Why I Don’t Use Magic

I’m always looking for new fantasy novels. Yesterday I was reading lists of “the top fantasies of 2013”–there are any number of them on the Internet–but I gave it up when I found a new series about a boy who goes to wizards’ school. No, the boy isn’t named “Barry Rotter” or anything like that. Couldn’t they have waited until after J.K. Rowling died? To rip her off while she’s still alive and still writing is the height of bad manners.

I was struck by an overall sense of un-originality among these fantasies. It came through the rave reviews like a whiff of mildew.

Dreariest aspect of it all, fantasy writers are still using “magic” to get things done. The real world functions without magic–and look at all the mischief we get into. A sane person believes the laws of nature hold throughout the universe; so where does “magic” fit in?

So I have ruled out “magic” in my Bell Mountain books. If my characters want to get something done, they actually have to do it–instead of just saying “Ooga-balooga-razzmatazz!” I do allow things that look like magic, but aren’t. The creation of such stunning illusions is still very much with us: see Global Warming.

But there is a more important reason why I’ve kept “real magic” out of my books.

The laws of nature are subservient to God, and we are under both God and the physical laws of our world that God created. “Magic” is a way of making the magician superior to those laws–an altogether wicked and impious concept.

Wicked and impious characters–at least in my books–will seek to acquire magic, will pretend to have it, and may even convince themselves that they do. But only God can say, “Let there be light.”

Proud and corrupt minds always seek to usurp God’s function. In case you hadn’t noticed, that’s what the whole “transgender” business is about. “Male and female created He them–oh, yeah? Well, watch us turn the males into females and the females into males! Now who’s the god? Hah!”

There is no way that kind of thinking leads to any end but evil.

7 comments on “Why I Don’t Use Magic

  1. Something about this article struck such a chord of clarity …was it layers of deception being peeled away, There are even preachers that teach we don’t have to live in the laws of the universe such thinking makes me shudder. Everyone is looking for the ultimate shortcut. False doctrines Sow a seed and get rich..,speak and it will be done for you….the whole universe lines up with your speech, Of course we should guard our mouths and money according to Scripture but we gave to work to find out this instruction using our God given intelligence to read, the world is filled with the empty promises of magic isn’t it?

    1. You bet–and you don’t have to resort to fantasy to find them, either. In fact, the whole statist/humanist/secular enterprise is by far the biggest fantasy of all.

  2. Hey, didn’t see your blog before. Good thing for your “shameless promotion” on mine, no? (Note: if you’re not a bot, I’m fine with self-promotion.)

    The way I see magic in fantasy as opposed to the preset laws of physics is that, in the alternate realities in which many fantasies exist, the God or gods of those worlds must have made magic possible within that world’s laws of physics, or else it wouldn’t happen (the narration may say otherwise, but more on that next paragraph). The laws of physics aren’t so easily broken (source: my physics professor).

    I think one of the great flaws of magic in fantasy is calling it “magic” in the first place (several do not, however), because in the world those characters occupy, it wouldn’t be. To our ancestors, clap-on lights would be magical, unreal. Go back far enough and fire itself would be magic. Modern writers have a preset definition of magic in their heads, to the point where we define “magic systems” as, well, “magic systems,” rather than “alternate universe physics.”

    If another sentient species came to our planet, they may well be absolutely fascinated with this super-power we have that we flippantly call “empathy,” or the magical ability to put oneself into another’s mind and feel, to an extent, what they feel. So we, too, would be fascinated by people inexplicably changing the weather in a bubble around them with the wave of a hand, etc.

    TL;DR: “magic” as we traditionally think of and portray it in fantasy, is more accurately described as “alternate reality physics.”

    1. Thanks for a very interesting post. And thanks for letting me get away with a little self-promotion on your blog. My publisher, Storehouse Press, has no budget for promotion. They’ve left it all up to me. Ugh.

      I haven’t forgotten that one age’s “magic” is another age’s “technology.” In fact, that principle has been articulated in my books. But often what we call things can lead to confusion.

      By “magic”–come to think of it, this probably ought to be a regular post sometime soon–I mean acquired abilities to circumvent the laws of nature (which are God’s laws). This is why witchcraft is a sin. Example: Teena buys a scroll with a spell on it which, when she recites it under the full moon, will compel any boy she names to fall helplessly in love with her. (This is the kind of banal business all too common in YA Fiction these days.)

      I’ve come to believe there’s entirely too much of this in fantasy. “Magic” serves as a lazy writer’s handy shortcut for getting things done. It’s also wish-fulfillment for the reader. “If I could just say Shazzam! instead of going to the dentist, and all my teeth would be fixed…”

      We must be free to imagine alternate realities, wherein things that we would deem “magical” would be only natural. For a fairy to be able to fly would be natural. For an ordinary human being to flit over the forest, without technological assistance, would be unnatural.

      I allow no “magic” in my books; but I do allow for the appearance or illusion of magic. (Just because the characters think something they see is magical, doesn’t mean it really is.)

      If you’d like to indulge me, why not revisit this blog, click “Books,” and see what you think of my Bell Mountain novels? I’d be very interested in your opinion. Who knows? Maybe you’ll want to read them.

  3. Great article, Lee. It made me think of “The Fugitive Prince” which I have just finished reading. There is a seemingly supernatural device in the story masquerading as magic. I am hoping “The Palace,” which i have just purchased, will explain further what and how this mysterious device really is able to do what it does. I wrote a review on Amazon.com. P.S. If you write a comment on my comment I will not know about it because this Blog no longer notifies me when a comment has been made??????

    1. Dave, I have no idea why WordPress is playing silly games with our exchange of comments. I guess you will eventually see this.
      Thanks for reviewing my book–and don’t let me miss it!

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