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Messages - The Gem Cutter

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Writers' Corner / Re: Explain your magic systems
« on: August 10, 2016, 07:19:09 PM »
Really found your detailed approach interesting. Lots of details. And the idea of magic being sentient and uncooperative was not something I've ever seen before. Lots of opportunity there to introduce/heighten conflict arising from or worsened by that sentience.
-Gem Cutter

Writers' Corner / Re: Is There Room For Yet Another Tolkien Clone?
« on: August 10, 2016, 05:11:06 AM »
Since the discussion has slid to presentations of fantasy races, here's an observation: when authors present a diverse group (humans + elves + dwarves, etc.), they can either spend time exploring the differences between the groups, or the differences between individuals, but not both. This is not so much my idea or belief, but rather a phenomenon that smarter writers seemed to know or learned.

Somewhere I read that Tolkien considered having Glorfindel join the party, but decided against it because he felt that he would be indistinguishable from Legolas within the constraints of the story, and this was unfair, because Glorfindel was a high elf of Noldorin descent, who had seen the Light of Aman with his own eyes, and making him identical to a lowly wood elf was unpalatable. I take this to mean that he felt that unless he burdened the story to highlight those differences, they would disappear to some extent (maybe total?).

I think this is the result of the pressures of the narrative to progress the plot, show nuances of the protagonist, convey setting and mood, and all the other things the narrative flow has to support. These pressures leave insufficient bandwidth to support highlighting nuances between members of each group, if the author is also highlighting differences between the groups as a whole. So either it's "dwarves are this way, elves are that way", or its "This dwarf is X, that dwarf is Y."

And yes, there are plenty of moments in LOTR and other works that do both, but the overall trend is to have many more of one than another, with very unequal emphasis.

I think this is crucial because many times in fantasy fiction, there is a temptation to put in X and spend time on it (in this case, the nuances of individuals in a distinct group) at the expense of the story. Sometimes it's other things, like the fictitious languages or the 18,000 year backstory, or whatever. I think Tolkien was wise to avoid this practice, knowing that readers read the story for the story's sake, and anything that takes away from that undermines the work.

Interestingly, one of fan fiction's chief merits (imho) is that it is permissible to explore these nuances as the central premise, i.e., make X the whole point.

My point is that it seems we have a choice - to invest narrative space to highlight differences between races, which worked very well for Tolkien (Gimli vs. Legolas, Elves vs. Men, etc.), or to explore the differences between individuals ... but not both at the same time, and/or not to the same depth, even when the narrative is as vast as LOTR.

In Tolkien's case, there are clear differences between some individuals (Galadriel vs. Celeborn), but they are not explored to much depth, with the exception of Men (Aragorn vs. Boromir, Faramir vs. Boromir, Gandalf & Théoden vs. Denethor, Grima vs. Eomer & Hama). (Yeah, I know Gandalf isn't a man, but within the narrative, he's looked at as an old man).

Food for thought.

Writers' Corner / Re: Looking for beta-readers: Space opera
« on: August 10, 2016, 04:26:48 AM »
I would be happy to serve, if you like. I'm unused to looking at the Big Picture in fiction, but will be happy to give up some of my time.

If you want to post here, I can work that way, or you may email it to me. Msg me and let me know what you prefer. I would find it helpful if you gave me specific objectives for what you want me to focus on - my brain is chaotic and will wander off-task.

Ms. Scarlet, as crude and probably unsavory a suggestion as this is, enemas are an excellent method of rehydration and replenishing electrolytes. Keeping your strength and vitality up are key, or I wouldn't voice the suggestion. We used to run IVs on ourselves after training, but perhaps that's not an option for you? Anyway, I hope you feel better. We used to laugh and joke about drinking water to stay hydrated "Drink water - because it's hard to look cool with a tube in you [pants?]"

I was probably projecting my wife's popping of bubbles all morning ... here she comes again. Time to fake a heart attack.

Mr. J, I am placing you on pin-rationing. You have reached your bubble-popping limit for August!

