Price of Magic.

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Fri Sep 24 23:19:33 EDT 1999

On Sat, 25 Sep 1999 13:01:08 +1000, Sally Odgers wrote:

>The Price of Magic (i.e. the physical, emotional or spiritual price of it)
>is a set theme in novels. The idea is to make your magic-doer less likely
>to do it just for fun. However, I'm not sure that it's a valid point. Sure,
>it adds checks to the story and the character, but in reality "magic"
>should be a creative process like, say, painting, writing or sculpting.

Okay, but why "should"?  Based on what aspect of magic?  (I'm curious as to
your line of reasoning.  I've actually been thinking about this since I
heard Orson Scott Card do his workshop on "1000 Ideas in an Hour" and he's
VERY VERY big on the price of me being the contrarian that I am,
I've been trying to come up for a rationale or basis for magic that had no
physical, emotional or mental price.)

It seems to me that the idea of magic having a price is actually a way to
keep bad guys from taking over the world, so to speak.  One of those "1000
ideas" was that you had to shed blood to work magic

[Brief aside as I realize I should do some explaining: Scott Card does these
workshops where everyone in the room throws out ideas and they sort of
collaborate to create a world or a magic system or what have you.  He does a
lot of self-selecting to make the discussion go in certain directions, but
it's still interesting]

anyway, the idea was that the kind of blood you shed would equal how much
power you'd get from it, with the littlest magic coming from, say, a mouse,
and the greatest being from another human being.  The "price" in this system
is obviously to be a limitation on the abilities of mages.  Good mages would
have a respect for human life and that would limit their power.  Evil mages
wouldn't care a fig for human life, but other people, motivated by
self-preservation, would try to keep the evil mage from killing people, and
thus his power is limited.

See, I'm with Sally in thinking that making people pay a price of some kind
to keep them from being frivolous about magic isn't really a valid purpose.
If you could be sure that all your mages were honorable and ethical people,
you wouldn't need those sorts of arbitrary checks.  But I think the general
consensus is that magic itself is amoral.  It's neither good nor evil.  It's
the people who use magic that turn it to one purpose or another--and that's
why those restrictions are important, because there's always some character
who will turn magic to evil.

Anyway, suppose that magic did work exactly like artistic creativity (I
really find this idea fascinating!).  Imagine this in terms of a story: what
shape would evil take?  And how would good oppose evil in those
circumstances?  General question here...

> And
>as you "pay out" with these, so you get "pay in" from your surroundings...
>it's tiring, being creative, but the pay in - pay out is really like an
>endless chain or pumping system. And how does the magic "re-charge", if not
>in this same pay in - pay out system?

This is really an interesting concept.  Do you mind if we try to take it
further, in terms of possibilities in a story?  What form would this magic
take?  What could you do with it?

Melissa Proffitt
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