Saturday, 3 April 2010

Magical magic?

Since I'm re-reading Tom Holt's 'May Contain Traces of Magic' I find myself interested at the moment by the balance between the magical and the mundane in various forms of modern fantasy. Different authors working with modern settings vary hugely both in the amount of magic they put in their fantasy work and in how magical it seems when they do it.

At one end of the scale, you seem to have JK Rowling and the like, who throw in lots of magic and make it all quite fantastical. Is this just a function of the younger intended audience? Is it because there isn't intended to be anything jaded or cynical about it?

Tom Holt's work probably still uses a lot of magic, but tends not to make such a big deal about it. In fact, the whole "working for J.W.Wells" setting seems designed specifically to make the point that, for all the magic, it's still just a job. Hence this novel about a sales rep, which just happens to contain demons, magical weapons and dehydrated water.

One of the biggest determining factors seems to be how much the story is taking place in the "real" world, and how hidden the magical bits have to be, though Neil Gaiman always seems to be able to fit in more magic than you might have thought possible.

So, where do you fall on the scale, if you write fantasy? Lots of magic? No magic? And how magical is your magic? I've noticed that I often throw in quite large pieces of magic casually, and occasionally just because it might get a laugh. What about you?

3 comments:

Christina said...

Lately, I can't remember a book I've read these last couple of months that didn't have some form of magic in them. It's making me stir crazy for more fantasy.

I've been recently thinking of JK Rowling's world and there is such detail in her books, it's almost hard not to slip into a mindset. She's amazing.

Lisa Damian said...

I toss in a bit of magic when I'm writing, sometimes under the assumption that everyone (particularly children) has a bit of magical talent whether it's developed and acknowledged or not. Then, there are magical creatures who, by their very nature, perform a bit of magic in my stories.

You mention magic as a job. Have you read Mike Carey's "The Devil You Know" series? The main character is an exorcist for hire. Or Jim Butcher's "Dresden Files" series, which features a wizard for hire?

stu said...

I've read the Dresden Files, though there's a big difference in tone there compared to what I mean. For Harry Dresden, magic is still spectacular, and strange, and interesting.

Compare that to Chris Popham, the hero of May Contain Traces of Magic, to whom magic carpets etc are just things he has to sell to meet his targets.