1. razumikhin
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    razumikhin Member

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    Salt- a mechanism for magic?

    Discussion in 'Setting Development' started by razumikhin, Apr 30, 2009.

    So I'm currently trying to write a fantasy story that straddles the spirit of renaissance science, but requires some subtle form of magic. So far the best way to work it in is to make up something called Salt and work it in like that, but I'm wondering if people could make suggestions to improve the concept.

    The idea is that in the setting of my story, the world is made up of city states that all exercise sovereign rule, and their own borders. Everyone has their own laws and borders, but they need a common currency. Salt acts as that currency. It's not like common table salt, but the apparent manifestation of the energy and effort of people's labours. I haven't quite worked out how it's produced, but vague ideas of vast arenas of slaves being forced to do backbreaking and pointless work to generate it is on my mind.

    Anyway, the general belief in the world is that Salt is this manifestation of energy and power. Certain people can turn it back into energy and use that to do what they like, whether it's growing a tree in a second or creating a burning fireball, they do it by taking salt and converting it to useable energy.
    The thing is that since Salt is also the standard of currency, it's pretty much like burning money to do what you want. It's not generally considered a practical solution, so magic exists, but only the rich have access to it.
    Another drawback of Salt would be that overuse of it leads to massive health problems, and the most powerful Salters (I guess that's the equivalent of a mage in this universe) run the risk of death from overuse if they use too much too quickly.

    That's what the people believe. My MC however is a reality cleaving bastard who recognises that the Salters are unwittingly exploiting the mass-energy equivalency (it's real physics!). Salt has certain properties that lets them do this without having to know how, but its massively inefficient. Most of it ends up in their bloodstream without being converted, and that's why Salters end up being plagued with ill health (high blood pressure, kidney failure etc.) My MC knows this, and he also knows that just about any material can be made into energy for magic if you understand it, which puts him in the unique position of being able to do much greater magic with anything.

    Anyway, that's the concept, what do you all think?
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Well..... Back in the day when I was a Wiccan (did I really just type that?) salt had a special place in magic and ceremony. It represents a number of things in Wicca. It is a cleansing agent and is used to purify items prior to use in magic. It also has its own manifest representation on the Wiccan's alter. It can represent for some the salt of the ocean, birthplace of us all. Or for some others it can represent the essence of masculinity, where water is its counterpart as the essence of femininity.
     
  3. razumikhin
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    razumikhin Member

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    ah, so salt has some significance in real occult practice? That's interesting. The idea I hope the mechanism conveys is the difference between what people believe happens, and the reality of it all. People are slowly killing themselves in a horribly inefficient manner and paying a huge sum for it, all because they're ignorant of how to do it properly.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    First, my standard response:
    But I will say that my initial reaction is to groan. It sounds like a parable written by the American Medical Association. You'd have a tough time writing it in a way that would sell me on the premise. Sorry.
     
  5. razumikhin
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    razumikhin Member

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    ahahaha- when you put it like that I can see why you'd think that. And I'll take selling it to you as a challenge :p
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    GOOD! Don't let me, or anyone else, talk you out of it.
     
  7. razumikhin
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    razumikhin Member

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    I can see your point about a story being the author's alone, but are you telling me you haven't seen great stories completely ruined by one bad idea, which the author kept in because of ego? :p
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Is it the idea, or is it poor execution?

    Ok, it can be the idea, for instance a science fiction story based on faulty science. But even that - many great SF stories have an abominable knowledge of science behind them, but still tell a good story.
     
  9. razumikhin
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    razumikhin Member

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    I dunno, I've never been able to suspend my disbelief about any sci fi that didn't at least try and make the science it explained plausible. It's a much greater skill to be able to craft fantastical objects out of the bounds of reality than it is to just make something up.

    But again, maybe that's just me.
     
  10. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It isn't. I grew up and trained as a scientist, so details like orbits that decay as soon as engines are shut down irk me. Still, I can appreciate classic Star Trek while shaking my head at the science.

    On the other hand, Space 1999, with the moon accelerated to interstellar velocities in minutes without disintegrating, and yet spending hours in the vicinity of the planet of the week without slowing down, fractures all credibility. And that is ignoring the horribly flat characters, abominable dialogue, and utterly preposterous individual storylines.

    I can suspend my disbelief, but not until my brain hemorrhages.
     
  11. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    Thank you, thank you, thank you Wrey. I love that thought.

    Now, raz, at least spell it right...S A U L T...LOL
     
  12. razumikhin
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    razumikhin Member

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    ah well now I'm curious as to what sort of science you specialised in. It's a rarity to see someone who chose something analytical like science or maths keep writing up, if even as hobby. I'm very much aware I'm in a minority for doing it.
     
  13. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Razumikhin: There are such things as bad ideas, especially in the realm of world-building. Your description, however, hooked me. You seem to have created a relatively original concept for a fantasy world (I myself prefer the Renaissance to the Middle Ages) with plenty of room for exploration and a larger-than-life characteristic for your protagonist. The Salters' power v. health dilemma is intriguing. Can I tell from your description that the story you're planning to write will be a bestseller? Of course not, but it looks like you have a good groundwork.

    Good luck!
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I grew up fascinated with the physical sciences. I started college as a Math major, then switched to Chemistry. I worked as a research chemist (electrochemistry) before switching over to computer technology.

    Nut I have always loved words and language also, not to mention always appreciating a good story.
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Scientists and writers aren't as rare as they once were, and the gap is only going to continue to close as the two begin to embrace each other more and more. Even today, there are plenty of biologists, psychologists, even physicists working not only to understand how writing works, but how writing can inform science. I watched a fascinating lecture a few weeks ago by a visiting psychology professor that suggested undergrad psychology students should use fiction as case studies, and the english course im taking at auckland uni this semester focusses on science and literature. Sorry for threadjacking, just sharing an interesting thought!
     
  16. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    I meant scientist-writers, if that wasn't clear...Nabokov and Primo Levi are famous examples
     
  17. razumikhin
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    razumikhin Member

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    I think the thread was already pretty much derailed. I had a suspicion Cogito was a scientist since I saw him punning about electric shocks :p

    And Nabakov was much more of a linguist wasn't he? The man was supposed to be incredibly at ease in any of the many languages he spoke in. I think he translated Pnin himself from french to english (and he was russian originally!). Although yeah, I see your point arron.

    Well this element is just a small part of the story Ice. If you're interested in seeing the foundations, I think I've posted the first chapter of it in the review board. 'S called the Anatomist :p
     
  18. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    I'll fish around if I have the time in between studying pre-calculus (damn, I'm bad at that stuff).
     
  19. razumikhin
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    razumikhin Member

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    XP I'll make you a deal. You read and review what I've written, I'll tell you everything you need to know about what you're doing. I'll even give you my e-mail address so if you want help, I can give it to you :p
     
  20. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Nabokov was actually a very highly regarded entomologist (that's a butterfly expert!). He studied zoology, and even organised the butterfly collection at Harvard University's museum of zoology. There have been a few books written about his love of butterflies and science in general.
     

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