Tuesday, March 07, 2017
Storyteller’s Rulebook: Magic Should Always Be in the Past or Present, Never the Future
Usually, magic and science fiction don’t mix, but Star Wars pulled it off, and that title card had a lot to do with it. Even if your story has no traditional sci-fi elements, if it’s set in the future we will expect it to have no magic.
As I understand it, in the early books of the Shannara Chronicles, author Terry Brooks played up the fact that his Tolkien-ian fantasy actually took place on a post-apocalyptic Earth, but as the series continued, that element completely fell away. Nevertheless, when MTV adapted the series for TV, they brought that element back. I suspect that was one reason for the show’s lack of success.
A key element of magic is that it’s constantly receding: “The Magic is gone”. When we are children, the world seems magical, but when we become adults, cold reason replaces it, and it is never to return. The notion that one day in the future magical elves will walk the world again, or “old wizards” will work magic in outer space, seems inherently wrong.