PDA

View Full Version : magic vs. reality



sunandshadow
09-11-2005, 02:55 AM
Maybe this is a silly question, but does writing about a universe where magic works while believing that magic doesn't exist in reality bother anyone besides me? It makes me uncomfortable to think that my storyworld and all the plot events which depend on magic are a 'lie', meaning that they are provably inconsistant with reality.

Richard
09-11-2005, 03:01 AM
No. If fantasy was provably consistent with reality, it wouldn't be fantasy any more.

ANNIE
09-11-2005, 03:12 AM
Who says Magic doesn't exist?:Jaw:

Saanen
09-11-2005, 03:18 AM
Maybe this is a silly question, but does writing about a universe where magic works while believing that magic doesn't exist in reality bother anyone besides me? It makes me uncomfortable to think that my storyworld and all the plot events which depend on magic are a 'lie', meaning that they are provably inconsistant with reality.

But all fiction is technically a lie. The things we write about never happened; if they did, we wouldn't be writing fiction. I don't really see a difference between a modern novel writer who writes about movie stars who don't get along and a fantasy writer who writes about wizards who don't get along. None of it happened; whether or not it could happen isn't really relevant.

Now, if I were reading a nonfiction book and suddenly the characters started working magic (I mean with results attributed to the magic and not to coincidence or some other normal process) I'd be disgusted and put the book down forever. But I have no problem reading a fiction book where impossible things happen, as long as they're presented in a realistic way. Book reality is different from, er, real reality.

preyer
09-11-2005, 03:43 AM
no, it's not a lie because the reader knows, by very definition of the genre, it's 'fantasy.' you're not trying to decieve anyone against their will. where's the lie? if i told you staring at the mona lisa caused cancer, you wouldn't believe me, eh? i hope not, at least. if that was my story and you *wanted* to believe for the sake of entertainment or whatever, you'd accept the 'lie' for as long as the story lasted. you certainly wouldn't start a crusade against the louvre.

fantasy and sci-fi are just a setting to explore a character or situation that exists in real life. if you wanted to excercise a theme, you could do it practically in any genre you want, right? if you've done your job well, the 'reality' is there despite what dressing you put on it. stripped of the fantasy or science, there's reality, wouldn't you say?

i don't think it's absolutely imperative that you know and the reader has to realize that, say, a dragon has a philosophic symbology in our culture (as it's got one in the eastern culture). so does a camaro or ripped jeans. it could help if you're trying to get a point across. if not, then it's just entertainment and you hope you get the right combination. if not, you wind up with 'willow,' if so, 'star wars,' which are pretty comparable movies in their basic elements, eh? or it's more likely i'm exhausted after a long day and have no clue what i'm rambling about.

is it really magick that's the issue? on the surface, perhaps. deeper, though, and you can supplant that dragon with a mustang GT convertible, orcs with corrupt cops, the wize wizard with grandpa and the ultimate evil with the CEO high in his corporate headquarters. with fantasy and sci-fi, certain things are fascillitated easier than others, but i wonder what 'spell' can't be accomplished in 'reality' given a fair exchange of objects and characters from fantasy to real life.

so, no, since fiction is a shared lie, there's no need to feel like you're cheating anyone. i guess 'magick' is a different symptom of the same disease, but it's a disease the patient pays to have. the option is to quite fantasy, turn your back on magick, and write fiction set in contempary times and dress your 'truths' in a different pair of panties until there comes a time to start questioning even the world in that genre, too. i mean, the landmarks and correct placement of mail boxes manhattan doesn't make the world any more real, just 'correct.' the reality exists in telling a story about humans, doesn't make a difference if they're hobbits, ghosts or robots, does it?

PattiTheWicked
09-11-2005, 03:46 AM
Maybe this is a silly question, but does writing about a universe where magic works while believing that magic doesn't exist in reality bother anyone besides me? It makes me uncomfortable to think that my storyworld and all the plot events which depend on magic are a 'lie', meaning that they are provably inconsistant with reality.

On the other hand, people like me are baffled by what your question is, because I know magic exists.

Richard
09-11-2005, 03:52 AM
Million dollars up for grabs if you can prove it. Much easier than writing.

PattiTheWicked
09-11-2005, 03:55 AM
Million dollars up for grabs if you can prove it. Much easier than writing.

If I could prove it, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, it's one of those things I know in the sense that "I just know." You know, like some people say "I know god exists" or others say "I know so-and-so loves me." It just is. I've seen it in action, but it would be easy for naysayers to chalk the results up to happy coincidence.

Too bad, tho. I could use a million bucks.

Richard
09-11-2005, 03:58 AM
If I could prove it, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, it's one of those things I know in the sense that "I just know." You know, like some people say "I know god exists" or others say "I know so-and-so loves me." It just is. I've seen it in action, but it would be easy for naysayers to chalk the results up to happy coincidence.

Yep. Doing so right now in fact.

sunandshadow
09-11-2005, 05:56 AM
if you wanted to excercise a theme, you could do it practically in any genre you want, right? if you've done your job well, the 'reality' is there despite what dressing you put on it. stripped of the fantasy or science, there's reality, wouldn't you say?

