So, let us talk about magic systems. I am fairly well read, so I have encountered many magic systems in numerous universes. In addition, I have played many fantasy video games that can take these kinds of magic systems and make them usable through button pressing combinations. They range from the simple expressions of inner power to complex rituals requiring particular materials and symbolic gestures. Over the years I have seen great examples of magic systems and poor examples.
For a poor example, I give you Terry Goodkind who has no rigorously vetted system of magic; thus, leaving himself open for inconsistency in applying the rules his characters follow. He makes the rules up as he goes so that you feel that what ever magic rules he has are just created to get the results he wants for the scene. Consistency is left for the reader to rationalize out.
For good examples, I give you Brandon Sanderson who creates some of the most interesting complex magic systems with unique and consistent rules. Instead of making the rues fit the situation, he writes situations that fit his story based upon the rules of his magic system. The use of metals to fuel three different types of magic in the Mistborn series is a joy to read. Each system is well-defined as is how they interact with each other. So far, I have not noted Mr. Sanderson writing scenes that are not consistent with the restraints he created in the magic system.
So, where do I sit on the issue. Well, to be truthful, I am a bit lazy and impatient. While I love the stuff that Brandon Sanderson is doing, I don’t have the patience to work out such detailed magic systems. In addition, all my work to date has been short fiction with little room to spend detailing the magic rules. The closest I have gotten is in next months story “Lepidoptera” where each young Sindain that enters the Woods of Calling are marked with a tattoo by their God Sky Father depicting the need they will fill in the Sindain tribe. Mostly I tend to represent magic as an aspect of the person or the person’s intelligence and imagination. This way they can create almost anything with reasonable consistency. In some cases I source power from the land, which in some ways is how we work in our technological society.
Which ever way you chose to go, magic is almost always an essential part of fantasy fiction, maybe the best part. So feel free to explore the magic in my stories.