Author Topic: A Fantasy Worldbuilding Trope  (Read 59 times)

dubsartur

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A Fantasy Worldbuilding Trope
« on: March 26, 2021, 06:30:35 PM »
Most of us should be familiar with Sanderson's First Law of Magic ("An author’s ability to solve conflict with magic is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to how well the reader understands said magic").  A while ago I stumbled across a blog comment which has also got me thinking:

Quote from: heteromeles
Actually, there's an interesting counter-take. It's a throwaway line in Tyson Yunkaporta's Sand Talk. He asserts that anyone can do magic, but that not everybody can do all the rituals, because that's about knowledge, and that is (for reasons good and bad) guarded.

I tend to think he's right, but his version of magic is basically what Trump was spewing for the last four years. It's not telepathy or levitation, it's forcing others to live in your made-up world, even though they know it's not correct. This can be used beneficently with blessings (getting someone out of a funk to do something they don't think they can do) or as a curse (to mess with someone's head). Sir Pterry called it Headology. Ritual, in the sense of keeping a bunch of complex systems working over time, looks like magic (and it does overlap with the above), but it depends on people knowing what the heck they're doing.

So far as I can tell, the Taoists have a really similar idea: any idiot can do magic, and magicians are the hucksters, fortune tellers, performers, carnie trash, and so forth. The Taoist priests work to heal people and to bring out the good in the changes of the world. They're working at a much different and higher level.

Now I realize fantasy tends to be whiffy about religion and with good reason, but just perhaps, it's over-glorified the "move fast and break things" aspect of magic, glorified the world-wreckers entirely too much, and made fixing complex problems too simple, magical, and dependent on the inner nature of the young, rather than the hard-earned skills of the old. There is something to be said for Yunkaporta's view, that any clown can curse someone, but that's not necessarily a miraculous thing. What's miraculous is keeping a place like Australia habitable for 50,000 years or so.

I am thkinking about this, but it has potential as an alternative to a Law and Chaos / History and Chance opposition.  It harmonizes with some modern (since Aleister Crowley) occult thinking which has to use a 'god of the gaps' argument that the altered states of consciousness are really the point and not just side-effects from calling down the moon or making someone passionately in love with you.