• Finishing up the podcast now. The discussion of magic in CS Lewis vs “Hard Magic” has put me in mind of a discussion I’ve had several times about magic vs “sufficiently advanced technology.”

    Much of what’s done as “magic” in today’s sff is something I would actually qualify as magic. Most of it’s more of a “science:” do x and you get y results all the time. Magic in culture dates back far before our concept of science, and very often the result of magic are very unpredictable and are in fact based upon the WILL of the character. Usually in order for true magic to be successful, the practitioner must exert his will to change the rules of the world around him. If the practitioner is instead exerting his will and energy to merely utilize already existing rules, it’s not magic. It’s “sufficiently advanced technology.”

    D&D really popularized the “scientific magic” that is so common these days. Didn’t invent it, just popularized it.

    This, I think, hits to the heart of why “Hard Magic” and most modern magical SFF is not superversive. In a superversive world, a magical practitioner exerting will to change the world around him would be seeking not to impose his own will but rather to impose a higher will – for instance, the will of God. Or, to get back to the examples, the will of Aslan and his father, the Emperor Beyond the Sea.

    The distinction is subtle but is critically important, I think. And it’s why I don’t think that “Hard Magic” actually is superversive, as much as I love it. To be truly superversive, I think that the story would have to show that using magic to impose your own will rather than God’s (or some standin) has consequences that are usually unpleasant. It may sound silly, but I think this harkens back to the concept of superversive as standing for “the principles that make civilization.” We don’t much believe in magic today. But I think this is one of the subtle foundational principles of western civilization. It’s definitely one of the core reasons that Catholic theology calls all forms of magic spiritually dangerous.

    Also, it’s important to note that “not subversive” isn’t the same as “superversive.” The latter is a subset of the former. I would easily call “Hard Magic” “not subversive.” But I think it’s a stretch to call it superversive, and personally I think the magical system within it is a big part of why.

  • Tamquam

    As usual loved the topic and the discussion. As far as the livestream is concerned I’d humbly like offer a couple of suggestions.

    1. Presumably the point to a live stream is to allow interested members of the public to listen while the discussion is ongoing so that they can chat their questions and reaction while the discussion is ongoing. I don’t know if this is being done anywhere and I just don’t see it, but perhaps making an announcement 24, or better 48 hours in advance would certainly enable more fans of the Superversive Mandate (I’d’ve preferred “Charter” but it all works for me) to participate.

    2. I’ve noticed that very often some of the less forward members of the panel start to make a comment and are over ridden by others. At the outset of the discussion this happens frequently. As the discussion progresses the less assertive members simply fall almost totally silent and the more assertive members dominate the discussion. I gather that this is because the visual cues that occur in normal multipart discussions are absent online. Might there not be some form of signalling/moderation developed so that the ideas of the less forward can be better heard?