather traditional) elements of fire, air, earth, water, and spirit. Steve Erikson's magic system of 'warrens' in "the Malazan Book of the Fallen" series is very original, but he seems to alter it as his plot demands, which can be disconcerting.

Lord, I could go on about comparative magic systems for a whole post... if SQT will let me!

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

well my charlie can do some pretty cheesy magic tricks but the grandkids seem to like them, me too! sigh.... such fun! bee