Writers of science fiction and fantasy in particular, but all genres in general including literary writers and storytellers of all kinds may speak of creating a world or universe within which their story or series of stories take place. Some might simply call it the setting for the story, but really it is more than that because it not only includes houses, buildings, sometimes woods or communities or entire nations that do not actually exist; but people that are invented (after a fashion) for story purposes as well.
For any author who steps outside of our present reality, building a story world that is consistent and plausible is imperative. This is true for every author, even those who travel on the road, or visit a shack, or happen to be married to a time traveler. The author needs to know what is and what isn’t, what is possible and what is not, and to some extent, how it works. In short, they need to build a viable universe.
This series of posts concerns my universe. I want to share some thoughts on creating and building a world in which a story may live and breathe. I hope by showing some aspects of my own universe, as conceived, you will find the discussions helpful in your own work, though I expect you will develop things differently and in your own way, and so you should.
In my universe:
Magic in my universe is rooted in the spiritual world. It begins with the Biblical witness where God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. It occurred to me that the Spirit has power over matter and energy in this way, not only to manipulate the material universe, but even to create “ex-nihilo” (out of nothing). And what is magic as commonly understood but the exercise of some power to affect this material universe?
I have no doubt that someone from the first century would find electric lights magical. That sense of awe might be diminished on learning to turn the light on and off by themselves, but even if they learned to use the remote, I am still sure they would count as magic how I managed to fit all of those people into a flat television screen. I have seen enough of the science to imagine a teleportation device (like on Star Trek). But what first century person would see that as anything but magic?
In these examples, we see how science and technology have taken various “energies” found within this material universe and used them to manipulate matter and affect life. You might imagine cooking in a microwave oven.
In my universe, spiritual power takes precedent over both matter and energy. You might then imagine a wizard calling or commanding microwaves to gather around your person and frying you where you stand without needing the oven. You could also imagine a wizard commanding you to change, and the matter (as in “Let there be light”) would be unable to resist changing. Thus, POOF! You are a frog.
Of course, while the human spirit has the promise of being made greater than the angels, at the present time the human spirit is so diminished we cannot normally touch the world “magically.” That is reality. Even the wizard, opened to the power inherent in the spirit, would likely need something – a wand, a potion, gold dust perhaps – to bring their spiritual power into focus and to manage it.
But, you may ask, if the human spirit is so diminished, how is it that any human being might gain the power of magic? That will have to wait until the next post: MAGIC and the fallen world.