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 Post subject: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2014 2:10 am 
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So, I have these creatures in a part of my world called the Faxlar who are able to change into the likeness of a bear. They are born with the ability to do so. It is a very important part of the story that they be able to change, but I am wondering: is it considered magic? I don't have anything against magic really, but I have made a point to keep it to a minimum in my book. I suppose if it is considered magic, people will just have to deal with it... but, can it be considered as NOT magic? The simple fact that they are born with the ability to change shapes says to me personally that it is not magic, but how else would a person describe it??

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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Wed Mar 05, 2014 3:55 pm 
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Well, to your readers it will be magical and they might call it magic regardless of what extremes you go to to portray it as non-magic because in overly simplistic, modern thought, anything beyond the natural realm of possibility can be described as "magical" or "magic". But keep in mind, if/when readers/critics say that about your book, they're saying it as a descriptor, not necessarily as a judgment. So yeah, some readers might consider it magic, but if they're reading a fantasy story, odds are they were hoping for something slightly magical anyway. :)

Now from the theoretical perspective, what you're describing actually falls more within the realm of what we HWers call "cobha" (pronounced "coat-vaughn). That's just a fancy word that Tsahraf Chasid Mimetes came up with for anything that is natural/possible in a fantasy story that would be impossible in our reality. So in your world, there are people that are naturally born with the ability to turn into bears, which is impossible in our world. That would be cobha.

Now there are times magic can be cobha. For instance if magicians and so on are a natural part of your world, then their powers would be part of that world's cobha. But usually, around here, the distinction is that when HWers say magic in the negative/undesirable context, they're referring to the ways that people try to gain/use supernatural powers that they were not created to have. This falls under the same category as witchcraft and sorcery and so on which God forbids in the Bible. But your idea is nothing like that, so I'm getting off topic and rambling. :P

Anyways...yeah... Basically, most HWers wouldn't view your shapeshifting idea as magic, but your uninitiated readers might use the broad sense of the word "magic" or "magical" to describe it. But it sounds like a fun idea, so who cares what people call it? :dieshappy:

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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 3:14 am 
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Hey! Thanks for the input, Seer! That really helps me sort it all out in my head. Particularly the "born with it" as opposed to "trying to obtain it" part. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that before! :roll:

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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2014 12:16 pm 
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StormCry wrote:
Particularly the "born with it" as opposed to "trying to obtain it" part.
Yeah, I think that's the crux of it.... :)

Maybe. * pauses and thinks *

Actually, I think you have to be cautious about that distinction, because sometimes 'magic' can be sort of... mechanical? And in that case the people wouldn't be born with it – but I think it would still be a cobha thing, if it was entirely natural as opposed to against the rules God set up. Sort of like how building an airplane is ok, even though people were not born with the ability to fly, if that makes any sense.


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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 10, 2014 5:49 pm 
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Good point, Juliet!
I honestly didn't think to bring out that distinction because it was just an assumed fact in my brain. Thanks for filling in the gaps! :D

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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 6:12 pm 
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Fairfeet the Seer wrote:
Good point, Juliet!
I honestly didn't think to bring out that distinction because it was just an assumed fact in my brain. Thanks for filling in the gaps! :D
:salute: * grins *


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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:17 pm 
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Yeah, that was kind of naturally assumed on my part too. Haha... Thanks for pointing it out though! That was a really good point.

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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Mon Mar 24, 2014 7:01 pm 
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What about the distinction between magic and science in a fictional world? There are plenty of science related things that might as well be magic to me. Most of the time I just take it on faith that the wizard-like scientists of today know what they are talking about. Can't you just pass off magic in a fictional world as the science of that world if you don't want to use the word magic?

Actually now that I say it, it doesn't really work because science is tested by reason to judge whether or not its statements are true and/or ethical. You can't really use reason to test the validity of magic.

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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 25, 2014 2:54 am 
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I think you could pass it off as science, especially as the story draws out and you explain how these characters "flip the switch" to shape-shift, and how they explain its working to other characters in the story. It would probably come off as a natural science-like thing to the reader eventually.

