Worldbuilding: Inventing Science and Magic
Lesson time 16:15 min
Nora challenges the definitions of science fiction and fantasy and gives you the tools to create plausible, otherworldly science and magic.
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Topics include: Accepting Magic as Science • The Goal Is Plausibility • Accepting Magic as Science The Goal Is Plausibility • Explaining the Rules of Magic
[MUSIC PLAYING] N. K. JEMISIN: The truth of the matter though is that what the audience believes is what matters. It's not our world. It's not our reality. It's not our time. And there's a lot of different ways that you can convey that. There's a common perception out there that science fiction is purely science and that fantasy is purely magic and historical. The truth of the matter, though, is that what the audience believes is what matters. And the audience's range of what they're willing to accept in each area is not as discrete as that. You know, at the end of the day, it's all just sort of speculative stuff. It's not our world. It's not our reality. It's not our time. And there's a lot of different ways that you can convey that. You aren't stuck in the past when you're writing fantasy. You can write fantasy set in the future. You aren't stuck in space when you're writing about science fiction. You can write it in the modern day. You can write it in the past. And a lot of the things that we traditionally think of as science fiction are actually fantasy when you kind of dig a little bit past the surface. So for example, "Star Wars." You know, what's the Force? Well. I mean, there's lots of incredibly detailed explanations and midi-chlorians, yada, yada, yada. But, you know, at the end of the day, it's a person reaching out their hand and making things happen with their mind. You can call that psionic or psychic power. That's something that happened a lot in science fiction. Or you can call it magic. It's space magic. And people are willing to accept that this is space magic as long as you don't call it space magic. You can call it the Force. You call it midi-chlorians. You call it psychic power or something like that. But it's a cosmetic nod to the fact that this is science fiction so we can't call it magic. But I don't feel like that constraint is something that the writer should feel held to. The writer is the one who sells the plausibility of whatever imaginary thing that they're trying to convey. The writer is the one who conveys the feeling, or the meaning, or the depth of that. So if you're trying to sell your readers on magic that is indistinguishable from science, then you need to treat your magic like science. You have to talk about it having replicable effects, being measurable, things like that. Personally, I have a kind of general distaste for that. A lot of fantasy readers and a lot of fantasy fans have kind of been trained over the years by like D&D and other tabletop role playing games that magic and all of these other things can be systematized, can be treated like just a standard thing that happens. You lose your hit points. You move on. Magic I feel should be a little more imaginary and a little more numinous than that. And you can take it in a lot of different directions if you don't feel constrained by the rules of some game system. So this is why with "The Fifth Season" and the w...
About the Instructor
The winner of the Hugo Award for three consecutive years for her Broken Earth Trilogy, N. K. Jemisin has sold millions of books and created new cultures and histories. Now the acclaimed science fiction and fantasy writer is teaching you how to create a world from scratch, develop compelling characters, and get published. Build your craft and share your voice with inclusive fiction that reflects your experience.
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N. K. Jemisin
Bestselling sci-fi and fantasy writer N. K. Jemisin teaches you how to create diverse characters, build a world from scratch, and get published.Explore the Class