This gets at my point. I do believe that any them can be done in any genre by just switching the tropes around - cowboys are samurai are paladins are space navy officers. But in the case of magic, we're talking about the very nature of the universe. If I believe that the real universe is mechanistic and there is no cosmic justice or destiny, but I create a fantasy universe where the universe is sympathetic to the human mind and things happen if people wish hard enough, aren't whatever lessons my fantasy story is teaching going to be wholly inapplicable to the real world?

All fiction is technically a lie, but it's supposed to have a core of truth that speaks to human existence...

veinglory
09-11-2005, 06:31 AM
I am a strict behaviourist and materialist. I don't even believe in minds or souls. I write magic because I enjoy it. I also write about good people getting everything they want by being virtuous, destined lovers meeting and science reversing all the damage weve done to the planet. It's fiction, the world can be anyway I want it to be. That's part of the fun. I don't happen to believe in magic but I sure as hell would like it to exist and writing lets me spend some time in that world and take a few passengers along for the ride.

veinglory
09-11-2005, 06:33 AM
p.s. I thik the desire for magic is one of those truths.

Saanen
09-11-2005, 07:32 AM
All fiction is technically a lie, but it's supposed to have a core of truth that speaks to human existence...

That's not the magic, that's the characters. The real reason anyone picks up a book isn't to see how the author designed his or her magic system, it's to see what happens to the people in the story. All the rest is just decoration.

Pthom
09-11-2005, 09:33 AM
Is there some rule, written or unwritten, that says stories pigeonholed into the genre fantasy must contain magic? Or that science fiction not contain any?

I just finished reading Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town, (http://craphound.com/someone/) Cory Doctorow's latest. Splashed on the cover, superimposed over a Star Trek communicator badge-like swoosh are the words Sci Fi. The publisher (of the copy I read; Doctorow makes the text of the novel available free) is Tor. Although I generally trust Tor's judgement regarding the distinction between science fiction and fantasy, I'm not sure they hit it correctly in describing this book. There is little hard science--what there is deals with computer networks--and much that might be considered magical, if not downright magic--the protagonists mother is a washing machine, one of the characters has wings. I dunno. It took me a couple days to get a quarter of the way into the book, and a day and a half to finish it. Whatever the genre of the book, I liked it.

P.S. Now if I'd only read all of the link I included above: there, Cory Doctorow explains his idea of the book's genre: "... I've been calling it a techie contemporary fantasy -- contemporary fantasy being the label commonly applied to magic realist fiction when written by North American popular authors..."

Ivonia
09-11-2005, 01:13 PM
I'm by no means an expert, but here's my advice if you want it.

Don't worry too much about throwing magic into your world. Just be sure it's consistent. For example, if a wizard in your story only knows fire spells, don't have him somehow cast an ice spell at a fire monster he meets later on, unless you've established that he can also cast ice spells moderately. Otherwise people will get confused, and then will question "how did he cast an ice spell?

I find this website to be extremely helpful. Maybe it'll help you out as well:

http://www.watt-evans.com/lawsoffantasy.html

Again, be consistent, and people may not even realize it. The main trick (according to the website) is that you'll want to have "rules" and boundaries for your magic system. Otherwise, what's to stop the hero from just casting a spell that turns all of his foes into bugs, where he can then just squish them (you could do it, but it would be a very boring story). Have your magic system complement the story, not be an excuse for an easy way out of a battle. If you give your hero too many powers, the story will be less interesting overall (unless he can't use them all the time either, which would make it more interesting. But again, point that out ahead of time, so the hero can only cast his invulnerability spell when there's a full moon or something).



Going to an extreme here (but hopefully it helps make more sense of what I'm trying to say), but for example, look at the movie Matrix Reloaded (I know, it's not "magic", but for the sake of this thread, let's say it is). In it, the main character Neo, can fly without trouble. Then he gets into a fight with the Smith agent, and there's a cool fight scene where he fights like a hundred of them (they do show how he makes copies of himself at least), all looking exactly like Smith. Neo's kicking butt, so Smith decides to "zerg" him with more copies ("zerg" meaning rush him with a lot of numbers. It's a popular term with gamers, and taken from StarCraft in case you're wondering, where the species known as zerg simply throw huge numbers to defeat their foes. I thought it's a funny but appropiate word to use here).

When Neo realizes it's pointless to fight, he just flies off. While it is an interesting fight scene to watch, if Neo can fly, why didn't he just do it at the start of the fight? Would've saved a lot of time (and money, so that they didn't have to paste Smith's face all over those extras hehe), and it didn't work very well for me (what I would've done is have those smiths be destroyable, and as Neo's kicking their butts, one of them realizes that it's pointless to fight, and runs off, knowing that they need to gather a larger force to subdue Neo, instead of just throwing more and more bodies at him like in a video game with infinite spawning enemies hehe. That would've certainly explained why everyone's a smith by the end of the third movie. Alternatively, I wouldn't of given Neo the ability to fly till later in the movie, and he has to escape a hundred smiths chasing him with his wits rather than just flying away).

