As you know from my other blog post, I’m a frustrated (High) Fantasy fan. It’s kind of like your favorite sports team coming in last season after season—I don’t watch the games anymore, but I check the scores on occasion. The next concept in high Fantasy that is out of control is the rules and laws governing magic and its use. How many stories have you read where the character mutters a few arcane words and poof, he’s levitating across the mote or becoming invisible to foes. Come on! Here is where my believability flag starts coming down the pole. Many stories try to justify the magic wielders in two general categories: those individuals with an innate ability and those with learned skills. Okay, I buy both of these concepts and really don’t have an issue with them. Where I take umbrage is action and reaction, or the physical laws that must govern the use of magic. For me there has to be a penalty for using magic. To be believable, it simply can’t be Harry Potter waving a wand and saying some gibberish. This acts as a descent medium to cast the magic, but where’s the penalty? It seems the author has not done their due diligence.
Think of magic like an athlete’s ability. Take Michael Phelps (Olympic swimmer) as an example. Michael is the Grand Master Wizard when it comes to swimming. When wielding his craft, he’ll beat any foe. He would crush a novice swimmer such as myself. So I’m going against Michael in a 50 meter freestyle. Of course he crushes me and that’s expected, but what is the cost? In many fantasy stories there is no cost. The magicians have the ability and that’s it…let’s dance around and cast spells with no repercussions. I just swam the 50 meters giving it everything I’ve got. My lungs burn and my muscles have the consistency of gelatin, I’m gasping for every breath, hoping I don’t drown getting out of the pool. Michael hops from the pool as if he merely stepped from a shower. Magic should have similar laws. The caster should be effected in some way, shape, or form such as I was completely drained physically. Of course the more adept, such as Michael, the less exertion or toll the skill takes. Some stories do have robust laws governing magic, but unfortunately, there are too many stories that simply ignore any rules.