Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

Discuss SFF books and authors here.
By Eclipse
#561
Do you like

1.Full blown explanation of how magic works.

2. Want magic to be mysterious and not bothered how it works.

3. Somewhere in between the first two options.

4. Hardly have any magic in your stories so it doesn't matter.

5. Other .
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By ScarletBea
#563
I discovered how to create a poll, do you want to replace this thread with a poll one?

1. Click on "+New Topic"
2. Scroll to the bottom where the Options are, and the 3rd tab is "Poll creation"
3. Fill it in, and, ta da!
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By Peat
#570
Okay I really wanna know if we're doing a new thread with a poll before I post about this in full as a book really tested me on this recently and thoughts, so for now I'll just say I like my magic systems chargrilled and served with lemon and herb peri-peri sauce.
By ultamentkiller
#572
I like a mix. Not that I mind Sanderson's magic systems or similar ones, but it always feels like I'm reading sci-fi in a different universe than fantasy. Which is cool and enjoyable, but I hate reading pages of info about magic. It makes it less... magical? As long as I can tell that the author has established rules, I'm fine with it.
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By HormannAlex
#574
Mostly a 4. Love me some low-magic heroic fantasy. Otherwise, I have a simple rule of thumb:

If the PoV character is a wizard, I should be told how magic works.
If the PoV character is not a wizard, it shouldn't matter.
By Elfy
#575
Mostly 2 and 4. 1 to me is a bit like hard sf. I flick the light switch, I expect the light to come on. I don’t need an explanation of how electricity works to get behind the concept.
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By cupiscent
#577
I'm honestly happy with any variety of magic system, as long as it weighs on the characters and seems like a real part of life within the world. (So, for instance, I once disparaged that Brent Weeks story with prism/colour magic as "wargames with the wiggles" because it was all flashy primary colours in a world that otherwise didn't seem very colourful at all, and it took a hundred pages and was still introducing the magic system and I was so bored. Whereas something like, say, The Thousand Deaths of Ardor Benn comes in hard in the first chapter with in situ introduction of a hard magic system in the middle of a flashy action sequence that also introduces the characters, their goals, their conflict, and sets up the rest of the plot. It was a steep learning curve, but the magic system was not the reason why I put that book down.)

Sometimes I get very frustrated with "mysterious" magical systems, because I feel unable to apply reasoning about what's possible and what's not to the scenes that I'm reading, which leaves the stakes and tension up in the air for me. But I feel exactly the same about too much sci-fi jargon - it's effectively mysterious magic because I don't know what these words mean or what the things do, so it feels like the author's going to pull a rabbit out of their hat and I can't possibly see it coming. I like to be able to see it coming.

But mostly, I prefer the story to be about the people, grappling with the repercussions of the system, not about the technicalities of the system itself.
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By ScarletBea
#582
Peat wrote: February 15th, 2024, 19:49 Okay I really wanna know if we're doing a new thread with a poll before I post about this in full
Looks like we're now too far gone for that, haha - feel free to reply fully (I also need to do it)
By Peat
#599
So everything has its place.

But I mostly trend towards mostly soft, although in a manner I shall call Mountain (although Iceberg would do just as well). The idea being that not all areas of magic will be equally explained, and that the more central the area is to the story, the more rigour that area will get. Think of how Harry Potter's magic system is built on handwavium but we get a fair bit of detail on how Unspeakable Curses work.

Which I think is rather similar in spirit to this excellent little nugget
HormannAlex wrote: February 15th, 2024, 20:09 Mostly a 4. Love me some low-magic heroic fantasy. Otherwise, I have a simple rule of thumb:

If the PoV character is a wizard, I should be told how magic works.
If the PoV character is not a wizard, it shouldn't matter.
Which is my favourite among many excellent takes here.

Another way of looking at it is I prefer whichever magic system best supports

a) the tone
b) the plot

I trend towards soft magic systems because they best support the moods of awe and otherness that I like best in fantasy. I'm not saying you can't get those things out of hard magic - in fact, if I had infinite time I'd write a hard magic fantasy series in which basically wizards replicate great scientists, uncovering the laws of reality and feeling incredible awe at what they find - but it's not the usual. I'd suggest a good rule of thumb is that if a fantasy book wants to tell you about its hard magic system it's because it wants to run a lot of incredible action scenes, and I'm probably going to end up disagreeing about the incredibleness of those scenes and wish the focus was elsewhere.

But any plot resting on its supernatural conceit can't be fully soft. I know this because I recently finished a novella called In The Shadow Of Their Dying that rests heavily on two supernatural conceits and doesn't even begin to hint at limitations and possibilities until they happened and frankly I'm not very happy. Admittedly it seems to be very easy these days to make storytelling choices that leave me distinctly vexed but I'm blaming it on choices like this. If you're writing "random batshit things happen", you're probably writing magical realism.

Which is another reason I trend towards soft magic. It means the plot is turning on the people, and not whether they cast 5 fireballs or 6.