Diana Hignutt
09-11-2005, 03:56 PM
We live in a universe built out of probability at its most basic levels. We live in a universe governed by the Heisenberg Uncertainty principle and the laws of quantum mechanics. We live in a universe where it is impossible to disprove anything absolutely. Why not believe in magic?

Belief in magic offers one participation in a universe of endless possibilities...disbelief offers one a universe of strict cause and effect where one has no control over anything. Why not believe in magic?

To me the universe is such a magical place ... I see magic everywhere ...

Who here can disprove the existence of magic?

Why not believe in magic?

In storytelling you can use magic without believing in it and without your audience believing in it -- it's called suspension of disbelief. It's not a lie. Go for it.

diana

Saanen
09-11-2005, 04:33 PM
I believe at the level you're speaking of, Diana, it's less a belief in magic than a semantics argument. I agree with many things you say, but I don't believe in magic. Call it something else and I would have no problem with it, I think.

loquax
09-11-2005, 04:56 PM
I believe in Superman.

Perks
09-11-2005, 06:24 PM
All fiction is technically a lie, but it's supposed to have a core of truth that speaks to human existence...

I think that readers to look to fiction, especially of the more fantastical or darker variety, to map their own reactions to places they will never go. And by 'places' I mean locations, but more importantly, corners of their own minds. Some people are wired with a greater curiousity to explore "what if" and if they are not inclined to, or particularly competent at, drawing up their own scenarios then they pay us to do it for them!

I think fiction is less a lie than a key to a locked door. The story, the key and the locked door are all constructs that we've made up to diagram our internal experience. I see no need to defend these mental expeditions.

So conjure away!

preyer
09-11-2005, 09:20 PM
if i'm not mistaken, the issue is that since magick in it's non-esoteric sense (i.e. not 'look at the magick of that sunrise!') doesn't exist, then the universal truths, for lack of a better term, can't be real b/c the laws of that universe isn't real. i might agree were we talking about the physics of magick vs. proven laws of the universe (which almost begs of a religion vs. science debate). followed to your version of a logical conclusion, there can therefore be no human truth that can be derived out of a world with completely fictitious laws. did i get that close? broken down, 'garbage in, garbage out.' can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, eh?

of course, historically magick can be the basis of how we get to the core of human truths, right? and that, note, is when magick wasn't some esoteric thought, rather the basis of actual, honest to goodness truth in how the universe functions. were those guys lying to a lesser degree? not really, i don't think so. they certainly had no emperical evidence that would stand up as anything other than anecdotal. magick and magickal beings aren't meant to be taken literally, but what it and they represent are (hopefully) and were meant to represent something philosophically*, and in *that* therein lies the greater human truth. there's no intention to lie by using fantastic creatures and methodologies in your or their wonderlands, they're merely expressions of greater meanings condensed into one convenient (and entertaining-- i'd venture to say a humourless philosopher is poor in more ways than one) package. during the course of thousands of years, the meanings are lost to us by and large, and now a serpent is just a serpent to some of us. we might not even know why we use that serpent in a story today, but somehow, at the same time, we're compelled to do so a lot of the time.

so, in all reality, all marketting and publishing issues aside, by telling the story *without* magick, you're actually RISKING the truth. (should i have written propaganda, or what?)




* a lot of people feel as if philosophy is a means to disprove God. on the contrary, philosophy often brings the philosopher closer to a belief in God.

Titus Raylake
09-12-2005, 01:01 PM
Well, I'm really a science fiction writer, so I may not be the best person to ask. *But,* why not expand from a belief such as Alchemy, and create a magic system around that?

Of course, you could also give it a different name, but still try to build a system around that belief, and vice versa.

loquax
09-12-2005, 02:56 PM
If we live in a universe based on total probability, then there is a perfect 50/50 chance that magic does or doesn't exist. In the same way that you can't disprove anything, you can't prove anything either.

Using the simple observation that true magic just doesn't happen in today's world (and if it does I'm sure it would not be so elusive considering a celebrity on some far away island still manages to get in the tabloids), the probability scales tip ever so slightly into the "does not exist" section. If it happened every day, logic would dictate that it tips ever so slightly into the "does exist" section. But I've never seen magic.

So even if we disregard all probability, the argument for magic not existing is still stronger than its defense.

preyer
09-12-2005, 11:56 PM
then again, with alchemy you get deep into philosophy. some alchemists were merely trying to achieve making gold, but many others considered it a philsophic quest to achieve purity of soul. creating gold had nothing to do with it for some. francis bacon was an alchemist, if i recall, who was rather wishy-washy on what he wanted out of alchemy. (i'd have to look this up again, so don't take my word for it right now.) the philosophic symbology found in alchemy is no less shallow than you'd find in, say, greek art.

there is a scientific side to alchemy, which at one time had a lot to do with superstition, wives tales, and belief in 'magick' (for example, the idea that moonlight had a magickal ability to transform one thing into something else). we owe a lot of real science to alchemy, though, beyond some of the ridiculous experiments some of 'em tried basically amounting to the hope that 'magick' would make gold from some metal.

it was the quest for 'the philosopher's stone' that had the more esoteric thoughts, afair. (you might remember nicolaus flamel (sp) from harry potter, but he was a real person who supposedly *did* create a philosopher's stone, and there are several anecdotal stories around about people running into him... a 100 years after his 'death.')

i'm glad you mentioned alchemy. it's a wonderful mix of reality vs. magick and really a perfect example of how and why 'magick' has benefitted our truths. not to mention why we shouldn't give up on 'magick,' existant or not. other than religion, i can't think of anything else you can say the same thing for that's got the same 'magic vs. reality'.

