The allure of magic

November 20, 2014

I love to write about magic. I love to read about it and watch it as well. Not stage magic, but real magic (which doesn’t exist). And it’s worth asking: why? What makes the idea of magic so compelling?

I think part of it is the secret guilt of the toolmaker. We humans obtained our position atop the world through our tools, but sometimes it feels like it’s all about our technology, and there’s no power in ourselves. We stand in awe at the mighty tiger or bear, even though we scrawny humans dominate them.

Magic is a way for the power to be in us, and for it to not be our tools, but us humans that are the key. We can cease feeling like the weak core in a shell of technology, and pretend we’re the strength.

The other half is the dream that knowledge should directly translate into power. Many societies venerate knowledge, but the smart never seem to prosper in their youths, whether it be from old standards like bullies or the lack of immediate positive reinforcement that physical excellence (such as sports) provides.

But when you can study your way to power, and the way is straightforward … it’s actually a fairly intellectually lazy way to acquire power through knowledge, but that straightforward path appeals in the same way the dream of studying hard to get in a good college and get a good job does.

Perhaps those are just my reasons though, or the only ones I recognize enough to spell out. What are yours?

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By Stephen W. Gee

Author of Wage Slave Rebellion, Freelance Heroics, and about two good blog posts out of a hundred.


  1. Reply


    Interesting question Stilts. First thing that comes to mind is that magic allows one to do the impossible. Fly, teleport, transform into something, time travel, heal any disease. Magic unlocks one’s creativity and imagination as much, if not more so, than anything in RL because fantasy magic, at least in concept, no almost no limits. Of course, depending upon a particular story or setting there well may be rules or limitations, but I think you get my point.

    Personally, I don’t feel any sense of “secret guilt of the toolmaker” or that “it’s all about our technology, and there’s no power in ourselves.” After all, it was human intelligence that created such tools and technology. Tools and technology are what elevated us over the tiger, lion, bear, etc. It’s not that I don’t understand your point about the majesty of such powerful creatures, it’s just that I’ve always viewed tools as such – tools. Something that helps you accomplish some goal. I was taught from an early age the importance of using the right tool for the job. Getting off track here…

    That being said, I do think you have a very good point about magic empowering a person which ties into the first paragraph along with being on a more personal level. Technology is great, but it doesn’t do you much good if it’s not available. Have a high-powered hunting rifle and that bear/tiger/etc. may not seem so threatening. Much different story without one. Of course the same could be true if magic depended upon a wand or staff to use. However, that’s if required.

    Maybe word association is a good way to approach this. In no particular order, for me the word magic brings to mind the words “freedom”, “power” and “ability”.

    1. Reply


      Gah, despite the preview feature (really like that BTW), still had a “typo”. In 1st paragraph, should read “….at least in concept, has almost no limits.”

    2. Reply


      I think the desire for the power to be within us is especially prevalent in the young or physically … well, not lazy per say. I’ll say uninterested. I know the idea of being able to study my way to being powerful appealed even more in the days before I realized I could obtain quite a lot of that same assurance through physical fitness.

      I guess it all ties into nerds wanting to study their way to power. Which I understand and enjoy, because that would be SO COOL lol

  2. Reply


    Are your subsequent stories going to be fantasy? Will you write about different characters or different worlds? Do you think you might write non-fantasy in the future?

    1. Reply

      Stephen W. Gee

      Are your subsequent stories going to be fantasy?

      Naw. In fact, I have a sci-fi short story I’ll be working on soon, right after I get done with work for my second book.

      Will you write about different characters or different worlds?

      Absolutely. I plan to do a number of Firesign books, because I’ve always liked long series and because there’s plenty more story to tell, but I tend to dislike never-ending series. It will have an end point, and I don’t intend to stop writing—both fantasy and otherwise—when I reach it.

      Do you think you might write non-fantasy in the future?

      As above, I’ve already got a little sci-fi story planned. I might even foray into non-SFF stories, though that’s undoubtedly where my heart is, at least for now.

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