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Rated: 13+ · Article · Fantasy · #1829331
Article based on panel discussion at Darkovercon 34
I recently attended Darkovercon 34, a small convention held in Maryland, which has its origins in fandom based on Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover Universe. The con is quite small, only about four hundred fifty people. This year the guests of honors were authors Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman.
The con offered a panel on "The Price of Magic." Among the panelists of authors: Tamora Pierce, Katherine Kurtz, Diane Paxson, and Delia Sherman. To say the least, the discussion among these authors was fascinating. I must admit, I’m familiar with Katherine Kurtz (Deryni, Adept, and Templar Series) and Diane Paxson’s work (Westria, Mists of Avalon Series – begun by the late Marion Zimmer Bradley). I’d not read Tamora Pierce’s work, normally considered Young Adult fantasy – but I’m rectifying that lapse shortly… Tamora talked about the price of magic in terms of use of spells and the price of losing concentration, which could let a dark spell backfire on the wielder. Katherine Kurtz discussed ritualized magic and how it too could backfire – or, if the wielder was lucky -- just not work at all. Tamora also gave an example of a character testing her powers by trying to turm back the tides – which resulted in a friend having to carry her off the beach and needing weeks to recover. Her character was rather lucky, she noted, such foolishness could easily have killed her instead.

If there is no price for using magic the panelists felt stories lack the kind of challenges and conflict that makes for a good yarn. Depending on the source of magic: ambient energy, energy drawn from one’s own reserves, or following the “currents” flow (e.g. ley lines) and being in the right place at the height of the flow (mentioned by Katherine Kurtz), the price of magic can be as different as night and day.

One other thing I enjoyed about the discussion is that all the authors seemed to look at past traditions for the inspiration for their own magical systems. Thinking in those terms offers a sense of historical realism to stories ranging from settings medieval to urban, even steampunk, and beyond.

I’ve got to admit, "what price the magic" opens possibilities… So, if you are as interested as I am in not just enjoying reading fantasy, but writing it – have you thought about what price the magic in your stories should take?


- Highmage

About the author
Highmage has serialized his science fiction/fantasy novel Highmage’s Plight on Writing.com. It has appeared in the ezine Separate Worlds (www.separateworlds.com) in its entirety. He is currently serializing another novel in the series, Human Mage, which will be completed by summer 2012. To learn more, visit his website: www.dhr2believe.net. The author lives in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. He can be reached at dhr2believe at writing dot com.
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