Titus Raylake
09-13-2005, 12:31 PM
preyer, have you, by any chance, heard of two digital Role-Playing Games called Golden Sun and Golden Sun: The Lost Age? What is interested about these games is that the story centered around the belief of alchemy. While some of the things said in the games about alchemy were simply from the imagination of the writer, the games presented the belief in a fascinating way, and the storyline points to a person who knew a lot about history and alchemy. Some of the situations presented in the games, especially in the sequel, were very thought-provoking, because the characters were, in simplest terms, trying to find the key to science in its purest forms.

Needless to say, it's good to hear that somebody knows about the relations between science and alchemy.

Diana Hignutt
09-13-2005, 01:29 PM
If we live in a universe based on total probability, then there is a perfect 50/50 chance that magic does or doesn't exist. In the same way that you can't disprove anything, you can't prove anything either.

Using the simple observation that true magic just doesn't happen in today's world (and if it does I'm sure it would not be so elusive considering a celebrity on some far away island still manages to get in the tabloids), the probability scales tip ever so slightly into the "does not exist" section. If it happened every day, logic would dictate that it tips ever so slightly into the "does exist" section. But I've never seen magic.

So even if we disregard all probability, the argument for magic not existing is still stronger than its defense.

Your argument, while appearing perfectly logical, isn't. You begin by saying that if we live in a universe of total probability...

There is no if, my friend, according to quantum mechanics, we do live in a universe where everything is basically made out of probability. That is a scientific fact.

Then you drag out everybody's favorite, the strawman argument. It is not logical to assume that just because we live in a universe of probability that there is a 50/50 chance for the existence of magick. And, BTW, according to the rules of logic, it is possible to prove that things happen, but impossible to disprove that things don't happen.

Your simple argument that true magic doesn't happen in today's world because you haven't seen it, is also logically unsound. You've never seen radio waves, either, but I bet you believe in them. You've never seen atoms or electrons, but you probably believe in them. It is possible that you don't sense the magick around you because of the phenomenon of bias of the observer. It is a basic fact of reality on the quantum level that the observer affects whatever is being observed. It is also a fact that human observers maintain a bias based on their own experiences and prejudices. So perhaps, if you don't believe in magic, you are unable to see it work in the world around you.

The world you see bares little relation to our world's fundemental nature as science has discovered it to be.

Whereas you choose to close your eyes to the infinite possibility of creation, others who are open to such possibilities live in a world of richness and meaning. Please, bring your skepticism, but keep your heart and mind open to possibilities, otherwise you will never see them. To exclude the possbility of magick in one's world view, is to exclude the possbility of magick from one's experience.

Maybe, I'm wrong. Maybe not. The way I see it...why not believe in magick?

RumBucuresti
09-13-2005, 02:12 PM
...why not believe in magick?

Well one reason might be that, people proven guilty of murder by all accepted scientific forensic methods (ufff they could even be caught on film committing the murder or on tape admitting it) could later simply claim innocence by saying that all the evidence against them was created by magick. I don't know about you, but i feel reasonably certain that the majority of people, even on this science fiction/FANTASY board, would have some problems with that.

If a stolen manuscript of yours was found in the possession of someone elses agent and their defence was "i'm innocent, i don't know anything about it, must have happened by the magick of an evil wizard" you would accept the possibility of that?

Andrew Jameson
09-13-2005, 06:31 PM
Maybe this is a silly question, but does writing about a universe where magic works while believing that magic doesn't exist in reality bother anyone besides me? No. What Richard said. It's simply fun and interesting to write (and read!) about "what if" scenarios. Particularly, "what if the universe worked in a different way?" What if FTL travel were possible? What if one could control objects with one's mind? What if special objects of immense and mysterious power existed? Ah, then we could explore this alternate universe, explore the ramifications of what makes this world different from reality. That's what makes it interesting.

And, BTW, according to the rules of logic, it is possible to prove that things happen, but impossible to disprove that things don't happen.Exactly! One can't prove that magic doesn't exist, one can only show that it does exist. I invite you to do so.

