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As my story fleshes itself out, I see myself taking an approach that I can only call the fantasy equivalent of “hard science fiction.” Hard science fiction attempts to bring scientific accuracy to the speculative elements of a story, either by basing them in actual contemporary scientific fact, or extrapolating from that fact to theoretical ideas that are likely to be confirmed in the near future based on what we know now.
The “fantasy equivalent” of this, for me, is to have the fantasy elements in my story–whether it is strange beings, their powers, or the “magic” humans do to interact with/effect these beings–be, not supernatural, but natural phenomena. I am only straying from the “hard” line by saying these fantastical elements are natural phenomenon that scientists at present just don’t have the theoretical concepts or observational techniques to deal with yet.
I sort of can’t help this naturalistic approach. Although I am perfectly comfortable with the supernatural in fiction, there is something I want to say with this story that makes taking this approach important to me.
But as a result, it is feeling a bit like I’ve sucked all the sense of wonder out of my novel. I did a Harry Potter marathon this past week since I got the final movie on DVD/Blu ray, and the thing that makes HP appeal to so many people, I think, is you can see and do so many fascinating things in his world, whether it is turning a loathed relative into a human balloon, or riding over a lake on the back of a half-bird, half-horse, or visiting someone else’s memories inside a sink full of mist. Magic is afoot in his world, and there is so much more to his world than an ordinary muggle ever suspects.
Similar case with Buffy, or the Dresden Files, or Star Trek, or anything like that. There is an element of each of these story worlds that is beyond escapist and actually transcendent, because, for a short time, these stories allow you feel as if you are touching something beyond the mundane. They do this by starting very much in the mundane, and taking you on a gradual journey to fantastical places where you can do and see these amazing things.
I have to figure out how to do that, to make my world more interesting, without turning it into a cartoon version of itself.
I don’t want to write “just another fantasy novel” with elves and magic and evil sorcerers and whatnot. I need to find a way to take my more “serious/rationalistic” approach and imbue it with a sense of magic.