Welcome to The Ready Room, where I explore random topics to help you kick off your week.
Have you ever read a fantasy book where some of the everyday elements feel like magic? And yet when you dig into the system, it’s so well rooted in the workings of that world it’s almost scientific?
I love magic systems in stories. Since I read fantasy, I see a lot of them at work. Some come as familiar tropes or with glossing over and hand waving because no one really understand how it works. Characters wave their hands, stuff happens, and we keep reading.
But then there’s the gems. The fantastical elements in a story that feel so much like magic, and yet their systems are natural to their settings (or created by the creative minds in that world). So vivid and complex, readers could spend a lifetime breaking down the ins and outs for a greater understanding.
Myst & D’ni Worlds
Cyan Worlds did it right, on every level. I remember when the first Myst game took the world by storm. I dumped hundreds of hours into playing, took some starter courses on learning the D’ni language, and got utterly creeped out when I started Riven and live in-world people jumped on the screen. Twenty-five years later and I still have an account with Uruonline, the next generation.
I could go on for days about how much I love everything about this universe, but let’s focus on the books. In their simplest form, they turn all the D’ni civilizations and empires into portal worlds. Open a linking book, place your hand on the panel, and you’re gone. (Don’t forget your book to link back). This system is brilliant and feels like magic, but with reading the books, the story goes deeper into how the paper is made in a special way, the ink is a manufactured art, and writing the linking books takes a very special set of skills. The whole thing is literally phenomenal, and I’m ever in search of another fantasy who puts their science and magic into one basket so completely.
The Myst Trilogy
The Qual Empire
C. J. Cherryh is another one who nailed it. In the story, the Qual Empire built a system of technological gates across the galaxy to span a diversity of worlds. But there’s a catch—the gates move forward in time. Once someone’s jumped, they can’t go back to the previous world at the time they’ve left. One killer item in the series though is a sword Morgaine carries. When she unsheathes it, the blade opens a black hole and sucks the unsuspecting into its depths.
The gates also have a neat trick: they can be programmed. So, each time Morgaine and Vanye jump through, the gate refreshes their age and health to a specific point. This is a series I’ve read multiple times, and it’s another great example of worlds that feel like they’re governed by magical elements.
The Morgaine Cycle
* * *If you’ve read a fantasy world recently that makes the science feel like magic, I’d love to tackle that story. Feel free to drop a note in the comments. 🙂