Magic, E.T., and the Genres I Aim to Write
Many questions have percolated in my mind lately. But writing them down in a blog post has been, honestly, a pain in the butt. None of the previous drafts have flowed satisfactorily. I think I have it this time.
Researching magic systems is a pain in the ass. Especially if the magic systems are those of the real world. So far, I’ve mostly looked into the Western ceremonial tradition. It is crazy! To be generous, the ceremonial tradition of the West is a hodgepodge of specious scholarship and laughable frauds melding together by, perhaps, too uncritical minds.
Still though, what I’ve uncovered has been very interesting, even if I think much of it is laughable. But it does give me an insight into how different types of magicians or witches work. And why, exactly, they get involved in many of these traditions.
An interesting thought, though, is the difference between the, to be less cumbersome, goetic tradition and many of the traditional or local witchcraft traditions. One tradition relies on an (to my mind) archaic philosophical interpretation of the world while the other relies on a deep knowledge of the local environment married to a mastery of local religion (or mythology). What would a fantasy that confronted the two traditions look like? Also, Richard Cavendish makes a wonderful point that magic is, perhaps, more poetry rather than (proto)science. What would a more poetic take on magic be like? Would it look like reality warping?
Another question I had is whether or not having born wizards/ witches rather than having them desire and learn their powers a better option? The two approaches do have their respective storytelling strengths. But is a biological approach easier to world build? And maybe, easier to have genuinely good characters?
Moving away from fantasy, for the moment, I want to touch now on some thoughts about E.T.s.
If you’ve ever watched the television series Through the Wormhole, you’ll understand what is coming.
In the aliens episode, the argument is made that most sentient, or intelligent, alien species will be predators. But I really have to challenge that assertion. Or, at the very least, the notion that we may have to deal with smart apex predators. If you look at our own world, no apex predator has attained sentience. We humans are not apex predators. Yes, we are omnivorous, but we were prey to other species. I wonder if it is not the relative weakness of the human body which requires both hunting strategies and strong artificial defenses that, in part, contributed to our need for increased intelligence.
Another point. Are we the only sentient species on this planet? Could not certain species of dolphins be sentient? And could some whale species also be sentient?
Finally, we hear so often that we are the young kids on the galactic block. But what if we are actually one of the older species? What does that mean for us? (Okay, for the record, I have every intention of writing a space opera around this idea. But it won’t be a replay of Western colonialism).
Speaking of space opera, I’ve been thinking a lot about the genres (or subgenres) I aim to write.
There are some genres I’ve always wanted to write. They are the genres that have, as a form, captured my imagination and inspired me.
Space opera, epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, science fantasy, the weird, cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, etc.
Writing science fiction has been a challenge for me. In part I think because, while I adore science fiction, actually bringing all of my knowledge and inspiration to bear hasn’t really born much fruit, excepting a few instances (like the space opera idea above).
In a way, I’m a fantasy idea machine. The trouble here is determining how to schedule everything out. And never getting around to writing science fiction.
Writing this post, I got hit by an “I’m an idiot” bomb. My current work in progress is an epic fantasy set in a version of the “real world.” (Mind you, it’s not the real world because, well, magic isn’t real). The other three fantasy projects I have in the works are no less interesting, genre wise.
I had convinced myself that the project coming after The Goetic High would be no less epic. But I am not so sure. For one thing, I really wanted to make some kind of science fiction story out of it. In this iteration, the project would have been either postapocalyptic, punk, or space opera. But things just did not click. Now, that is not to say that a good science fiction story will never click into the overall idea. But the idea just works better as fantasy. So the story is back to being a portal quest epic fantasy. But is that really the best option?
Writing this blog, it “hit” me that maybe I could take more inspiration from sword and sorcery and mix that into the science fantasy it already was. (You know, this project could raise questions about how sword and sorcery and epic fantasy interact). Only time will tell. Anyway, I can’t wait to discuss some of the inspirations that went into this project. Inspiration comes from the craziest places.
Two Cities has, honestly, proven a pain. What damn genre is it? Yes, it is urban fantasy, if only because the damn story takes place in San Francisco. Then, again, it “hit” me. Magic realism. Or in this case fantastic realism since, so far, the point of the story is very much a human one rather than a more action oriented story.
The fourth idea is still a ways off. But I suspect it will be a wildly experimental work. And maybe see the wedding of steampunk and southern gothic. (Hey, I love southern gothic, too).
I’m rambling, right now, so I’ll stop here.
Writing this post, like many of my “talking to myself” posts, has opened up new storytelling possibilities. So, yes, this post succeeds where earlier drafts failed.