Fantasy with magic based on real world traditions

Discussion in 'Fantasy / Horror' started by Riothamus, Apr 15, 2012.

  1. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    Here's the thing, I've grown rather bored with worlds where magic works "just because". However, much to my disappointment, many authors seem to think of it as something to create imagery or close up a plot hole rather than think about how it actually works. I don't care if the character is throwing fire balls, but could you give me a little context? It's a chance to add cultural flavor to worlds that people sadly ignore. As a pagan, this simplistic view of the mystic cannot satisfy me as a person whose world view is immersed in a complex philosophical understanding of what one calls sorcery.

    Anyway, there is a question in this. Are there any series or stories set in worlds where magic functions in a manner similar to that described in real world occult texts? In other words, none of this arcane/divine divide crap. This isn't a recommendations thread, but I do honestly want to know if there are any significant books with this. Furthermore, why do authors seem to ignore these often lost opportunities? One does not have to write a thesis on the matter so why?
     
  2. Seli

    Seli Registered User

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    Could you give some more context? I have no idea what type of magic you want to read.

    At a first guess you could try some urban fantasy, say Ilona Andrews or Mike Carey. Those seem to be more likely to use traditional notions of what magic is.
     
  3. AuldAnxiety

    AuldAnxiety Registered User

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    The closest I can think of are comic books:

    Alan Moore's 'Promethea' (Western Esotericism/Kabbala/Tarot)
    Grant Morrison's 'Invisibles' (Chaos Magick/Voudon Gnosis)
     
  4. AuldAnxiety

    AuldAnxiety Registered User

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    An argument could also be made for Gene Wolfe. His ideas about magic are more along the lines of myth.

    Also, His Dark Materials by Pullman.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
  5. chokipokilo

    chokipokilo Unreasonable reasoner

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    Neil Gaiman might work. Not so much magic, but he does contemporize traditional mythical figures.
     
  6. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    I was thinking in a sort of Alan Moore vein. In other words, instead of oh I just healed someone because I just have magic. I was thinking more like I was able to do this with magic because I knew which spirits to invoke and the peculiar resonances of earth and water as they relate to the concept of healing and renewal, and understood what symbols would draw these divine energies down. A world where one has to know what water is on a cosmic scale and what it represents and what reigns over it(Gods, spirits, devils etc.) in order to make it all work.

    Also, I have no desire to read His Dark Materials. I know that basically any story with a message is a soap box, but reading a story that's a soap box for his atheism makes the whole heroic struggle seem pointless. I believe in science as much as the supernatural, but I think atheists should just shut up. No one cares if they don't believe, there's no point of talking about how much one doesn't believe. If one so convinced the divine doesn't exist then why argue about it. In such a line of thought there is no point to it.
     
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2012
  7. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    1) I think you might like Kevin Hearne's Hounded series.

    2) His Dark Materials is not a soapbox for atheism. It's a fantasy series. However, it doesn't use a framework of the sort you're asking about.

    3) Your rant about atheists breaks the guidelines of the Forums, on both religious subject matter without story context and personal attacks of other members. Since you're still new here, I'll just warn that you try not to do it again, and remind others not to join in, for or against the opinion expressed. Let's all stick to books, thanks.
     
  8. Seli

    Seli Registered User

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    So you are less interested in authors that use well constructed but completely made-up magical systems (eg Brandon Sanderson, Weis and Hickman in the Death Gate Cycle). And not interested in authors that use the flavour of existing magical thought, but do not go into mechanisms or details.

    So that would in my limited experience lead to authors using sympathetic magic (egButcher in the Dresden Files), or ritual magic (egMoorcock), which leads to sword and sorcery as well as the urban fantasy mentioned before.

    How do you feel about gaes type/fairyland magic (egSeanan McGuire)

    Hmm or perhaps Tanith Lee? I don't remember details, but have a feeling she ought to be up your alley.
     
  9. AuldAnxiety

    AuldAnxiety Registered User

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    There is more to His Dark Materials than you assume. Magick permeates the series. Any series that has a character named Will who uses a knife to travel between worlds should be enough to spark the curiosity of someone interested in Western Ceremonial Magick. The series has daemons and other interesting connections with real world magic. Don't be so dismissive - you might be missing out on exactly what you're looking for.

     
  10. assasin

    assasin Registered User

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    whenever I try and do research on the internet about historical traditions what ussually pops up is modern wicca and hoodoo and similar things.

    I wouldnt say the dresden files or iron druid are based on real life traditions. while I'm not certain about iron druid, I know the dresden files has really nothing to do with historical shamans or druids or whatever.

    I do think the op means stuff actually based in history like.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_the_Dead#Spells

    and not the authors adaptions of history.
     
  11. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    In that case, the novels of Terri Windling, who is a folktale scholar, might be useful, and C.J. Cherryh's Rusalka series, which uses Russian/Eastern European folklore.

    However, Iron Druid's material, while it takes liberties, is pretty on in terms of the gods/mythology/herbal lore sort of thing.

    Historical fantasies, like Cherryh's one and Mary Gentle's Ilario series, are likely the best bet. M.D. Lachlan's Wolfsangel series might also do the trick.
     