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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Thu Apr 03, 2014 2:10 pm 
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I think there is a definable difference between science (or what might better be called 'technology', I suppose?) and magic, mainly because science is not a thing, it is a method. It's sometimes claimed that magic is just a 'method', too, but mainly in cases where the magic is actually a version of real, earth, occultic, evil magic. :P In other cases, its generally shown that no matter how much method goes into using the magic, there is always some 'thing' that the methods are being used on.

But when it comes to scientifically (or 'technologically') exploiting the force of whatever magic there is, that's very plausible. And I do think that it could rather take out the bad taste that some people have for 'sorcery'. You wouldn't necessarily have to ever mention the magic source, even, sort of like how you could write a story involving computers without mentioning that they are powered by electricity, or mentioning the rather fantastical raw nature of electricity.

But if you did that, it wouldn't be as fantastical, and it really depends on what sort of story you want, whether or not you should focus on the scientific/technological applications of magic.

I think I may have misunderstood what you were talking about, though, Andorin.... Might you confirm for me if I have taken entirely the wrong tack on this?


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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 6:50 pm 
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I think you have made a good point Mistress Kidh. There is a difference between science and magic. Science is a method of testing, and magic is...well, it's just there, like electricity.
I am writing this story from the main character's point of view, so when she changes shapes, she just does. It's normal for her. There is no science or magic in it for her. It's just like being able to catch a ball in mid-air for us: we just do it.
But when some of the supporting characters first see her change shapes from this nice "little girl" to a huge roaring bear.... they're going to want some answers to the questions they have. Of course, she can't explain it to them, but her friend and mentor can since he is a little more of a "scientific" man. He observes and studies things.
Mainly what I am trying to get here is this: how can they explain this to the poor other peeps who just had an adrenaline spike and borderline heart attack after seeing their DLF (dear little friend) change into a bear? And can they explain it in such a way that the reader is not just seeing the word magic written all over the place?

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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 9:25 pm 
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Andorin Kaepora wrote:
Can't you just pass off magic in a fictional world as the science of that world if you don't want to use the word magic?

There was a time when many successful authors did just that---except sometimes they even had their characters call it "magic." But since it's no longer the case that science fiction is a respected and salable genre and fantasy isn't, there's usually not much point to calling something "science" when it's clearly "magic."

Andorin Kaepora wrote:
Actually now that I say it, it doesn't really work because science is tested by reason to judge whether or not its statements are true and/or ethical. You can't really use reason to test the validity of magic.

I don't agree; essentially none of the fantasy that I find worth reading fits that statement. To me, a major test of whether magic in a story "works" (that is, doesn't throw me out of the story or make me want to stop reading it) is whether it is reasonable if we accept the few assumptions the story requires us to make.

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 Post subject: Re: Shape changer - Magic or not?
PostPosted: Sun Apr 06, 2014 9:56 pm 
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Well said Everyone.

My post (as well as my thoughts) on the subject of Magic/Science still need to be thought through a bit. I don't think I expressed what was on my mind very well.

I guess I was coming at the question as if I were in the world itself. If I was in the world of the Faxlar, then I would most likely view it as a science. I would expect that people studied the Faxlar and tried to come up with a physical explanation for their abilities (much like the human ability to lift heavy objects at times when a lot of adrenaline is coursing through the body). It would be a physical manifestation, therefor a science.
Again I imagine myself in that world, and everything points to the Faxlar's abilities as being a spiritual (meaning nonphysical) manifestation. If that were the case, then I would define the ability as "magic" meaning I cannot rationalize it within the physical realm alone. I personally don't think there is anything wrong with calling something magical, and maybe it would create a bit of interesting conflict for the character to question whether her ability is natural (physical) or unnatural/spiritual/twilight-zone-esk.
If I were to do this sort of categorizing in this fictional world, then why don't I do it in my everyday life? I suppose it is because I know there is someone who has found a physical rationality to a given topic (making plastic, quantum tunneling, or modern medicine for instance). Things that are mysterious to me aren't magical simply because I don't know much about them. Things become magical when they seem to have no root in physical reality.

An interesting quote I heard recently:
"Fantasy is the impossible made probable. Science Fiction is the improbable made possible."
–Rod Sterling

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