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The Problem With Magic Worlds

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, April 23, 2022

Our world seems drab, grey, mundane. But some escape it through a magic portal that transports them into a colorful, beautiful, adventurous magic world.

A world that is secret, known only to the select few as everyone else lives on unaware in the real world. And yet, the secret magic world is connected to the real one and can impact it.

And there lies the problem with the premise, though it is so alluring- it's as escapist as it gets! Characters that may be unremarkable in the real world become heroes or heroines in the magical one (or even the Chosen One). Amazing adventures with all sorts of magic battles and creatures await the reader who lives in that world vicariously through the main characters… and then, when the book closes, being in the real world doesn't destroy the fantasy. That world, after all, is supposed to exist hidden within or beside ours, somehow, and the things that happen there affect ours here.

But don't think about it for too long, if you want the magic to persist.

Because a magic world like that would be virtually impossible to exist. Not only because of the sheer problems of keeping it hidden when way too many people know of it (just how many muggles know of Harry Potter's magic world? Does every PM in the UK know of the ministry of magic?), but also because of the ramifications of having magic people living, breathing, acting among us.

Think about people and how they react to things. If you had the power to teleport into Hitler's chamber and capture him, while living during WWII, wouldn't you do it? How would you be oblivious of the devastation of such a world event even if you had chosen to live completely in the magic world? Would a magic law keep everyone from interfering?

And that's just scratching the surface of the myriad of problems that arise.

Problems that have no legitimate explanation or solution if our world is to be construed as having developed in parallel to the magic one without any interference of magic in its non-magic affairs. That's the trap that a lot of such fantasy worlds fall in, in my opinion.

Now, do you need to keep the real world unaffected by magic? Of course not. Grimm did it well by actually incorporating the fantastical elements into the real world- but then again, if we forget the last couple of seasons of the show, there was only one world in which the magic had always been taking place: ours.

On the other hand, you may have the magic world completely independent from ours. It cannot affect our world and we cannot affect it back (a la Narnia, at least as far as I know). That resolves a lot of the problems, except perhaps the fact that there is, still, a magic portal.

Have you ever thought of this issue with secret magic worlds behind the parapet of our real, everyday, mundane one? (disclaimer: I wish it were mundane, our world. I don't think it is at all)

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Kou the Mad at 12:03AM, April 24, 2022

The WW2 thing is actually funny that you brought it up, Grindalwald's plan was basically to do exactly that. He saw WW2 coming and was going to try and stop it.

plymayer at 10:41PM, April 23, 2022

Been known to live in my own little world from time to time...Or rather, it seems like it. Working 12 hours night shifts tend to alter reality slightly now and then.

PaulEberhardt at 3:27PM, April 23, 2022

Since my comic fits the magic realism genre, may I add that I took a lot of inspiration from Douglas Adams' concept of the SEP-field. Rather than spending terawatts of energy to bend light and alter memories and stuff to make something undetectable you just declare whatever you want to hide to be Somebody Else's Problem and rely on people never seeing what they don't expect or want to see. When I came up with my witch I knew from the outset that she wouldn't hide but instead advertise her skills openly. In consequence, her customers come to her without a second thought and everyone else leaves her be, because what's in plain sight must be OK. (Btw. in the 30s and 40s she was forced to lie very low to prevent the Nazis from gaining access to her knowledge (IRL Heinrich Himmler and others actually did try to get their hands on everything about witchcraft, because they thought it'd help them reconstruct ancient Germanic rites). Trying to kill Hitler would have put her out into the open.)

PaulEberhardt at 2:54PM, April 23, 2022

I don't think Rowling is a bad writer, but Harry Potter is a good example of how keeping something as large as a parallel wizard world secret even from muggles is just too impossible to be portrayed in a convincing manner. Like most of the better writers she takes the path of treating the whole thing in a light-hearted, playful way (like the wizarding world itself): look, dear reader, don't take it too seriously and focus on the fun you and I can have with this. Same with Piers Anthony's Xanth novels, by the way, which I like a great deal for that very reason (To those who are not in the know it's a whole country in a kind of magic parallel universe bubble that's entirely based on and run by bad puns - Isle of It!). Suspension of disbelief can either take more strain than you think or it's not as important, after all.

hushicho at 1:33PM, April 23, 2022

I think essentially the largest problem with the way that Rowling's wizarding world exists -- to take the example that clearly inspired this article -- is that fundamentally, she's not a very good writer. I don't think the magic world necessarily has to be what I view as overexplained, but that only works if a writer doesn't constantly dwell on the interacting between the different levels of society taking place. Rowling has a tendency, as do many writers, to focus on points she does not do particularly well, but she also never gets any better at it. She seems to just get worse.

