Tag Archives: Magic

The Inheritance Cycle is informed by Science Fiction

I finally finished listening to the audio books for the Inheritance Cycle, the 4 books starting with Eragon by Christopher Paolini. You can watch his skill as a writer and his world grow and develop through the books, as well as getting deeper as you see more of the cultures and locations in the world as it goes along.

I’ve been trying to think how to write about these books, and a review of each one is probably in order. However, there’s also talking about them as a whole, and for Science Fiction Saturday, it seemed right to talk about just how much science fiction informs these books.


It’s definitely fiction with an understanding of science, that’s for sure. It has all the trappings of fantasy, yes – elves, dwarves, magic, a medieval setting, and a hero’s journey. However, it’s this fantasy world that has a clear underpinning in the laws of our world, and where the magic is different, it’s a highly defined and explained magic system.

Really, the magic system and the way it works and is used in the story is one of the main reasons to read these books, one of the main unique features. Also probably some of the harder parts to adapt into film! (I never saw the movie adaptation, short of a few painful moments caught on TV). And it’s the magic system that both allows for that view into the world of science, and which takes this world and matches it to the definition of science fiction that I’ve worked with here on the site.

Well, matches somewhat. When magic itself is called out as a difference, it’s hard to get past. However, the magic system in Inheritance is all about ingenuity, cleverness, and out-thinking your opponent. It’s a magical language with the names of things, and where the mages have to commit to the spell they have spoken. So what happens with magic is based mainly on the knowledge and imagination of the magician.

Mainly on knowledge… and the rest is about energy. It takes as much energy with magic to do something as to do it in the mundane way, it just happens faster and perhaps differently. But that means the magician expends all of that energy at once – to, say, dig a ditch or descend a mountain. It’s dangerous.

So a lot of the science in this series is about energy – how much it takes to do a task, how much the magician has available. And the distance from a target (it’s harder to do something far away), or the weight of things, or these other physical aspects of the material world.


However, there’s also a mental aspect to the magic system – magicians are telepathic, they can read minds and speak through minds. And through this open mind experiencing the world around him, Eragon discovers a great deal about the natural world – following the lives of ants, for instance, like in The Once and Future King.

There’s all kinds of great scientific discoveries peppered throughout the series, for instance when Eragon discovers the fact that the world is round, or when he hears theories that we are not solid, but mostly empty with small particles holding us together. Lots of information about animals (as well as the invented biology of dragons, of course). About human anatomy as well, ways to kill them for sure, as well as some of the concerns Eragon starts to have about protecting himself or others. His magically calloused knuckles for punching, for instance.


Paolini also worked in plenty of war, and politics, and other problems that are common in science fiction. And the modern world. And fantasy too, I suppose. It mostly just ends up genre-bending, with so many aspects of the world thought out and explored and explained. It’s modern, I suppose, with so many things we know today being an exciting discovery in the medieval world of Inheritance. It has a science fiction feel, with so much focus on science. It’s fantasy in its outer shell, with the races and places and magic. It has elements of horror, of war.

It’s good stuff. I had remembered liking it, but was not disappointed in the re-read (listen). It was quite good.

Verdict – Emerald City

If you didn’t know, NBC has created a new show called Emerald City, which is a reinterpretation of the Wizard of Oz. When I first heard about this show I was curious because the world of Oz is definitely a familiar and interesting place for stories. The 2 part pilot episode caught my interest, but felt a little rushed. Now that I am on episode 5 I can definitely say that I am hooked.

The first couple of episodes definitely felt like they were trying to move past the pieces of the story that everyone knows and just dive deep into the craziness that is Oz. They change the story in fairly interesting ways and make the story much deeper than expected. The other piece that makes for an expanded universe is that the story is not just about Dorothy, but about an ensemble cast of characters all with different flaws and motivations. There is just one mystery after another to unfold.

Getting Past the Obvious

Now the first two part episode definitely felt a little rushed, but after getting past it the rush makes some sense. They were trying to move past the standard checks to get to Oz and start the adventure.

So we meet Dorothy who was abandoned as a girl with the Gale’s, which definitely feels suspicious. When she tries to go visit her estranged mother of course is when the tornado hits and suddenly she is in Oz, riding in a police car with a dog (so Toto). The Witch of the East gets hit by the car and assumed dead. Now instead of being praised Dorothy is tortured because apparently only a witch can kill a witch in Oz. By the end of the episode we have met the “Scarecrow” – a soldier who was left for dead and doesn’t remember who he is – and are on the way down the Yellow Brick Road. We have also met Glinda, the Witch of the West, and the Wizard all in the 2 part episode and it moves quickly.