You've never seen radio waves, either, but I bet you believe in them. You've never seen atoms or electrons, but you probably believe in them. It is possible that you don't sense the magick around you because of the phenomenon of bias of the observer. It is a basic fact of reality on the quantum level that the observer affects whatever is being observed. It is also a fact that human observers maintain a bias based on their own experiences and prejudices. So perhaps, if you don't believe in magic, you are unable to see it work in the world around you.I never have seen radio waves, no. I would point out, however, that if I chose to disbelieve in their existance, my radio would still work.

preyer
09-13-2005, 08:20 PM
i don't need to see radio waves to believe in them. those are measurable. until magick in its populist form becomes measurable, nay, even repeatable, *nay* even shown once, i have to remain skeptical. i don't buy 'it might exist since it can't be disproven' argument. you can't disprove pink elephants fly, either. it proves nothing. a belief in something doesn't mean anything, really, without a single ounce of verifiable evidence in the entire history of mankind that stands up to objective scientific scrutiny. it's a fallacy to believe science is out to disprove magick, too. it is, however, there to debunk lies and false belief. and no matter how much you tell someone their ghost was a weird natural phenomenon because your house sits on a gas pocket, it won't matter.

just my opinion, of course. only the person making the statement 'magick exists' has the burden of proof. it's not science's job to disprove something that has no evidence it exists to begin with, eh? does magick exist on some scale science has yet to make? maybe, but if magick has an effect on something or someone with any repeatability, that is if it's quantifiable, magick should be able to be studied. if it existed. it's hard to believe that magick wouldn't register on any spectrum or scale we've got today. maybe it won't, maybe science is looking in the wrong place, maybe science has abandonned magick altogether, maybe magick is too random, maybe maybe maybe.... maybe people who believe in magick use the gray areas of science to believe in whatever fantasy that makes them happy.

it's funny. despite all reason, people will continue to make major life decisions based on astrology. astrology is bullsh!t. again, just more opining here. if 'closing my mind to the possibility that magick exists' means that astrology will never be a part of my life, to that i say good! i won't based my investments on the random pattern of tea leaves at the bottom of a cup, either, and i'm guessing i'll be better off for it.

anyway, no, i never heard of those games. they sound interesting. i'm not much of a role-playing gamer, though. i've got some, not a lot. i'm hardly an authority on all things alchemic, either, lol. i've read a bit, that's all. nothing extremely in-depth, but enough to get a broad overview. there's a lot about alchemy which goes unnoticed, but really that stuff is pretty interesting.

for the record, you *can* turn iron (if i remember) into gold, but the actual scientific process is so expensive and requires so much specialized equipment and material that it's not viable economically. it's possible, though. it was done in the 40's, as i recall. i can get the name if you're interested.

loquax
09-13-2005, 08:31 PM
.

preyer
09-13-2005, 10:37 PM
i can predict the way this thread is going to start moving, i think. no, i'm not a magician and i haven't consulted the star charts, but i think i'm starting to feel a bit of dread knotting up in my bowels just the same.

true, quantum mechanics is a theory of matter, but has not any fact been derived from it? i ask only out of ignorance.

loquax
09-13-2005, 11:05 PM
Well any scientific fact that does come from it isn't really fact because you can't prove anything, right?http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/smile.gif

veinglory
09-13-2005, 11:20 PM
Well any scientific fact that does come from it isn't really fact because you can't prove anything, right?http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/images/smilies/smile.gif

We are getting some interesting takes in logical positivism aka traditional scientific method here.

Basically it involves stating a hypothesis, doing a test where only one outcome would be consistent with that hypothesis, if that outcome occurs then the hypothesis is said to be supported. At that point a hypothesis is treat as 'fact' until the balance of evidence supports some alternative hypothesis.

Therefore scientific fact are logical assumptions based on existing evidence, although not irrefutable and always followed with 'scientific uncertainly' which extends to all facts in proption to the weight of supporting evidence. Sometime it is negligible.



Scientific studies demonstrate that putatively paranormal/magical influences have been shown to affect people but until a mechanism can be demonstrated these are generally assumed to be a 'placebo' or belief effect. Studies that control for this--e.g. the patient doesn' know they are being prayed for or psychically healed--are equivocal. Research is ongoing. A breakthrough could occur either in the area of a significant number of successful double blind studies or a measurable mechanism. Radiowaves etc can be measured using a right equipment--a magical or psychic 'wavelength' alludes us.

Sharon Mock
09-14-2005, 09:39 AM
Whether or not magic(k) exists in this world, I think we can all agree that it doesn't exist in the way it's protrayed in most fantasy. I cannot apply to magical college and get a B.S. in thaumaturgical studies. The federal administration doesn't have a Director of Magical Affairs.

Clearly some books have magic in them just because it's expected -- it's a fantasy, of course there must be wizards throwing spells! -- or because the plot falls apart without it. But at its best magic is a way of making concrete what would in strict realism be ambiguous or difficult to portray. There are no magical lightbulbs in this world, but many of us have experienced love or faith that has sustained us in times of darkness and danger (the Phial of Galadriel).

To get fancy about it, magic is the reification of metaphor. And as such, I have no qualms about writing stories that involve magic, if it helps me to say what I want more clearly or easily.

