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.