New Fantasy Elements Challenge: What is taking over Detroit?

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Detroit in decay

The movie Wizards is a movie that I very much like because it broke some of the stereotypes of fantasy and created new combinations. I have decided that I am tired to death of the old fantasy tropes. I am bored with reading about the faeries of European folklore transported into an urban environment virtually unchanged. Tolkienesque fantasy to me feels very outmoded.

Time magazine’s latest issue is about the disaster that is Detroit. The unemployment rate as of August 2009 was over 30% and the population is dwindling. Or is it? What could be claiming Detroit? Gremlins were invented in the last century. They were not traditional folklore. What new spirits haunt Motown and shuffle to the old beats? What wheels are turning? Who is drinking the blood of the whitetail deer in the metroparks? How is the foliage overcoming half burnt out and deserted crack houses who creak under the burden of the Virginia Creeper? What hammer taps are heard and who is making them?

We are the dreamers of dream and the voices to bring forth the new from imagination. We can create anything.

What if there is a rust flake who pisses on parked cars and causes the undercarriage to rust?

What if the green goddesses’ youngest children have been listening to the anger of the streets and are rising up with thorned arms and tendrilled fingers? Dancing to a more raucous beat than the quiet hush of meadow grasses.

What if every time you hear the sound of breaking glass another dozen shrieks are born that run off to incite violence to quench their blood lust?

What if the will-o-wisp has evolved into a screaming blue and red flashing symbiote that assists a nightcrawler who dons the uniform of a policeman and together they ride the night looking for isolated couples who they can prey upon?

Just some ideas. Up to the challenge to create more? Mine are just off the top of my head.

Magic in Fantasy Stories: 3 Conditions


A couple weeks ago I watched the movie Wizards and I have been thinking about magic in fantasy stories. Wizards is a marvelous movie– not for the animation which is a little uneven, but rather for the fact that Bakshi took tired fantasy tropes and wrenched them into a new form. I have also been wrestling a fantasy story into shape to send out for submission and this has had me thinking about magic and its place in the fantasy genre. Over the weekend I had the opportunity to discuss magic and the place of magic in fantasy stories with a few people. I propose that stories utilizing magic must have the following three conditions:

1. it has to have a purpose– either as a plot device that the character is going to problem solve around and it will show character or as a metaphor for something like conflict or power;

2. it has to have clearly defined parameters and uses. Magic by its nature is the ability to bend things to the will of the magic user and it can destroy stories because of its omnipotence;

3. there has to be more to the story than the magic. Stories have to be about people– either moving from the internal as in the individual or from the external as a commentary on society but the stories are still about people. Magic can be so golly gee whiz that the story can become far too two dimensional.

I have more thoughts on this. And thoughts on Bond. And pictures from the weekend from making applesauce, peach-raspberry sauce that was supposed to be jam but instead became sauce because it didn’t set up because I have never made jam at high altitude, and fresh minestrone soup. And poetry. And thoughts on technomages. And thoughts on grasshopper demons.

More later. I smell coffee.

What should go into thinking about a fantasy world to make it more real?

I rested on my futon this morning and watched the morning light grow stronger and illuminate my patchwork curtains like stained glass. I have a rough draft of a novel that I want to revise. I have a hereditary wizard of noble background who eschews his birthright, defies a powerful Queen because he knows her secret, and loses his direction because he has been told what to do and where to stand. He has to redefine himself and determine who he will be as opposed to who he won’t be.

I know this character inside and out. I laid the rough draft aside last August because I could not stand how bad my own writing was and I needed to improve my skill to do him justice.

This morning I thought about his world. Changes. How marvelous it is that I can imagine a world of magic and gun powder, sloops and dragons, schooners and wee folk. I will be re-imagining his world and his story. I am anticipating great hours spent in incubative darkness and solitary meditation to give birth to a re-imagined world. To create a lifelike realism in fantasy, there are so many details to think through. Think of all things in our everyday existence that we take for granted. While much of it may never come through in the actual novel, it has to be background that is there and assumed. I have to move from the created and assumed as opposed to the never given a thought.

What things or considerations should go into creating a fantasy world?

Politics?

Trade?

Geography and its impact on society?

How people go about their daily business?

Folk tales? Songs? The local humor?

Dress? Diet? What constitutes lifestyle?

Can you add to my list? What should go into thinking about a fantasy world to make it more real?

Random Magic

I went for a very long walk this morning.  I left in the cold, dark silence and as I walked the sun spilled yellow light in a golden haze over the grey clouds.  Early in the morning there is a hush that lingers in the air like a soft blanket.  You can wrap yourself in its stillness. As the washed out colors of night began to take on vividness with the dawn, small dark birds came to life and twittered in the trees.  I have heard the coyotes sing at dawn. Today I saw tracks in the softening earth.

While I was walking I was thinking about magic.  Last fall I began writing a series of poems about spells and magic.  I am still working on these.  Last November, I asked a smattering of friends why they thought people would do magic.

One friend said that he thought that fun was a good reason.  As in kids experimenting and it was fun. Like “Look, I can turn my hair green.  Now purple.”

Most people thought that wizards, mages, witches and those others who might practice magic would do it to have extraordinary power and/or for wish fulfillment.  Love spells are about having power over another person to force them to love the caster.  Seems to me that it kind of defeats the purpose.  Or spells to pull in great wealth.  The fantasy of great wealth is the ultimate panacea because supposedly with great wealth the person will get the beautiful women, luxury items, comfort, and happiness.  Power is just power.  Power to do anything and control all circumstance.

Magic is kind of the ultimate get out of jail free card, uber inter-dimensional free bus pass, bag of magical holding— i.e. whatever you want it to be.

Which leads me to my next thought.  In fantasy literature very often the magic appears very similar. Why?  It could be anything.  It’s magic.  It is a fantasy.  It could be done and conceived of in any way that the author imagines.  Too often it reads like neo-pagan literature.  Why? Who says that it has to follow the prescriptions of any particular religion?  As fantasy authors we can make up whatever we want.  There is no authority over my imagination.

Which leads to another thought.  For me, the magic in fantasy stories has to be tightly conceived, have relevance to the story, and not be a mere plot device to rescue the author from some unsolvable situation in which they have stuck their characters.  In the magical realities of a fantasy realm the magic has to be part of the reality and something that the characters could live with.  If the magic is not conceived of tightly enough or appears too random, it would be a very chaotic place.  The society of the characters would not be able to survive if the magic was some hideously random thing that could pop up and do whatever strange thing just happened to occur to the author.  It would be a lawless place because how do you create society and order when you have the ultimate and random power of an undifferentiated magic?

Anyway, just thoughts.  Probably have more later.