“Science gets cooler the more you explain it, and magic gets cooler the less you explain it.” – Stephen Blackmoor
Magic Refresh was my first panel of the con, so I was very excited to get it underway. The four panelists were Beth Cato, Brian McClellan, Greg van Eekhout, and Stephen Blackmoor.
When asked why they decided to write about magic, the authors agreed it was mostly about escapism. Cato answered emphatically, “Wish fulfillment. I wish magic really existed.”
There was a brief discussion on magic versus science. Stephen Blackmoor referenced Ted Chiang in his answer:
If you do something one thousand times and the results are always the same, that magic functions like a science. If you can’t then there is a freedom from predictable results that gives a lot of latitude to the author.
When I got home, I looked up Chiang and found a very informative, interview-type blog on science versus magic, featuring Chiang and a few other authors that is definitely worth a read: http://io9.com/5021701/science-versus-magic–is-there-a-difference-in-the-world-of-fiction.
An audience member asked McClellan if the black powder in his novels was supposed to be similar to heroin. He answered affirmatively, saying: “Magic is going to be addictive. Any time you can do something other people can’t do – you’ll want to do more of it.”
The other authors also agreed that magic has to have a cost. Just as heroin has an addictive nature, magic has to have a physical or emotional sacrifice to the characters or to the world. That cost largely depends on what metaphor you pick for magic. If you pick money, it becomes a limited resource. If you pick love, it has an emotional cost.
I found it interesting that all of the authors know where the magic in their worlds comes from, even if the characters and readers don’t. In fact, they said it was better only to give the reader what they need to know and that the best types of magic are the ones where you see the magic at work without necessarily having an explanation.
One of the final audience questions was hilarious – he asked if they had ever gotten to the end of a book and realized it was wrong. They all spoke at the same time and the answer was a resounding ‘YES!’