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Brandon Sanderson Lecture 9: Sanderson's First Law of Magic (6/7)

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See the entire class in one place with notes at http://www.writeaboutdragons.com/home/brandon_w2012/ Help us caption & translate this video! http://amara.org/v/CVfY/
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Text Comments (36)
dario m (8 months ago)
it's nice that he calls the aragonr's arrival at minas thirit a deus ex machina and completely disregards the fact that we spend something like 40 minutes witnessing it setting up in the movies yet for some reason "it came out of nowhere", wtf moment.
Cat Hat (19 days ago)
Tolkien perfectly forshadowed Aragon's journey thorough the paths of the dead in a message Gandalf delivers to Aragorn from Galadriel, as part of a lay when they are reunited in Fanghorn forest. "But dark is the path that is appointed for thee: The dead that watch the road that leads to the sea". So Sanderson's idea that it is deus ex machina is of course complete nonsense, JRR was too good a writer for that. The fact that Sanderson insists on referencing the movies, rather than the source novel for this criticism of Tolkien is odd.
sorsocksfake (11 months ago)
"Magic can be awesome or practical, but never both"
Olzme (2 years ago)
good point about JK Rowling
Roltaire Solis (2 years ago)
9:13 "I had felt that he it was a day of sex maquina" DAMN YOU AUTO-GENERATED ENGLISH SUBTITLEEEEEEEEES!!!
Johnathon Crines (3 years ago)
I'm confused where does a soft magic system use its magic. I get the example with gandalf, as a perfect paradigm but I have no idea where someone would actually use soft magic.
Noctis Occulta (3 years ago)
+Johnathon Crines The Illiad and sword'n'sorcery such as Conan stories. Magic is weird, unpredictable and dangerous and usually the realm of gods and mad sorcerers. It serves as a plot hook or window dressing for the most part.
lasse aassveen (3 years ago)
+Johnathon Crines A good example of soft magic is Safira`s magic in the inheritance cycle. The main character Eragon uses a hard magic system where the rules of the magic is explained, but sometimes, seemingly at random, Safira (the dragon) will also do magic. Her magic does not follow the rules and it is never explained how her magic works. when Eragon uses magic, you always understand what is going to happen and how, but when Safira uses magic you have no clue what is going to happen. This leaves you with a sense of wonder when Safira suddenly uses magic.
Frida (3 years ago)
It's not true that you need to have something supernatural or hyper-scientific in fantasy and SF. Very, very common, but not necessary. The definition of fantasy/SF is that it's in a different world. Not our world, not in history, but in a different setting. That's it. Fantasy - yes, has something supernatural/magical. SF - does not have anything of that sort. If you have something that "seems" mystical, there is at least a pseudo-scientific explanation for it. But if you're making a setting in a completely different world, with no magic and no hyper-technology of the future (as I am), it is still fantasy/SF.
Crimson Dervish (4 years ago)
Sanderson's First Law of Magic came out prominently in Towers of Midnight with the Tower of Ghenjei, if I recall correctly. Matrim even stated that the patterns of motion in their world didn't need to coincide with those of his own, simply that they were consistent with themselves. Sanderson, you're a cheeky devil. :P
Houdini111 (4 years ago)
At about 6:10, Death Note came to mind. They play out some rules, then explore it further as the story progresses, and, as such, the entire story is centered on the "magic"
Alorand (4 years ago)
I never understood why wonder and understanding of how things work are seen as opposites.  The perfect example for me is the Mandelbrot set, its fractals are no mere trippy colored squiggles but an infinitely complex and awe inspiring aspect of reality. But I feel that way about a lot of stuff. Northern Lights, Rainbows and Stars are all the more full of wonder for me because I understand how they work.
John Johnston (4 years ago)
Those particular things that you mention as being wonderful and awesome are also extremely complex, at least when compared to what you'll find in your average fantasy novel. It would be extremely difficult, I assume, to explain an extremely complex magical system while creating interesting/likable characters and unfolding a satisfying plot.
ThisnThatPackRat (5 years ago)
Defining a magical system and world-building as a whole can quickly become navel gazing. At the end of the day, does it enhance/drive the story? We don't need to know the magical system of Gandalf. Why? Well, because it's what wizards know and do--he's a wizard. Just as we don't need to know all the in's and out's of Rangers other than they're bad ass and capable. At the end of the day it's about the story. Besides, in-depth unveiling is what sequel is for--satisfying fanboys/girls. ;)
Tylenol-with-Codeine (5 years ago)
I wonder if Brandon has ever considered writing his own book about how to write fantasy/sci-fi. Kind of like Card's? That'd be awesome.