Here's some pure, unmitigated optimism for you:
"A recent study by Yale University researchers, published online in the journal Social Science & Medicine, concluded that “book readers experienced a 20 percent reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow-up compared to non-book readers.”
If a standard reader gets that kind of boost, well Hell's bells, you all should be just fine.

Writers' Corner / Re: Explain your magic systems
« on: August 09, 2016, 07:48:22 PM »
Interesting discussion!

In addition to the varied approaches and incorporations of mythology, physics, and mysticism, I found it interesting the way people describe their magic systems. The term itself is very artificial and antiseptic, yet the descriptions sound very organic and human, described in terms not dissimilar from the way the faithful describe their spirituality.

I noticed that while everyone seems to have a basis for their approach, no one mentioned (that I noticed) how they write about it: do you use a central metaphor? Do you employ conventions for the naming and description of spells, their effects, and/or other features of your system?

To me this is critical and very interesting, since readers will experience the magic system through the language we employ. This is where science often fails - their terms and descriptions are made to favor accuracy and clarity over impacting and intriguing the layman - which explains the popularity of Carl Sagan and his de facto heir, Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Failures and successes in this area seem to be critical to the success of the works featuring magic.

I always felt unsatisfied by Tolkien's skipping any direct information about spells, and very few references - tantalizing references, but very rare :(  And while his employment of magic to further the story was masterful and very theatrical in a good way, it left me craving more.

My approach is very cold and scientific outside the narrative, which I suppose makes sense as I am borrowing heavily from science and philosophy. I won't bore you with the details beyond stating where I got my ideas:
Crystal and gem properties (piezoelectricity, crystalline structures and lattices, etc.)
Quantum Physics (concepts of vast emptiness in matter, uniformity across atoms, etc.)
Physics (multiverse concepts, essential physics, conservation of energy, etc.)
Invisible forms of energy
Limitations of Science (hugely important imho, because we always have an edge beyond which our understanding fails, and this gives writers an important opportunity to evade the responsibility of 100% plausibility and clarity of understanding)
Features of Innovation (Hugely important to my story! disruptive technology and its impacts, the way innovators are rarely who one expects)

My central metaphor is Semiotics, the study of signs and meaning, since magic is almost always linked to linguistics, an area where I have some knowledge and experience. This relates critically to my protag's study and failures in magic, and ultimately his supremacy.

General Discussion / Re: #22 Pushups Challenge
« on: August 09, 2016, 07:18:05 PM »
I did the challenge on FB but I felt like I was preaching to choir, since most of my friends are vets or related to vets. I videoed each day, and to make it interesting I tried to incorporate interesting military/veteran anecdotes. Not a bad experience.

That's cool. In Africa I helped a bicyclist struck by a truck and his ears were dripping fluid, his pupils were way out balance, and he was going into shock. So when people say head injury, that's where my mind takes me. I often wonder if he survived.

Introductions / Re: What up, writaaahs!
« on: August 09, 2016, 05:19:21 PM »
Interested to hear details about your education and what you found useful in a scholarly setting, and what you didn't.

General Discussion / Re: #22 Pushups Challenge
« on: August 09, 2016, 05:17:06 PM »
I am a US military veteran, and I don't know if I am the only one or one of many on this board, so I'll step up and say thank you for your engagement.

In my time I served with members of the British Military, these being members of the RAF, the paras, and some Scots who damaged my psyche with renditions of the famous British Baboon.


A pox on people who bring up serious problems and then ignore good advice!!!!

[Deleted: extensive rant with colorful examples of the impacts of those with cavalier attitudes on those who sincerely care for their welfare and safety, and frequent bad outcomes of those who ignore advice to seek medical assistance]

Ultament, you might reconsider going to the E.R. A true concussion, hard enough to produce fluid, could slip sideways on you fast. Pressure on the brain is a deadly thing. My two cents.

Writers' Corner / Re: How much did you write today?
« on: August 08, 2016, 10:14:37 PM »
3400 words for session 1 today, 85K in total. After dinner and coffee, I'll try to make it to 90K before the sun rises.

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