Price of Magic.

Melissa Proffitt Melissa at
Sun Sep 26 23:09:57 EDT 1999

On Sat, 25 Sep 1999 14:29:55 +1000, Sally Odgers wrote:

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>> >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"?  
>In "should" I'm following my own line of reasoning, Melissa.

Well, that's what I'm asking.  :)

> If magic is a
>natural talent in some people, and can be developed or left latent (with me
>so far?) then the chances are very good that it belongs to the general well
>of creativity. I think we probably all know on some level that creation,
>whether it's writing or painting, springs from the same well. The creator
>(artist if you like) takes reality, moulds it and changes it. So a story -
>or a painting - is reality + imagination + interpretation.
>That's why I said "should".

Good point.  What I'm getting at is that there are at least two different
primary foundations for magic systems.  The first is the one you
mention--magic as a natural talent in some people.  The second is where
magic is inherent in the world and can be tapped by anyone with the proper
training, not just those who have the gift inborn.  (You could have a
combination of the two, where magic is in the world and you have to have the
gift inborn to use it, but that's essentially Version One because, again,
the idea is to talk about extraordinary people.)  I much prefer to read
about Version One types of magic, but I don't want to discount the existence
of Version Two--for which your line of reasoning doesn't follow.  (Basically
I just wanted to understand where you were coming from.  Thank you for

>> If you could be sure that all your mages were honorable and ethical
>> you wouldn't need those sorts of arbitrary checks.  But I think the
>> consensus is that magic itself is amoral.  It's neither good nor evil. 
>> the people who use magic that turn it to one purpose or another--and
>> why those restrictions are important, because there's always some
>> who will turn magic to evil.
>Right! But so is most creation amoral! Writers can twist reality and let
>the bad guys win and make readers admire them for winning. That's not a
>good purpose if carried to excess. Painters can paint scenes that give
>children nightmares or bring on migraine in the susceptible. And (sigh)
>they're often hailed as "great" for doing it while the person whose
>pictures of flowers or landscapes or unicorns bring real joy and serenity
>is written off as "weak and pretty". 

That has VERY interesting implications for magic.  If you made it an exact
correlation of the above paragraph, the world would be rewarding and
applauding the evil mages!

The other thing I was thinking about was that the kind of magic where
there's a price (as opposed to your creation magic) is usually found in High
Fantasy.  The sort that DWJ parodies in _Tough Guide_.  Tolkien, Eddings,
Jordan, etc.  And I think the reason for that is that bad guys in high
fantasy are evil in a world-shattering way.  They either are completely
alien or they exult in destruction or are just plain Bad.

DWJ's kind of fantasy is in opposition to this.  The bad guys are usually
more selfish and self-absorbed than Pure Evil.  Like the siblings in
_Archer's Goon_; they are primarily interested in gaining power for
themselves, and if they hurt people along the way, they didn't intend to but
they're not exactly broken up over it.  What you describe as creation magic
seems to fit right in here.  There isn't any need for the magic system to
contain extraordinary power checks because that's just not how the world
works.  I didn't think of this before my last post.

>Then there's the idea that wholesale creation (say conjuring six oranges
>from thin air) means someone, somewhere, is lacking six oranges. My form of
>creation magic though, lies in persuading a stunted orange tree that it's
>really beautiful and well and of *course* it can make oranges... and
>quickly, too!

I think it makes more sense that way.  But that's just me.  You could use
chaos theory to set up a whole system of feedbacks (wait a minute, I
remember that happening in an Eddings book once, where the kid creates rain
or something and it takes six months for the more experienced sorcerers to
fix the balance) but it's just nicer if you think of it as changing the flow
of reality in a way it could have gone anyway.
>As for the powerful mages being the most dangerous, look at the high-flier
>authors, artists and actors. Look at the high incidence of alcoholism,
>depression and suicide. They're not "paying" for their creativity, but
>they've let it get the upper hand. A bit like the demon and the witch of
>the waste. 
>If you're a Christian, you can look at it in the same general way. Thank
>God for your talent, and make the best use of it you can. Don't use it to
>cause misery, or it will turn on you. Not because God is hitting back at
>you, but because your own subconscious thinks you deserve a whack. 

Or because the people you are making miserable don't want to put up with it
any more. :)

>Aha! shedding blood is plagiarism!!!!!

Absolutely!  And I think he was plagiarising his own plagiarism, because
Card used the blood magic thing in one of his books!

Anyway, thanks for your response.

Melissa Proffitt
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