Tom Keane (5 years ago)
Of course. I think the level of detail you incorporate depends on the prevalence of magic in your story. If the plot depends on it and is affected by it, you need to set down the rules quickly and stick to them. If its more on the periphery of the story it needs space to breathe and remain mysterious.
LordDraeko (5 years ago)
I can see where you're coming from, and agree with you to an extent, but magic has to run by a set of laws and rules or it can just be used by anyone to do anything, etc.
nipponaihito (6 years ago)
I disagree with the basic assumption. At least for me, I don't get wonder by having unexplained and unpredictable hocus pocus coming out of no where and fixing things. So Gandalf annoys me, Harry Potter grafts me, and Eragon falls far short of wonder since it doesn't actually get into the nitty gritty in a meaningful way. No explanation, no sense of awesome or wonder.
CrazyLikeUhFox (9 months ago)
I read the inheritance series a long time ago, but I thought the magic system was pretty hard back when I did.
bailal1 (1 year ago)
nipponaihito Agreed! Thats why I love how all of Sanderson's books are backed by science (example: in mistborn, allomancy functions heavily with physics - specifically Newton's third law of motion), it just makes the magic logical and realistic, and possible to exist in the world.
Todd Grosser (6 years ago)
The Dungeons and Dragons Magical system is one of the best and comes with a boatload of tips for using magic for all of what he is talking about. Often magical wonder is generated by scarcity not consistency. D&D posed a very good system and is the archetype for all others and is the standard by which all others are or should be compared.
qwertyfriesen (6 years ago)
Rothfuss actually has at least ten different magic systems going on. Naming, Sympathy, Sygaldry, Alchemy, Glamourie, and Grammarie, plus two that are seen in the books but not mentioned, and others that he says are in the world but as yet unrevealed.
Tom Keane (6 years ago)
I actually totally disagree with this! I hate reading about magic as though its chemistry or biology, its needs to mysterious and unnerving, because its something totally outside the mundane experience. Magic is less - for lack of a better expression - 'magical' for me, when it has air-tight structure.
sorsocksfake (11 months ago)
Those aren't contradicting though. One can have highly mysterious magic that nonetheless is bound by some strict rules that make sure it can't be used easily - or indeed, that renders it 99.99% useless... and it is only used because the alternatives are 100% impossible. One of the more simple ways is to say that magic only comes from the gods; humans may be able to invoke the gods, or use their artifacts, but they can't do anything outside of those (often whimsical) rules. And the gods, meanwhile, don't particularly care to intervene.
Cameron Robertson (1 year ago)
For me its a case of: if the magic can do anything, then why is your current situation a problem? Surely you can just solve it by magic? The more defined the system, the more threatening the problem actually seems.
bailal1 (1 year ago)
Tom Keane I personally love when magic has a scientific backing, because it makes the magic realistic and very possible to exist in the world
corsarius (6 years ago)
The whole thing explained there is not that it has to be logical, it is that if it's logical it can and should be used to solve problems, if it's not logical, every ttime you use it to solve something it becomes Deus ex Machinima
David List (6 years ago)
yea... like the fact that at one point, Hermione shrinks the size of her two front teeth in the book... Why doesn't Harry administer some type of Lasic surgery on his eyes?
Arielle Seruntine (6 years ago)
Having a logical magic system matters! I was always disturbed by the Harry Potter books, even when I was twelve, because the magic rules are defined, but not really. It's like you can conjure everything except food, but your already manipulating matter in every other way, so why not food? I think magic rules give structure to the universe. Don't tell everyone what the rules are if you know them - it's much cooler to work it out for yourself by "observing" the ways the characters use it.
bailal1 (1 year ago)
Agreed! I love how all of Sanderson's books are backed by science (example: in mistborn, allomancy functions heavily with physics - specifically Newton's third law of motion), it just makes the magic logical and realistic, and possible to exist in the world.
David Bankson (6 years ago)
Yeah the last one doesn't seem to be uploaded :(
Lita P (6 years ago)
Am I just missing the 7th one? Or did it not get loaded yet?

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