Pthom
09-14-2005, 10:51 AM
-- it's a fantasy, of course there must be wizards throwing spells! -- I ask again, to the entire group: in order for a story to be called a "fantasy," is it necessary to have magic, wizards, swords and the like? Most of the discussions in this forum seem to deal with just those elements. But surely there are other themes that fall under the term "fantasy" which don't involve magic, medieval technology, or elves.

If Suzy goes through the back of the closet into a mystical realm of spirits and unexplained phenomena, is she in a fantasy or a science fiction? For either genre, is it necessary to explain what happens with the back of the closet? Or why it's only Suzy who can pass through? What if there are other such closets in the world? And if Suzy discovers strange beings there who use closets as a means of transportation between locales in their world, does the story suddenly become science fiction?

loquax
09-14-2005, 11:19 AM
My WIP is set in a pseudo-late victorian world in which a young biologist discovers a race of new plant creatures. There are also swordfights and people made of clockwork.

There's no magic. But I reckon it's fantasy.

Euan H.
09-14-2005, 11:55 AM
I ask again, to the entire group: in order for a story to be called a "fantasy," is it necessary to have magic, wizards, swords and the like?
No. Of course it isn't. Any narrative that has parts which break our commonly-held beliefs about how the universe works has elements of fantasy*.

*But see below.


And if Suzy discovers strange beings there who use closets as a means of transportation between locales in their world, does the story suddenly become science fiction?
Depends on the explanation given for how it's possible. If the mechanism is scientific (or more liekly just sounds kinda scientific) then I'd say it's SF. If the explanation** involves spirits, or magic, or if there's no explanation, then I'd say it's fantasy.

[Of course, genre categories are going to fuzzy, so you may want ot think about exemplars for defining them, instead of trying to trace an edge to the category. So instead of saying X is/is not a fantasy, you could say X is more fantasy-like than Y]

**Except in the cases where one character is explaining it to another character in terms of magic, but we the readers know its science because we're privy to information the characters aren't, like if they're cavemen stumbling on a millenia-old monolith, or sumpn'.

Diana Hignutt
09-14-2005, 01:22 PM
OKay, you got me on the nature of science. All science is theory. We really don't know how the universe works, we just have some theories about it, based on scientific observation and experimentation. It is also interesting to note that over time, many scientific theories turn out to be dead wrong.

The science of the past is the fantasy of today, or is it the other way around?

sunandshadow
09-14-2005, 05:13 PM
Okay, I thought of a good example to explain better what bothers me. Consider the belief, "Everyone has a soulmate out there somewhere." This has nothing to do with spells, alchemy, chanting, crystals, gods, or even visualization. (It is related to destiny, though, which I suppose might count as a myth or superstition.) This statement is not obviously about magic and thus not obviously an invention of the author which readers know knot to take literally, but it definitely implies that the nature of the universe is fundamentally magical.

So, say I write a book in which everyone really does have a soulmate. This functions as an argument encouraging readers of my book to believe that everyone really does have a soulmate. If I believe that in reality there are no such things as soulmates, aren't I being hypocritical and irresponsible if I encourage other people to believe that there are?

fallenangelwriter
09-14-2005, 07:02 PM
It all depends.

first of all, don't write stories using concept you absolutely hate. i do not, cannot belive in complete predestination, and therefore i never write stories featuring prophecies after the standard fantasy model.

remember also that fantasy can be inspiring.

take "destiny". I don't belive in destiny as portrayed in fantasy novels; what i get out of it is hope. to me, the stories about a kid form a remote village turing out to be "the chosen one" is not about fate but about willpower. it says to me, no matter how humble your origins, you can make a difference. if you dare to try, you can conquer evil.

is that a lie? maybe so, but i prefer it to the truth. in fact, i'd venture to say that if we all belived it, the world would be a better place.

anyone can be the chosen one, if they choose themselves.

sunandshadow, i would recommend that you think about what you want to say before you right, and then make sure that your fantasy corresponds with your worldview. it needn't be exact- you cna make the universe sympathetic to the human mind- but make it tell us something real about ourselves.

if, in your book, the universe grants the strongest of wishes, it shouldn't say to readers "the universe will obey oyur whim", but it can say "your desires are important- reach for the stars".

preyer
09-14-2005, 07:27 PM
DH, i'd say it was the other way around, that today's science is the past's fantasy. an example of that is how when they'd dig for wells they'd hit some gas pocket or something and think they've broken through to hell. silly now, eh? now, we know plenty about gas pockets. same thing applies to a lot of 'ghosts,' which in some cases were natural phenomenon, albeit rare, but really the 'life of the ghost' is swamp gas. st. elmo's fire is another example, that glow ships used to get on their masts. it's explainable now, but imagine seeing a ship rife with it five hundred years ago. would scare the hell out of me, too!

s&s, do you only ever plan on writing what you believe in? not only is that going to be amazingly limiting, but the characters will suffer. i think we went through this debating themes, no? the biggest issue i see here is becoming preachy and ignoring valid arguments that don't support your own sometimes foregone conclusions. not saying you do this, mind, just i see it as a possibility for anyone with qualms admitting, for instance, the devil may have a point.

