What falls under the term "magic"?

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Bryman

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What falls under the term "magic"?
« on: August 07, 2017, 09:38:08 AM »
Hey guys! Been a bit since I last posted (my fault entirely I'm awful with keeping to forums for more than a few months ever), but I got into an interesting discussion with a friend one our way back from work and figured I'd ask for your guys thoughts on it.

My friend, I'll call him Dee, and I got to talking about star wars and eventually we got on the topic of describing lightsabers and how they worked. He said a mutual friend of ours annoyed him all the time with trying to ask about how lightsabers would work, since Dee is a physics and engineering major. And I brought up that a lightsaber is basically just a kind of magic that exists in the star wars universe alongside the force and might only work in the star wars universe. I said it was a good example of technical and mystical magic systems coexisting in the universe: The force being mystical and lightsabers being technical. I loosely described magic as anything happening in a way unique to that world that couldn't happen in our own. He took issue with my definition and told me he didn't really consider weapons as a concept to be magic. Which I understand, I don't think magic when I'm shown guns, but I believe that if a gun is being used that could only work in the context of the world (Using some world specific alloy or energy system) that it could, under loose terms, be considered magic. I also used Gandalfs staff from lord of the rings as an example of a magical weapon. And the wands in harry potter.

So first question, Would you agree with how I described magic?
And second question, Do you think weapons like lightsabers and other such examples to be magic in the context of their worlds?
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JayLee

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Re: What falls under the term "magic"?
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2017, 12:00:19 PM »
Hmmm... I don't think magic can be defined that easily, or not quite like that... For instance, there may be many things unique to a world that happen, which are just part of the natural world and how it functions. Perhaps some differences in how physics applies to the planet and people on it. They'd call it science because they know why and how.

But I don't think it can be described by understanding either. The term "What is magic but science we don't understand yet" probably doesn't work as a definer either. Do we really understand how we as humans exist, and feel and think? What sparks that life inside us, according to science? But scientists don't call it magic, do they?

I'd say for the purpose of many fantasy novels, magic is probably an external, unkowable force which simply is what it is, which must be tapped into, manipulated, or accessed, through a being. Though in some stories magic can also be a "natural" force which does work on it's own in the world, what tends to make it magic rather than some fluke of science in that world is that some being can tap into that same energy and manipulate it themselves. Just based on what I've read and personal opinion of course.

As for lightsabers. Certainly not magic. No more magic than a gun. Anyone can pick one up and activate it by pushing a button. Could be plasma, could just be a very controlled laser... but suffice it to say, it's simply technology. Not saying Earth is capable of exactly the same tech, but a lightsaber is still not a tool of magic. The force on the other hand, has often been described as magic, and I'd say it fits somewhat with the vague, and possibly quite wrong, definition I provided above for most fantasy books.
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Xanxa

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Re: What falls under the term "magic"?
« Reply #2 on: August 07, 2017, 09:36:13 PM »
I'd agree with most of what JayLee says, that magic is a force specific to the world in any given novel, movie, TV show, etc. 

For the record, I tend not to use the term "magic".  I use "sorcery" or "powers".  That's just a personal preference.  Likewise a practitioner is a "sorcerer", a "mage" or an "adept".  I also have my own specific terms which are defined in my glossary.
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Jedi Knight Muse

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Re: What falls under the term "magic"?
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2017, 10:34:47 AM »
I mostly agree with @JayLee, too. Although when it comes to lightsabers, they're a little different. In a WAY, it does require magic (the Force) to use them. I know that Han Solo and Finn (especially Finn) both use lightsabers in the movies, seemingly without any Force sensitivity (or at least a super high Force sensitivity). Han isn't really the greatest example, because literally all he did is pick it up, activate the blade and use it to cut the tauntaun open.

With Finn, he did way more, which indicates that at the very least he has a higher level of Force sensitivity than Han would (all living beings in the Star Wars universe have the Force, except for a rare few, it just depends on how high it is), since Finn was able to use it in battle. Technically, if I remember right (I've had this discussion a few times thanks to my old Star Wars role plays), having Force training makes it easier to use a lightsaber, because you're far less likely to use it to cut your own arm or leg off or someone else's leg off or something since you're more than likely focusing in on the Force to use it to help you in a battle. It's possible to use a lightsaber without any training, like Finn and even Rey,* but typically it's more helpful if you've been trained on how to tune yourself in to the Force and use it in a battle situation.

