Saturday, June 12, 2021

My Problem with Time Magic: inspiration & spark

This post is Part 7 of a series to augment the Author's Manifesto available for free download. Start with Part 1 here.

This and other inspirations of mine are gathered in the Spark Directory for you to explore.

Find more mystic content in my Magic Directory.

In Part 1 of this series, I started working on a flexible in-world taxonomy for the magic system of the Known World. But though time magic is featured in the actual taxonomy, I haven't been able to develop any functional spells for manipulating time.

Part of my hesitation to create a functional time magic for my Magic Codex is that every time-meddle story seems uninspired. No matter how cool and nuanced the world, it seems like the instant that time travel is evoked, the stories shrivel into these predictable structures that only vary on the surface. Yes, the plots of time-travel stories are all very twisty, with their paradoxes and infinite loops, but the stories themselves seem to fall into one of two categories.

The original time-travel stories all seem to involve going back in time to stop something bad from happening, or to otherwise change the future. This itself creates a paradox, since you wouldn't be motivated to go back and change the past if the past had not happened.

Check out this Author's Manifesto for more of my inspirations!

So either you literally can't change the past (the rigid timeline approach), or you create this alternate reality where the past was changed, and now the future is different, and you don't actually exist because you grew up to be a totally different person (if you ever existed at all). Complex and thought-provoking, but at this point in the evolution of our storytelling narrative, fairly tired and overdone.

The second category of time-travel story is a bit more advanced, and I think it came along in our storytelling narrative after people got used to the general idea of time travel as a storytelling device. Now, instead of messing with time to prevent or change an event in the past, characters are trying to un-meddle with time, to untangle the paradoxes and restore things to the way they should have been all along.

These stories are about fixing the broken timeline, building on the idea that messing with time causes a break in the timeline to begin with. These stories create a similar exercise in futility, because ultimately you never would be motivated to go back and fix the broken timeline if it hadn't been broken in the first place. Once again, you run into the same paradox, though getting there is even more convoluted than before.

My solution to these redundant sort of time-meddle stories is, currently, to have no viable time magic at all in my Tales of the Known World saga. But I want to develop time magic eventually, so I've been ruminating on my ideas about time itself. Like the other spiritual principles evoked in my magic system, I want to represent time in a different way, mirroring the spiritual traditions of the world and capturing their similarities.

That's it for this post! Up Next: Exploring alternate views of time...

Download the Author's Manifesto here, or start your adventure below.

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