From Moses: Full disclosure: I like Ty. He’s a really good guy with a fantastic imagination, working hard on writing in so many realms. He also runs a great blog. I’m happy to share this guest post from Ty, where he talks about the importance of rules for magic systems in fantasy fiction, as well as the magic in his own created world.
Fantasy author Ty Johnston’s blog tour 2011 is running from November 1 through November 30. His novels include City of Rogues, Bayne’s Climb, More than Kin, all of which are available for the Kindle, the Nook and at Smashwords. His latest novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, will be available for e-books on November 21. To find out more, follow him at his blog tyjohnston.blogspot.com.
GHOSTS OF THE ASYLUM by Ty Johnston
Magic is a common element among nearly all fantasy fiction. Some fantasy tales are strong in magic, while others only hint at the magical. For a reader to believe in the magic of a given tale, the author has to create, understand and follow logical rules concerning magic in his or her story.
Why are these rules necessary? Mainly to make the use of magic believable and sensible to the reader. Most times it is not even necessary for the reader to fully understand these rules, but the writer must, and should use the rules for story balance. Keep in mind, in works of fiction writers are asking readers to temporarily suspend their disbelief, to accept the implausible, and in fantasy this is even more so. To help readers in that suspension of disbelief, fantasy tales must contain logical rules for the existence and use of magic.
In my latest epic fantasy novel, Ghosts of the Asylum, I was writing a sequel to my Kobalos Trilogy, so fortunately I already had a magic system worked out for my world. Below is a basic look at how magic works within my writings.
Two Types of Magic
Magic is powered from one source, the soul or souls of living beings. That being said, magic is then broken up into two types.
High magics are magical powers or spells derived from one’s own soul. A wizard, or magical creature or item, draws upon its own soul energy to perform magics. This is the most common type of magic during the time of Ghosts of the Asylum. Nearly all mages uses high magics, as do most magical beasts.
Low magics are the opposite. Low magics are spells or effects that draw upon the soul or souls of other living creatures outside of the spellcaster. Low magics are not common during the time of my novel, though they were at one time in its history, and are generally considered evil.
The distinction between the two types of magic seems non-existent to the non-initiated, but it is quite distinctive and has had huge impacts upon the history, religions and societies of my Ursian world.
Two types of wizards
Traditional wizards are the most common, and have been throughout my world’s history. This type of mage learns his or her craft from someone else, sometimes officially from a professor at a university, but often times spells and knowledge are passed down through family ties or from one singular caster to another. Sometimes a solitary mage has learned his or her craft on their own, through a codex or scrolls or simply from paying attention to another wizard. Theoretically, anyone could be a traditional wizard. The ability to cast spells is not based upon intelligence or wisdom, though creative minds have been shown to be most open to the arcane arts. Strength of will is important, giving a caster more stamina in casting spells, so as not to be too weakened. But all of this is superfluous.
Wizards are not more common than they are in my world for a variety of reasons, most of them being social. Until recent history, the end of the Mages War almost sixty years earlier, wizards were outlaws and hunted and executed. But times have changed.
Natural mages are a much rarer breed. Natural mages are born with the innate ability or knowledge to cast magical spells. Natural mages also tend to be much more powerful with their special abilities than traditional mages. Some natural mages have also studied under traditional wizards, learning more knowledge and becoming better able to work their spells. An untrained natural mage can be quite a dangerous thing.
The importance of Ashal
To the Eastern and Western churches in my world of Ursia, the almighty Ashal was a living god who walked among men for roughly 30 years approximately 2,000 years earlier, spreading words of wisdom and performing miracles.
Educated wizards know better, and have a tradition of their own. Ashal was no god. He was a flesh-and-blood man. He was also the first known natural mage, and he was the first known caster to use high magics. He is traditionally considered to be the first true wizard.
There were spellcasters before Ashal, but all would at best be considered traditional wizards by today’s standards, having learned their spattering of knowledge from one another and from the ancient tomes of the Zarroc. Also, all of them used low magics. That is why sacrifice was necessary in performing magical rituals in earlier times, the caster literally drawing forth soul power from the sacrifice, and using that energy to perform magics.
According to church doctrine, Ashal was a god, and all wizards are evil humans who use only low magics. This simply is not true, but 2,000 years of evidence to the contrary has not changed any minds. Unfortunately, the churches have had much more sway politically and socially than the spellcasting classes, thus the general public’s opinion of magic and wizards tends to sway toward that of the churches. During the time of my Kobalos Trilogy and the novel Ghosts of the Asylum, times are indeed different, but it is a foolish mage who would show himself anywhere in Eastern Ursia or even in remote or rural regions of Western Ursia.
The general public knows next to nothing about the Zarroc in my world. It is known they existed. A few of their structures, mainly ancient temples, partially stand in the southern deserts. A very few of their ancient writings are rumored to exist, though no wizards or university will admit to having such items. There have even been discovered a few skeletal remains of what might be members of the Zarroc race.
The Zarroc were not human. They lived during the time of the great lizards, long before the ages of men, and it is surmised the Zarroc themselves were a race of bipedal lizard creatures with intelligence and language and a society of their own.
Why they died out, no one knows.
There is no known true history about the Zarroc, but there have been some intelligent guesses about them over the centuries. They apparently were the first intelligent creatures to use magic. Also, supposedly they were great makers of many magical weapons and items. Even the honored Sword of the Elements, the birthright of King Alexandre of Caballerus, is rumored to be one of the Zarroc’s great weapons.
Mages who have attempted mighty spells to look back into the time of the Zarroc have discovered nothing. Perhaps the Zarroc shielded themselves from such prying.
Much of the information above is not needed for readers to enjoy my epic fantasy novels (at least I hope they enjoy the novels). And I did not give away all my secrets, elements I’m saving for future writings. However, I did give away some secrets. For instance, the Zarroc have not been mentioned in any of my novels, though their name does come up in one novella (at least at this point). Yes, I have future plans that will include the Zarroc or at least will be related to the Zarroc. But I’ll keep that to myself for the time being.
Also, I could have gone on into quite a bit more depth concerning magic in my world of Ursia, but I hope not to bore the reader with minutia. The rules of magic in my writings are known to me, and I find them necessary in spinning my tales. Those rules help me to write, and hopefully they help to bring some realism to my fantastical tales and to the reader.
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