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adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
Tuesday, July 6th, 2010 09:46 pm
In building a culturally rich (or at least non-flat) world, it's important to think about the role of religion in it. After all, religion is a hugely important factor in our real world, even to those millions of people who don't have one of their own. People are always trying to sell them one, or infect them with one, or what-have-you. And often, people with or without a religion have to wade through someone else's to get to any of the places they go on a regular basis.

In my TPoP setting, mystical religions have fallen by the wayside. It's difficult to claim your prophet's miracles are a sign of Godly favor, after all, when the average freshman in Applied Magic can duplicate most miraculous feats, with hardly any preparation at all. Those few magicians who did long ago manage to found religions have since been thoroughly discredited as the charlatans they were. They are now followed only by a handful of fanatics, zealots, and small-minded extremists who "hold to the old ways." Don't forget about them, though. Religious extremists are a fringe that can always be whipped into a froth by the lash of hate.

There are also some enclaves who don't condone the rampant use of magic, or in some cases any human use at all. They prefer the fruits of physical science and the human intellect. Some think the ease of magic corrupts us to laziness, some think magic is the power of evil, and some think magic is for God and we humans should keep our ... wands or whatever off of it. Whatever the inspiration, they choose to use only electric / mechanical / chemical / mundane devices and power sources. They are often mocked by the mainstream, but these sorts of enclaves almost universally demonstrate great dignity and humility.

Current religions do, of course, differ widely over cosmology, and even hold a variety of attitudes toward magic. However, the pervasiveness of modern magic ensures that any religion that disapproves too strongly of magic will be relegated to "wacko" status in the "civilized world."

What does this put onto the TODO list? Develop at least two or three fairly complete religions; create some cultures in codependent relationships with those religions; start working on some secular philosophy concurrent with the stages of religious development. In case it slipped past anyone's radar, I'm already fairly sure I'm going to have a group borrowing from Amish culture but translating the Amish attitude toward technology into my group's attitude toward magic. I don't suppose I have any Amish readers to help me get it right?

Up next: cosmology (in hard science). I promise.
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010 12:43 pm
I once read a statement by an author of SF to the effect that both magic and science were simply plot devices, two different buzzwords to allow your characters to do impossible things. I don't like that.

Alternately, I've seen SF described as postulating one or more significant changes in the way we believe the world works, and exploring their consequences. I like that somewhat better. However, most worlds with "magic" seem to either choose a world where technological development is significantly lower than ours, or to assume for some reason that use of magic will lead to neglect for science. That leaves me unimpressed.

My setting assumes that magic exists, and coexists with what we call modern science. Any good university will have some curriculum dealing with magic as a science, and most colleges will have coursework in the applications of magic within their fields.

My first task, then, is to establish the rules governing magic to a sufficient degree to permit their treatment as a serious academic pursuit. Now, if magic is to coexist with the other sciences, I must somehow explain its relationship with concepts like relativity, conservation of energy, and thermodynamics. And what about the arcane words, dramatic gestures, and sudden real physical effects? Do these exist in my world?

I want magic to be useful, but not to supplant sound engineering or medicine or any of the other useful applications of science. I also don't want it to make economic and social concerns irrelevant; these are important issues that deserve better than just being hand-waved away. However, if magic can't violate thermodynamics as we understand it, at least in certain defined ways, it's not really magic. Thus, I posit a "magical ether" that serves as an "entropy sink." Reactions and processes that involve the aether may proceed in direction of decreasing entropy in our perception; the energy flows through the aether, where the entropy increase is passed to some other reaction.

The aether, then, is a magical linkage between an energy source and an energy-using process. The study of magic is the study of how to create and apply these linkages, and how to control side effects and inefficiencies. The exact mechanism of this manipulation is my next task.
adalger: Earthrise as seen from the moon, captured on camera by the crew of Apollo 16 (Default)
Monday, June 28th, 2010 02:06 pm
Hello, readers!

I'm building a world. In various posts and comments scattered a little more far and wide than I'm willing to dig up, some things have been discussed about worldbuilding, fictional culture development, the "all gods are one God" trope (cf. "All restaurants are Taco Bell"), and the relationship between "magic" and "science" in fiction. I'm takin' 'em all on! And I'm publicly sharing the process of creating the setting.

All posts on this topic will be tagged with "tpop" (derived from the working title "The Pentacle of Power") to help you follow or ignore these posts. The first post will introduce the idea of "magic" as it exists in the TPoP universe, along with commentary on the factors influencing the decision process. Stay tuned!