Let’s talk about magic. While magic is probably of little concern to writers of contemporary fiction, science-fiction, techno-thrillers, and similar genres, when it comes to fantasy stories, few would argue that magic is one of the most important subjects. Poorly conceived, magic can ruin a story; well conceived, magic can add such depth to a character or setting that the reader simply cannot put the book down. But why is magic so integral to fantasy? Can we have fantasy without magic? What kinds of magic are found in fantasy? How much magic is too much magic? How little is too little? And what about the arguments from critics that magic is just a cop-out for patching plot holes and escaping impossible situations?
But before we begin, let’s define what we mean by “fantasy”, and the kinds of magic typically found in fantasy fiction…
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It seems a bunch of aspiring authors are now participating in World Building Month, conceived and coordinated by Eliza Wyatt. What a wonderful idea! Hopefully, I shall be able to contribute this month with essays on Building Magic Systems, as well as some background information on the World of Mythania.
Until then, you may be interested in a few of my resent articles, such as my article on Fantasy World Building (should be a good primer at least) and The Persistently Pernicious Paradox of Publishing.
Till next I post.
To go along side my article on Fantastical Airships!, please allow me to present Fantasical Airships! This site includes some weird, waky, and wonderful designs, as well as few that might have actually worked. They include one of my favorite designs from the 1920’s, the Bel Geddes, complete with all the comforts of a steamshipliner:
Other marvelous aircraft designs can also be found on the site, including a few of Harry Grant Dart’s pictures, which have inspired my vision of the steam-age flying machines of Mythania.
Hello everyone. My name is M.C. Williams, author and creator of Mythania. I am a writer, a programmer, and a gamer; and I am a recovering Microsoft User.
Before I begin, let me start off by saying that I am not an anti-Microsoft war-monger. In fact, for my day-job I develop Microsoft ASP.NET 3.0 web applications, and I believe it is a perfectly fine development platform–if (and only if) you are willing to accept the caveats of being perpetually tied to Microsoft. I, as an individual however, desire the freedom of choice and the ability to do what I want with my computer, its operating system, and its programs, without restriction or dependency on any corporation or organization.
That is why I use Linux. That, and the fact that it’s really cheap.
Specifically, I use Ubuntu Linux, and have been for the past nine months (as of this writing, July 2008). In that time I have come to the astonishing conclusion that we don’t need Microsoft any more. Actually, I was of that opinion several years ago, but only now have the alternatives matured to the point where it has become practical to do away with Microsoft altogether and replace its operating system with Linux on the common person’s computer.
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One of the defining characteristics of the science fiction and fantasy stories is that they take place in a setting different from our everyday world (the “real world”). Even science fiction and fantasy that takes place on Earth must have some key differences that distinguish it from the real world, otherwise it would not be science fiction and fantasy, but would simply be contemporary or historical fiction. However, the fact that science fiction and fantasy stories are set in such an imaginary world requires one key concession from the reader or audience: suspension of disbelief.
Suspension of disbelief is simply the willingness of an audience or reader to temporarily accept what is clearly untrue in reality for truth in a given fictional setting. For example, while dragons and other magical creatures do not exist in the real world, an audience or reader must “suspend their disbelief” and accept that dragons and magical creatures do exist in the context of a given fantasy setting. Even so, there are limits to how far an audience or reader will go in suspending their disbelief. While they may accept that dragons exist in a certain fantasy setting, they will not accept a dragon that in one scene is red and then in another scene is blue (unless it has been established that dragons can change color). In other words, suspension of disbelief cannot be used as a convenient “out” to cover-up plot holes, contradictions, logical fallacies, or shoddy historical research. In order to facilitate suspension of disbelief, the work must at least be internally consistent.
Without internal consistency, a work of science fiction or fantasy will quickly dissolve into absurdity and chaos. All writers strive to remain internally consistent within their own work–even parodies need to be consistent in their satirical mockery. But mistakes do happen, and when a reader stumbles upon such an error in consistency, they are rudely jarred from their suspended disbelief into the sudden realization that not only what they are reading is make-believe, but that the author is sloppy as well. There is simply no excuse for such embarrassing mistakes because they can be avoided easily enough if an author simply takes the time to build his or her world.
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Today, July 10th, is the 152th birthday of Nikola Tesla (born 1856). In honor of this great man, whose legacy has been largely forgotten, I give you these wonderful documentary videos. If you have only a foggy idea of who Tesla is, or only think you know who Tesla is, I strongly encourage you to watch these.
Nikola Tesla – The Forgotten Wizard:
Nikola Tesla: The Missing Secrets
The Wall Streat Journal Online has this excellent 4 minute (almost) news video on the Steampunk sub-culture, highlighting the extraordinary workings of Richard Nagy (aka Datamancer). Give the video a whirl!
Here’s a video tour of the Edison Club in LA, to the music of Abney Park. If I lived in LA, or happened to ever visit LA, I would most certainly make it a point to stop by. The Edison Club is probably the only “steampunk” club in America, at least of which I am aware.
While I have been writing for approximately 20 years, accumulating thousands of pages of written work, I am quite ashamed to say that I have never been published. And it has not been for the lack of trying. I have failed to have a single book published by any of the major publishing companies out of New York, or any of the “middle-size” publishing companies in New York or elsewhere; equally, I have failed to get a single short story accepted by any magazine, big or small. Granted, I am referring primarily to magazines and publishers specializing in science-fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction genres, but the problem seems to exist for everyone in the industry. So I ask myself from time to time, “are my stories simply nothing more than shoddily constructed drivel of meaningless prose, or is there something else going on?”
I recently heard another unpublished writer expressing the same frustration, but he made a startling observation which I had overlooked. It is not that the publishers are rejecting manuscripts–it is simply that they are not even reading the manuscripts in the first place!
But let me begin at the beginning…
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I just found this wonderful, picture-filled article at DarkRoastedBlend.com on assorted airship designs from the early 20th century to the modern day. Some of the airships are recently proposed designs for re-invigorating an interest in airship technology. Others are images of “airships that never were”, and while some could be called “steampunkish”, the majority are from the early atomic era, as attested by various atomic-powered airships!
Nevertheless, such designs (minus the atomic part) are of considerable interest to a steam-fantasy writer such myself. You may find them of interest as well. Such marvelous airships and dirigibles are the subject of some of my upcoming stories, as well as my in-progress novel series, for Mythania.