Corruption at 8:39AM, April 23, 2022

The webcomic El Goonish Shive has Magic being sentient and wanting to keep hidden. If too many people learned it was real, it would change the rules of how people could use magic, except for the seers who would teach others(very rare and even with todays population there would only be 1000 of them). This and other reasons led to governments and other groups covering magic up, like faking fake alien landings (as opposed the real ones that occur there . . . ) One story idea I had had a group focusing on keeping things hidden, and being very good at it. Want to stop a plague using magic potions? Just disguise it with medicine. Want to preform magic in a public street? Just make them think you are a stage magician. Want to kill an entire sport stadium full of people as an offering to demon gods? Make sure everyone thinks it was a terrorist group, and no recordings remain. They are neutral there . . . but there is neutral and "neutral" if you get my meaning.

BUDLO at 8:06AM, April 23, 2022

PETER PAN IN KENSINGTON GARDENS is a much more tragic tale written by Barrie before Peter Pan. I think Peter, as a baby, escapes by flight out the window to the real Kensington Garden where birds speak and fairies live. He eventually forgets how to fly and by the time he gets back to his window, his (mourning?)parents have put bars on it. So, unlike NEVERLAND you have a fairy world existing within the real world.

BUDLO at 7:51AM, April 23, 2022

Guiermo del Torro's PAN'S LABRYNTH is a great example of how a fantasy world and what takes place there impacts the real world and vice versa.

rmccool at 7:12AM, April 23, 2022

I try to make a world where both are used but both have limits..

marcorossi at 12:20AM, April 23, 2022

I am a fan of the concept of Lovecraft's dreamlands, as they were rendered in the call of Chthulhu RPG: everyone can get there by night, but not everyone remembere it by day.

Ozoneocean at 12:19AM, April 23, 2022

Oz is another... It's a weird spot. To get there you seem to have to fly in some way. Either in a balloon or tornado? The Wonderland, where Alice goes to through the mirror and down the rabbit hole is a surreal fantasy. It has way less structure than Oz, but they could both be thought of as fever dream places I think. Lord Dunsany's "Fairyland" could be though of as a fever dream too or maybe a shift in perception to a place existing on the same plane as ours in the world of the fairy.

Ozoneocean at 12:13AM, April 23, 2022

then there's Neverland where Peter Pan comes from. That's another place that pirates settled in but unlike Narnia they didn't reform and start a new civilisation, they just got locked into being pirates forever... just as the Lost Boys get locked into being kids forever. It seems to be place that affects time. I don't know because I haven't actually read it.

Ozoneocean at 12:11AM, April 23, 2022

Narnia is a fave. I have a sacred place in my heart for that. Great kids fantasy! The portals there are only tied to specific people and only when the land needs them or they need the land. But in earlier times larger groups did stumble in... animals, and then pirates and adventurers...

Ozoneocean at 12:08AM, April 23, 2022

The Magic Kingdom by Terry Brooks is another fave. Rich man accidentally buys it and begins setting it to rights (it was pretty rundown... which was why it was for sale). It functions in a super stereotypical way and it's very funny because of it. I think he started using it in his courier business to short cut on transport costs...

Ozoneocean at 12:05AM, April 23, 2022

Some of my faves: Piers Anthony's Xanth. That is basically an alternative fantasy Florida, overlayed over the real thing in some sort of dreamlike way... It takes the form of a sexy, silly fairyland that is based on the imaginings of romantic poets and their re-envisioning of Greek and Roman myth. To get there you sort of have to shift your perception or just accidentally stumble into it.

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