it doesn't just have to be just in the fantasy genre, either, so don't think you'll evade this problem switching to non-fiction. this same problem is going to crop up if you've got a boy scout raising funds for a trip to washington if you've got issues with uncle sam and the american way. what i mean is your stories might eventually start to sound autobiographical and very limited in scope and philosophy.

i try to get the other perspective into a story as much as possible so that i can understand it. i'm not admitting to anything in the story, or trying to convince someone to believe one thing or another. to be honest, one story isn't probably going to be enough to change someone's core beliefs. readers have a responsibility, too.

i don't believe in love at first sight. lust, sure, not love. nevertheless, i'm willing to play along for the sake of the story. see, i think you've already approached it in the wrong frame of mind: you're trying to convince people soulmates exist. are you writing a story or propaganda? it's a story, of course, and as such you're not convincing someone, rather, through fiction which is a lie that the reader is fully aware of, you're providing false anecdotal 'evidence' via means of a fictional (lie) story.

one time when i was in tijuana, i bought some dog meat on a stick from a street vendor. paid him american, cash money, baby, because that's the way i roll. anyway, this joker tried to give me change in pesos, which as anyone knows, an american nickel is equivalent to about six trillion pesos, give or take a billion. at the time, you could combine all the pesos, yen, and lira in the world and buy an ice cream cone, dipped in chocolate, sure, but no sprinkles. anyway, knowing i was being cheated right off, i confronted the guy, to which he replied, 'pesos are souvenirs.' well, i hadn't gotten drunk yet, and being a stranger in a strange land, i felt it wise to let it slide (though it sticks in my craw still today).

your story is the pesos. my american money is my deep-rooted philosophical beliefs exchanged for the dog meat which was a treat to sate my appetite (entertainment) for the nonce and to help me hold down my liquor (my temporarily altered existential self) for later. the mexican was God. just kididng, he was only a mexican. as an aside, i did get my buzz on and eventually got involved in a footrace from the mexican police, who we mistook for being off-duty mailmen.

you're only being hypocritical if you're trying to actually make others believe in soulmates when you don't, not by asking them to suspend their romantic disbeliefs for a few hours so that they themselves chose to be entertained by, just as you yourself have suspended your disbelief long enough to write it. i think it's understood by the reader that not every single thing a writer writes is their core belief.

specifically with soulmates, it's doesn't have to necessarily be magickal. it could be an instant chemical bond of some kind, like superglueing your fingers together. who's to say? since the majority of people believe in an invisible power controlling their lives, or at least in control of the universe, you've not broken any unspoken covenants between you, your story, and the reader unless you go out of your way to stick literary pins in a expositional cushion instead of the fabric of the story where they belong.

Sharon Mock
09-15-2005, 11:25 AM
I ask again, to the entire group: in order for a story to be called a "fantasy," is it necessary to have magic, wizards, swords and the like? Most of the discussions in this forum seem to deal with just those elements. But surely there are other themes that fall under the term "fantasy" which don't involve magic, medieval technology, or elves.

I think it's possible to have a fantasy without magic, as long as that fantasy is set in a scientifically unexplained otherworld. Not everybody agrees with me. I think Guy Gavriel Kay still writes fantasy; others think his later books are historical fantasy with the serial numbers filed off.

All the other stuff (wizards, swords, elves, [pseudo]medievalism, etc.)? Just trappings. Nothing whatsoever to do with fantasy as a genre, either literary or marketing.

OTOH, I've written a book set in a technologically advanced otherworld. Magic and mages are the only fantastic element, but this element is the heart of the story. I consider it a technological fantasy (no, there is no such subgenre!). But I'm coming to terms with the idea that I'll have to sell it as Speculative Fiction and it will probably be marketed as some variety of science fiction, because of its quasi-futuristic setting.

So I guess it's more complex than that, all the way around.

Pthom
09-15-2005, 10:55 PM
...a technological fantasy (no, there is no such subgenre!). ...Don't give up on this; there's hope.

In post #14 of this thread, I post a link to the latest Cory Doctorow novel, labeled Science Fiction by the publisher (Tor), but which he calls "...a techie contemporary fantasy -- contemporary fantasy being the label commonly applied to magic realist fiction when written by North American popular authors..."

Now although there is much in his novel that isn't explainable by science (current or futuristic) but isn't what I'd call magic, either. It's just weird. And fun to read.

I dunno. Maybe I'm not thinking of about magic in the same way others do. (My American Heritage Dictionary defines magic as: The art that purports to control or forecast natural events, effects, or forces by invoking the supernatural. The practice of using charms, spells, or rituals to attempt to produce supernatural effects or to control events in nature. ...Slight of hand... [more].) But as far as I'm concerned, just because something in a story is out of the ordinary or even supernatural doesn't necessarily involve magic. I'm perfectly happy to read such a story as fantasy without mages and spells. In fact, I think I prefer that approach.

victoriastrauss
09-16-2005, 12:47 AM
So, say I write a book in which everyone really does have a soulmate. This functions as an argument encouraging readers of my book to believe that everyone really does have a soulmate.Give your readers a bit more credit. Most of them already know what they believe, and your novel is probably not going to sway them one way or another.


