Author Natania Barron's internet brainwave.

fantasy writing

(Dis)illusion – on magic

February 6, 2009

(Dis)illusion – on magic

When I was young, the pursuit of magic was a daily adventure. I was nearly obsessed with tapping into some unknown ability, like a Jedi, that when unleashed would undoubtedly solve my problems. Of course, my love of fantasy fueled this preoccupation. I saturated my imagination with books that reiterated my convictions: magic was possible, it was just a matter of finding it.

At about the age of twelve, I started writing what could (technically at least) be considered novels (though nothing was ever finished). And magic was everywhere; I remember how intoxicating it was to create a world for the first time, drawing a map, and developing magic. Of course, there were dragons and wizards and sorceresses–what else would there be? But I didn’t question the validity of magic. For me, it was a given–a blessing, always–that some worlds had magic, and though they, too, had their struggles, their worlds were clearly superior to our own.

But something has changed in me. In the last few years, my perception of magic, especially in what I write, has shifted dramatically. What’s weird is that it’s definitely tied to my own feelings on religion (and many fantasy writers have picked up on that similarity). I’m no longer comfortable with magic just getting away with everything. I mean, so, he conjured up that bread–but where did it come from? Sure, he transformed into a bear, but how did it happen?

Above all, it’s a feeling that magic, in all forms, has to come at a price. That it is not simple, or common. Illusion, of course, is sleight of the hand. But real magic? The sort that can heal, can wound, can transform? No, it’s not easy in the worlds I write any more.

Because I feel that magic is, in many portrayals, simply taken too lightly. As author, instead of playing the magic enabler, I’m playing the magic skeptic. Which is the primary reason my first book is laying dormant these days. It’s not a bad book; in many ways it’s really good. It just doesn’t stop to ask the hard questions. Magic is too simple, too straightforward. Magical people are good, and those who deny magic are bad. But it’s about so much more than that.

How about you? Do you find that your perception of magic has changed? In what ways? Does it affect how you read/write?


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