Magic and language in fantasy fiction [entries|reading|network|archive]
simont

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Mon 2015-08-10 12:55
Magic and language in fantasy fiction
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[identity profile] cartesiandaemon.livejournal.comMon 2015-08-10 13:40

Oops, this is spilling into _another_ comment. But taking my description of how it appears to work in HPMOR, that's... not completely inconsistent with how some tech works.

Like, instead of a spell, imagine it was something like "a set of instructions for running a particular command on a computer". What features are there in common?

* You have to get all the details of spelling right or it doesn't work.
* If some SMALL details are wrong, it may sort-of work, work, or not work.
* If you don't know what it does AT ALL, you usually won't be able to use it at all. If you don't know whether it's "run at the command line" or "run a particular GUI program" or "something at the bios start-up screen" etc etc, you probably won't be able to follow the instructions. But if you have the idea it's a command line to run, you'll probably be able to muddle through even if you don't understand it.
* Someone who understands it very well, will be able to tweak things by making small changes.
* Someone who understands it very very very well will be able to improvise and combine spells on the fly. Someone who doesn't will probably need to treat them all as black boxes.

To a lesser extent, the same applies to physical concepts -- eg. instead of "a set of instructions for running a command line" you have "a set of instructions for building a smelting plant/a transistor/a bicycle".

But the difference is, you can break down those parts and see some of the intermediate process. Whereas in magic it's all a black box, even though it's hinted greater wizards see underlying order.

And it probably HAS to be a black box, else the seams show and people ask "why can't you do X"

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