So my most recent WIP, which will be number 3 in the Hipposync archives, revolves around flitting between here and there, there being somewhere that isn’t like here. You get my drift.
In a place where the same rules don’t apply and physics ain’t what it used to be, there are choices to be made. Fantasy authors tend to be faced with this kind of thing quite often i.e. how much time and effort to spend in organizing and arranging the rules of their magical world. There are definitely two schools of thought here.
On the one hand there is an insistence that there must be limits and rules, otherwise chaos ensues. I mean if there aren’t any rules in your world, what’s to stop the evil wizard from doing anything he/she likes?
A recent need for the application of logic to what are essentially things that defy logic may stem from the trend towards SF and F becoming so much a part of the gaming world where, by definition, logical rules have to apply in order to progress through layers and levels. This systematic approach has spilled over into fiction where the rules of the new world can become paramount. But it isn’t easy, nor necessarily correct.
I enjoy Ben Aaronovitch’s Peter Grant series whereby his protagonist has had to take us along on his journey of discovery under the wing of his mentor Nightingale, a classically trained magician. Here an attempt has been made to codify magic in terms of a systematic reproducible approach in what is termed Newtonian magic. But as with Jk Rowling, there has to be some sort of hereditary predisposition in order for the application of principles to flow. Not everyone in Rowling’s world (muggles) or Aaronovitch’s world (everyone else except a handful) can learn/apply magic. Class/gender/race all play a part in these worlds. of course part of the fascination of these types of story are found in the interpretation and systemization that stems from the author’s imagination. It also feeds a need to equate magic with science, to try and have something upon which to hang your suspension of belief hat.
But then, isn’t fantasy all about being unscientific?
Contrast that with Pratchett’s discworld, where magic is inherently chaotic and more often than not has its own agenda. Here there are few, if any, rules. And those that exist—known mostly to the Witches who have learned by instinct, or the Wizards of the Unseen University, who more often than not get it wrong—tend to be broken at almost every turn. Tolkien’s rules of magic are not systematically broken down. Instead they weave through legend and lore and remain things that are accepted but poorly understood, steeped in history and other times. In both cases, the weirdness is wonderful.
In my own WIP, I want to make magic instinctive, an energy that exists in this world (and here we come to the tricky bit of, okay, yeah, that’s fine DCF but like what? Electricity? Radiation? Dark matter/anti matter?) and can be channeled because that’s the kind of world it is. The fae world, separated from ours by barriers that are natural and necessary. Besides, I write fantasy that hopefully makes people smile. From that perspective it needs to be weird and inexplicable, occasionally silly and always strange. So I am ploughing a furrow somewhere between the two schools of chaotic and systematic. Weird thing is, that seems to be the way my life is in general.