  12. Randy M.

    Randy M. Registered User

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    Kat,

    I'm not up on actual magic practices, but would Tim Powers' work apply? I was thinking specifically of On Stranger Tides, with it's use of voodoo-like magic.

    Randy M.
     
  13. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    I'm sorry you couldn't convince me to touch a book that doesn't seem to acknowledge the real reasons for social injustice but instead attacks the excuse Auld. Furthermore, the cultures seem pretty uninteresting except for the armored bears.Culture is everything and how a society practices sorcery helps to flavor the world, if you look across boundaries, no two groups of people practice the exact same form. I get bored when a world not only lacks a described culture, but cultural diversity. I get equally frustrated by worlds with multiple cultures, none of which are vividly described. Stories are as much about the world one lives in as it is about the lives and trials of the characters
    .
    I'm personally iffy on the Iron Druid Chronicles. I do not take lightly to authors spreading potential misinformation about or potentially insulting the name of a deity I hold sacred. The plot of the first book in this regard doesn't seem to rub me the right way.

    I have had my eye on the Dresden files as the author from what I have researched seems to have a better understanding of such matters than many do.

    If what I've heard about Cherryh's meticulous world building is correct, then her work might be particularly interesting and well researched.
     
  14. kcf

    kcf Nobody in Particular

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    Well, I think the little spat re the Iron Druid Chronicles on this board was way overblown. As a Christian, I had no issues whatsoever with Hearne's writing or characterization of the many dieties he talks about. (though my beliefs are rather...progressive) I certainly wouldn't characterize anything in the books as misinformation or disrespectful. That is unless you believe in the Norse pantheon. Or the Roman Pantheon. Or some of the other old 'pagan' religions. The books are simply good fun and the magic is in line with what you are looking for. And of course, they are fantasy books. I suggest giving the first book a shot - it is short and reads fast, so even if it doesn't work for you, it's not a big investment.
     
  15. Jop

    Jop The Wandering Eye

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    Not sure if I'm reading you correctly, but could Kate Griffin's "Matthew Swift" books fit the bill? Urban fantasy - the protagonist is a sorcerer who uses his surroundings in his own brand of magic, from the light from a street lamp to interpreting graffiti on a wall...I found it rather unique...
     
  16. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

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    The old deities are my guides. I take their good name very seriously and do not take kindly to any slander against them. They are as serious to me as the Abrahamic God is to Christians, Muslims, and Jews. hence why the plot didn't sit well with me.
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2012
  17. kcf

    kcf Nobody in Particular

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    I'm no expert on such mythology, but in general, Hearne stays pretty true to things. Of course he does take a few liberties to bring them into the modern world. The big two issues are that Thor is an arrogant @E#$ in the books (though it doesn't really come into play until the 3rd book). He also has a little fun with Baccus in the third book, but not too much. Basically, some gods in various pantheons at one time or another want the main protag dead, and so they come off as the 'bad guys'.
     
  18. txshusker

    txshusker A mere player

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    My guess - judging from my reads and my own amateur writing - is most authors create speculative-other worlds, thus want new avenues or ideas for their own theories of magic that fit their made up environment. Earth's various occult beliefs are semi-common knowledge, so authors want to create their own unique experience; and our occult powers aren't thought of as fitting the "need power now" plots that many action based novels require to move forward quickly.

    If you read any of the Dresden files, you'll find most powers are what you're looking for, but a few others may not be... though I think Butcher does a pretty good job of explaining how artifacts are created in order to give quick power to someone in a jam.
     
  19. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

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    Well, that cuts out an awful lot of fantasy fiction, especially as the neo-pagan religions use an awful lot of deities. Don't read Hearne then, or Butcher. Cherryh's series would probably be okay, as well as Terri Windling's The Wood Wife. You might also like Elizabeth Bear's Promethean Age series, or find it horribly sacrilegious, I don't know. Another possibility is Emma Bull's War for the Oaks, and various works of Charles de Lint, which usually combine Amerindian mythology and Celtic material, including his Newford novels set in a modern Canadian city and his related Moonheart series. Some of his works are somewhat humorous and satiric, others more serious and some of them are horror. I'd suggest looking through them to see what sounds most interesting. Power's On Stranger Tides, that Randy suggested, does make use of the voodoo material, but that might not be of interest.

    The reality, however, as tsxhusker mentions, is that fantasy authors use mythologies, folklore and occult lore as jumping off points, be it Judeo-Christian, pagan or other, often a mix as you know, shaping it and changing it to fit the needs of their story. And sometimes those stories are going to employ a good deal of humor about it. So if you're going to see any "inaccurate" portrayal as a blasphemy that you will therefore not enjoy, I would suggest switching over to science fiction most of the time. Or sticking to alternate world fantasies where they are making up something else. But try some of the suggestions and see if any of them work for you.
     
  20. Clozetgeek

    Clozetgeek New Member

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    You may want to give Patrick Rothfuss a try. Not only is he a fantastic writer but his magic system is based on real world physics so it has a certain believability to it. I know exactly what you mean with the magic systems and I struggle with the same thing. The Name of the Wind and The Wise Mans fear may be right up your alley.