If I believe that in reality there are no such things as soulmates, aren't I being hypocritical and irresponsible if I encourage other people to believe that there are?I'd say that as a writer, you should be asking yourself a different question--why do you have trouble with the idea of encouraging your readers to suspend their disbelief?

- Victoria

victoriastrauss
09-16-2005, 12:56 AM
I ask again, to the entire group: in order for a story to be called a "fantasy," is it necessary to have magic, wizards, swords and the like?No. There aren't all that many examples, but they are out there. Mervyn Peake's Ghormengast has no magic or wizards in it, but it's definitely a fantasy; ditto for Ricardo Pinto's terrific The Chosen. Jonathan Carroll's books are published as fantasy; the ones I've read are set in the present day and don't involve magic.

A fantasy needs to be fantastical in some way--but fantastical doesn't necessarily entail the presence of magic (or medievalism).

- Victoria

Pthom
09-16-2005, 06:42 AM
A fantasy needs to be fantastical in some way--but fantastical doesn't necessarily entail the presence of magic (or medievalism).'swhat I thought. ;)

sunandshadow
09-16-2005, 08:56 AM
Ricardo Pinto's terrific The Chosen.

You mean Ricardo Pinto's horrific The Chosen? Sorry, I know this is off topic, but I started reading that book thinking it was going to be great, only to find myself disgusted and queasy about 1/3 of the way through. :faint: Not only did I not finish it, I hid the thing under another book until I could get rid of it so I didn't have to look at it.

Of course I understand other readers will have different opinions, I just wanted to warn anyone who wanted to check it out based on the blanket statement "its terrific" that not everyone thinks it's terrific.

Mac H.
09-17-2005, 04:37 PM
I am a strict behaviourist and materialist. I don't even believe in minds or souls.You don't believe in the mind? Is that like a computer not believing in software - and insisting that it is only hardware?

What's wrong with calling this pattern of software in my brain 'mind' ?

Mac

preyer
09-18-2005, 09:30 PM
at the same time, it's half in my mind that if i'm writing something everyone loves, then i'm certainly doing something wrong. i shoot for an audience somewhere between slack-jawed mouth-breathing troglodyte and pseudo-intellectual. sure, i'm bound to ruin the minds of a few people (people whose philosophies would be influenced by a grocery list anyway, so no big loss there), but until i start holding a gun to people's heads and forcing them to read my stories while wearing tan robes in a communual setting, chanting and eating beans, i figure they know what they want and it's my job to hopefully give 'em what they pay for. i sure as hell ain't gonna limit whatever creative ability i've already got in short supply for fear of altering one idiot's perception of the world around them. (there, i think that's the other side of the coin, eh?)

mistri
09-19-2005, 02:20 AM
I read science fiction because I know I (probably) won't live to see a future where space travel and exploration is common. Similarly, I read fantasy because I don't live in a world where magic is common. It doesn't matter whether I believe in it or not - I want to read about a world where it does happen (although I'm also content to read fantasy without magic).

I'm not a person who has 'faith' in things. I don't think I'm capable of it. But I can suspend that part of me while I'm reading :)

loquax
09-19-2005, 02:27 AM
Here's one - is it possible to have a novel that involves magic but isn't classified as fantasy?

mistri
09-19-2005, 02:39 AM
Magical realism is usually classed as gen fic/lit fic. A lot of literary fiction authors can get away with fantastical elements in their writing without being shelved in fantasy.

Titus Raylake
09-19-2005, 03:27 AM
Here's one - is it possible to have a novel that involves magic but isn't classified as fantasy?

Some Science Fiction novels do have magic, though most of them fall under the classification of "Science Fantasy". But there are still others that blend a futuristic world and magic together.

Sarah_Jane
08-31-2008, 03:33 AM
Ok, so fantasy doesn't require magic, wizardy, spells, etc, to be considered fanatsy. But I have a question in regard to the fantasy genre.
If a novel/novella is set in the real world, but fantastical, otherwise inexplicable things occur in the world, like surrealism within reality, is that novel still considered fantasy? I've been having some difficulty pinpointing the genre to my book since I finished writing. I know it is literary fiction, but perhaps not primarily. I want to continue querying agents, but of course, I want to query those who would be most receptive to my novel.
Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!

kuwisdelu
08-31-2008, 04:05 AM
Ok, so fantasy doesn't require magic, wizardy, spells, etc, to be considered fanatsy. But I have a question in regard to the fantasy genre.
If a novel/novella is set in the real world, but fantastical, otherwise inexplicable things occur in the world, like surrealism within reality, is that novel still considered fantasy? I've been having some difficulty pinpointing the genre to my book since I finished writing. I know it is literary fiction, but perhaps not primarily. I want to continue querying agents, but of course, I want to query those who would be most receptive to my novel.
Any input would be appreciated. Thanks!

Sounds like magical realism to me.

Stormhawk
09-01-2008, 01:58 AM
Could be magic realism, could be urban fantasy, depending on other factors.