*This is questionable, obviously, since it's clear she had some kind of previous training. At the very least, she figured out how to use her staff as a weapon and train herself with that.


Lol, sorry, I couldn't resist. XD

>.> Anyway...hopefully that all makes sense.

So basically, in a way, you do have to have magic in order to use lightsabers in Star Wars. You can do it without magic, but having the training is more beneficial. The Force is basically space magic- an invisible force that gives you endless abilities and makes you stronger physically and even mentally.

As far as the general question...JayLee basically said what I'd say.
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Amblygon

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Re: What falls under the term "magic"?
« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2017, 04:16:03 PM »
This is such an interesting question, and it sort of relates to the fantasy vs. science fiction question I was pondering a few days ago. Apparently, many people define sci-fi as something that's possible or may be possible based on science, whereas fantasy is more about supernatural or magical occurrences that have no basis in science (see e.g. here and here).

I'd like to just point out that that's not such a great definition since at least magical is not that clearly defined,  I mean when does something that seems 'scientific' become so implausible that it becomes magic? Lightsabers are an interesting example. I mean, they're described as being a technology, but I think they could quite equally be described as a sword of light (perhaps sort of like describing it as Callandor for those who have read The Wheel of Time). In that case, I'd say that most people would probably be fine with describing such a weapon as a "magical" sword rather than sci-fi/technology, but in essence the lightsaber and the magical light sword that cuts through anything would serve the same purpose in their respective worlds.

So does that mean that if something is like technology or it's futuristic or based on some scientific explanation (or perhaps some explanation that sounds particularly scientific) that means it's not magic (i.e. it's sci-fi)? I feel like some sci-fi is definitely closer to magic (like the Force without all the midichlorian explanations). Another good example is The Divine Cities trilogy by Robert Jackson Bennett - it has guns and cars, but also gods and miracles that operate like magic (and in general it seems to be classified as a fantasy series - e.g. it's won some fantasy awards though I don't know if they cover sci-fi). So perhaps it's not necessarily about what the magic/technology does, but about how it's operation is explained?

A counter-example that I just thought of to that proposition is the magic system in, for example, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. The rules are very strictly defined, they are science-inspired (with all the metals, etc), so it's almost like a new science system. But perhaps we just need to re-write the definition to say that any action or thing that is based on/inspired by science as we know it on Earth in the 21st century is not magic and anything that's not based on something else (or is not explained by anything specifically) is magic?

Enough with the rambling. I'm personally not overly concerned with definitions being very exact. I think I used to be more fussed about it when I was very anti-sci-fi, but now that I read both fantasy and sci-fi (and I love where the two seem to blur), it doesn't really matter so much to me. But it's very interesting to think about it on a theoretical level!

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Bryman

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Re: What falls under the term "magic"?
« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2017, 07:16:05 AM »
As for lightsabers. Certainly not magic.

I didn't mean to say that the lightsaber is, itself, literally magic. What I was trying to get across is that, in the confines of the star wars universe the lightsaber adheres to that universe's set of rules. A set of rules that one might call a system of magic. Lightsabers probably can't work in the same way in our world as they do in star war. So it can be viewed in the same way a magical staff from a fantasy world would be considered.

The foremost example in my head right now is the Keyblade from Kingdom Hearts (bless that game and everything to do with it). It's a weapon in the confines of that universe that only works there, yet there are several instances of it being used as a gun. And one of the primary antagonist's weapon is a pair of guns.

To use another example, the Halo franchise might be a good one to look at. The enemies in this game use certain technologies that the humans cannot really grasp. A lot of that tech is based around plasma, which they use for a lot of things. Nobody really thinks of that as a magic system, and I wouldn't blame them. It's the science of that world. But then you could make the claim that any magic system could just be the science of that world. Even if it's unexplained, there is still rules and reason behind most magic systems right?