Interesting Twists on Characters

The different twists and the different characters from Oz is actually fascinating. Glinda and the Wicked Witch of the West are actually sisters, apparently all the witches in Oz are considered to come from the same mother. The mythology that they present is very deep, but the interesting part is that magic is now forbidden in Oz. There is an odd balance between the Wizard, who banned magic, but saved the Emerald City, and the witches. The “Tin Man” is a boy who almost died and was saved by replacing the majority of his body with metal. An interesting thing in Oz is that they believe in magic, but not science, so when presented with science they read it as magic. It makes for some interesting moments with Dorothy – who knows science.

Growing Mysteries

I feel like for every reveal the show introduces another mystery. I mean the original mystery is who was Dorothy’s mom and why was she abandoned. Then there are many different characters who appear to be more than they seem. The three biggest power players all seems to have plans within plans and so far I am not sure what those plans are. In the most recent episode there was a predictable reveal, but it does open up a whole other line of intrigue to explore. The nice part is even with the ever-growing mysteries they also do keep answering some of the questions along the way. At the same time it will be interesting to see where they end up on the show.

Audio

Comparative Opinions: Doctor Strange – Episode 21

Welcome to the Comparative Opinions podcast! Hosts Holly, David, and Julia dive into the most recent movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Doctor Strange! Spoilers for sure, as we talk through the cast – which successfully gets us talking about pretty much the whole movie.

Comparative Opinions is a weekly half-hour-ish podcast hosted on ComparativeGeeks.com. Subscribe for new episodes every Sunday!

https://www.facebook.com/ComparativeGeeks/

https://twitter.com/comparativegeek

Music is by Scott Gratton: http://freemusicarchive.org/music/Scott_Gratton/Intros_and_Outros

How Are They Going to Pull Off… Doctor Strange

So hopefully this is the start of a recurring sort of article type, because I can think of several other things to apply it to! The question here is: how are they going to pull off the movie, Doctor Strange? Back a few years ago, I wrote a post talking about how in the grounded Marvel Cinematic Universe, they had left no room for Magic. The closest you get is Thor saying that advanced science is indistinguishable from Magic, and while that might be a fair assessment, it’s also probably not the explanation we’re going to see for the Sorcerer Supreme.

In that original post, I basically posited that there just wasn’t going to be a Doctor Strange, and it made me sad because the character is fun and very different from everything else. I also spent some time exploring the thought of casting one of the actors who has played The Doctor in the role of Strange himself… and they actually got really close by casting Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch), right?

About to enter the Mind Palace...

About to enter the Mind Palace…

Meanwhile, they got a writer/director (Scott Derrickson) known more for his work in the horror genre, so they seem to be steering hard into the supernatural and suspenseful elements that are possible with Magic. That really makes it seem that, indeed, it’s going to be Magic. Although the first trailer shows us more than that:

They are going full-blown alternate realities. A multiverse. And while this is often an element of the more science-heavy comics, it’s coming up here in Doctor Strange. So maybe they really are going with a scientific explanation, or at least a nod towards science.

I’ll admit here: I haven’t seen the most recent trailer. I’m torn. As Holly points out, we know we’re going to see the movie, so why go in with any more spoilers? Honestly, this first trailer is so good. “Teach me.” Sold. Done. I’m there. He’s asking, in many ways, the questions I’m asking here. But… let’s go into wild speculation mode here.

Continue reading

Five Great Parts of Final Fantasy VIII – Throwback Thursday

This is a post I look back at fondly, for topic, structure, and concept. This is a post type I may just have to emulate more. And since it’s nostalgia-driven, it’s all still true!

My theory is that most people’s favorite Final Fantasy game is the first one they played. In a lot of ways, this makes sense. Because the series is so self-referential, when you play a later game, the nostalgia you feel takes you back to that first Final Fantasy game you played.

My first Final Fantasy game was Final Fantasy VIII. It was also one of my first console games, back on the PlayStation. So for me, a lot of my expectations of other RPGs, other console games, and other Final Fantasy games, all go back to Final Fantasy VIII.

Final Fantasy VIII is my favorite Final Fantasy game, but that’s something of a rare statement, and the game seems to get a bit of flak from gamers – or is simply ignored. But there are a lot of elements to this game which I love, and so I thought I would write a post in defense of Final Fantasy VIII. Rather than try to defend the plot or game system – which are the parts easiest to be emotionally attached to or turned off by – and instead look at some of the broader items that were interesting in the game.

So here’s my list of five great parts to Final Fantasy VIII!

Continue reading