When does magic become science?

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  1. unice5656 (Moderator)

    Posted 3 years ago

    On a slightly unrelated note, I found chemistry really easy to learn in high school because I processed it in the same part of my mind that memorized the rules to all the magic systems in all the books I'd read to that point. :P

  2. LadyAnder (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    I wouldn't call what the magic system in any of Brandon Sanderson's novels close to sciences because just because he explains how it works doesn't make it science. It just have more specific rules. That also doesn't make it less magical because it's explained and not mysterious and unknown. That's a bit of a silly notion and a rather limiting definition of the magical. It's kind of like saying that fantasy can only have dragons, a human hero, and an epic war to be stopped or it isn't fantasy.

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  3. Tempest (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    Hard systems, like Sanderson's, are just as magical, but they do lack a great deal of the wonder and mystery that is found in softer works. Sanderson is a good example due to his philosophy on writing magic systems. There is a great deal of the scientific to them as they have hows and whys rather than "Its magic. It just is."

    Personally, I prefer softer, more mysterious systems. Even if they are harder to write well.

  4. Psycho Gecko (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    Funny thing is, Lovecraft seemed to go the other way, where science and magic were similar more because of all the unknown and malevolent stuff in the universe. You'd have monsters that flew to earth in the ether, a race of time-traveling aliens, cultists who try to raise Cthulhu, and a family that uses a magic book to knock up someone's daughter with the spawn of an evil alien monster.

    Science is a way of looking at the world, not a system of beliefs, so it can be applied to a variety of settings. In our world, we have stuff like gravity, evolution, atoms, germs, and so on. In Lovecraft, outer space has ether instead of a vacuum (which was a common belief back then), and all sorts of malevolent monsters and/or aliens that science risked uncovering. In some fantasy settings, you have magic as another force in the world to be explored and explained (and the physicists are rather sensitive about gravity still).

    I can understand people liking the mystery of a less well-explained magic. It's the same for horror, too. The lack of exact knowledge helps to engage a reader's mind and make the possibilities (or fear) seem grander. If it's just something mundane, where magic is harnessed casually by anyone to do something basic like make table salt, that tends to put a damper on it. I think that's part of the reason people tend to go for more fantastical (and grander) superpowers, even if ones like "spontaneous jello creation" would be so much better for a lot of people.

  5. unice5656 (Moderator)

    Posted 3 years ago

    I personally prefer a well-organized, systematic type of magic. "Mysterious" magic can work, but often, I find it leads to there being internal consistencies between the way things works in separate instances of magic, and as soon as there are internal consistencies, it destroys my suspension of belief.

    Also, having systematic magic doesn't stop characters from coming up with brilliantly creative ways to use it; in fact, I find that's when real creativity and genius shines.

  6. Walter (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    I think Sanderson wrote somewhere that you can't resolve your conflicts with magic unless you define it. Like, if you have a well defined magic system then it is 'fair' if the resolution is a wizard's duel. It is no more mysterious than a noir fist fight, or a romance novel sword fight. If you don't, then a wizard's duel is just a revelation-off, too transparently the writer's hands at work.

  7. Tempest (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    "Sanderson’s First Law of Magics: An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic."

    Its how he writes.

  8. Stable (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    I think that's a great point Gecko, Lovecraft didn't need to try and define which of his mysteries were magical or physical, they were all equally wonderful and terrible, and often the more magical revelations were due to scientific enquiry reaching into the wrong place.

    But then if you contrast this with Sanderson, Lovecraft isn't solving problems with his unexplained and unknowable mysteries, he's almost invariably creating problems that humans have to deal with through more mundane means - or just go insane and/or get eaten. I suppose that saves it from being Deus Ex Machina - god isn't fixing anything, he's just collapsing your cities, sending your citizens insane, retreating back to his non-euclidean geometry and leaving you to clean up the mess.

    It all comes down to challenge, doesn't it? If magic can do anything then there is no tension, because why didn't it just fix the problem earlier? So you either need to write limits on your magic or make sure that your protagonists don't have access to that kind of power.

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