A counter-example that I just thought of to that proposition is the magic system in, for example, Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn series. The rules are very strictly defined, they are science-inspired (with all the metals, etc), so it's almost like a new science system. But perhaps we just need to re-write the definition to say that any action or thing that is based on/inspired by science as we know it on Earth in the 21st century is not magic and anything that's not based on something else (or is not explained by anything specifically) is magic?

I always use this example when I explain the differences between what I call technical magic and mystical magic are. Brandon Sanderson gives set rules and limitations to his magic system in such detail that it could be considered a science. And in the confines of the story, the people with these powers are so ingrained in the world that the magic is accepted without second thought. It's revered in ways that certain technology is revered.

And while the "magic" in star wars is mostly mystical (we can ignore the midiclorians), being the force, I also think it can extend to things like lightsabers. After all, we only understand how they work from diagrams not included in the narrative and even then they only work using that world's "science"

I know that in my own narratives, I like to make magic a known branch of science. In this way, it's still a magic system, but it's treated in the same way science is: An area of study and research.

It really is a fine line, I think, but I think I was really just trying to find a way (an excuse rather  :P ) to broaden the definition of magic to include sci-fi, even if it was only in a loose manner.

Technically, if I remember right (I've had this discussion a few times thanks to my old Star Wars role plays), having Force training makes it easier to use a lightsaber, because you're far less likely to use it to cut your own arm or leg off or someone else's leg off or something since you're more than likely focusing in on the Force to use it to help you in a battle.

And yeah this is true, and it makes the whole lightsaber thing to me even more interesting a topic because of this. In other narratives, people who aren't attune to the magic in that world are often incapable of anything "magical". This includes using magic items like weapons (at the risk of sounding like a broken record, Wizard staffs in Lord of the Rings are a good example.) So a normal person being able to use them makes a strong case for them just being another science in the world. I hadn't considered that angle.

Bu also, force sensitives are almost always better at things in general: Flying (there have been dozens of force sensitive pilots in the now non-canon stuff) being a good example of that.
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JayLee

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Re: What falls under the term "magic"?
« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2017, 10:47:43 AM »
So a normal person being able to use them makes a strong case for them just being another science in the world. I hadn't considered that angle.

Bu also, force sensitives are almost always better at things in general: Flying (there have been dozens of force sensitive pilots in the now non-canon stuff) being a good example of that.

I'd say this is again along the lines of what I was thinking. Someone without any access to the force at all, could use a lightsaber. True, they may not be able to popcorn around with the think like Yoda, but they could still get as good as the best swordmasters on Earth. What's more, they could build one of their own. As you said, the force makes people better at things in general, like piloting. And an x-wing is no more magical than a lightsaber.

I didn't mean to say that the lightsaber is, itself, literally magic. What I was trying to get across is that, in the confines of the star wars universe the lightsaber adheres to that universe's set of rules. A set of rules that one might call a system of magic

I still would not call it a system of magic. Just because the science of the world is made up, that does not make it magic. That's what makes it fiction.

I do no think magic can be defined by the rules of our universe. We cannot say that any rules beyond the capability of our universe as we know it are magic.... For one, we have no clue what our universe is truly capable of.
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Bryman

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Re: What falls under the term "magic"?
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2017, 11:43:50 PM »
I still would not call it a system of magic. Just because the science of the world is made up, that does not make it magic. That's what makes it fiction.

I do no think magic can be defined by the rules of our universe. We cannot say that any rules beyond the capability of our universe as we know it are magic.... For one, we have no clue what our universe is truly capable of.

Yeah, I brought it up to another friend this morning and we had a long discussion on this topic as well. He brought up that my way of assuming that the way lightsabers work is specific to star wars is where I was going down the wrong path since there very well could be a kind of crystal that would make lightsabers possible. And it's true, and it's strange I hadn't considered that, because I don't usually rule things out as being impossible in our own universe since we don't know everything like you said.

I was definitely poking a bit further than the definition of magic extends, at least in terms of technology. But I still think it brings interesting ideas into question. Like how some things are considered magical until they're understood and then become science, even in our own world. Or how well ingrained in a narrative magic is until the people in that world consider it a science.
I was going to say that life is short. There are only a few good things in it, really. Don't pretend that one isn't happening. - Ripred, The Underland Chronicles, book 4