Category Archives: Metaphysics

Microscopic

One principle underlying the magic and metaphysics of Edgewhen is that nothing has a microscopic cause. At the macroscopic level, Edgewhen is very similar to our world. But it has no mysteries that can be explained only through modern science.

Infection and Disease

Edgewhen has no microorganisms. And so there is no infection or disease (with the exception of certain macroscopic plant diseases such as insect galls and parasitic fungi).

Rot and Decay

But things do rot and decay in Edgewhen. Decay is accomplished not through digestion by microscopic organisms, but rather by the leaking of elemental Life out of the world. Living creatures, whether trees, squirrels, or people, maintain corporeal form only because of elemental Life. As that Life leaks out, the other elements dissipate.

Atoms and Molecules

These do not exist on Edgewhen. Water is not made of hydrogen and oxygen. It is made of elemental Water. In fact, all liquids are made of elemental Water (although most will have traces of other elements as well).

Electricity

If there are no electrons, then you can’t power anything with electricity. It doesn’t exist on Edgewhen.

Of course, there is lightning. But it is made of Light and Heat. In The Dragonslayer of Edgewhen, a dragon makes lightning that contains only Light.

Magnetism

Magnetism is seriously weird. Most of the stuff in our world doesn’t behave like magnets. So there is really no reason for anything in Edgewhen to behave like a magnet either.

However, some materials in Edgewhen do have special properties. In The Artificer of Dupho, Kittiwake employs a “sympathetic garnet”. This rock changes color when it is near a concentration of elemental Emotion.

Can This Work?

In general, if a technology relies on physics or biology that would seem miraculous to someone in a pre-industrial world, that technology probably doesn’t work on Edgewhen.

So How Does This Work?

In general, an educated character’s understanding of metaphysics is correct. If a character explains that ice is Earth and Water, and that melting is caused by destruction of the Earth to leave only Water behind, then that is a pretty close approximation of the truth on Edgewhen.

If I write that, I’m not being cute. I’m not winking at the reader. I’m not mocking the character for not understanding how cold-temperature water molecules crystalize into a solid form.

If you went to Edgewhen and set up an experiment to see what the water molecules do when ice melts, you would discover that your apparatus cannot find any molecules. And if you had the ability to sense elemental Earth and Heat, you would be able to see the Earth pushed out of the world as the Heat enters the melting ice.

Conclusion

Most natural phenomena in Edgewhen appear identical to their counterparts in our world, but they have a different metaphysical explanation. If you do an experiment that can distinguish the Edgewhen explanation from our explanation, you will discover that the Edgewhen explanation is correct and that our explanation makes no sense.

Magic: Backhoe

Why don’t we see more evil wizards in Edgewhen?

In heroic fantasy worlds, those who know the secrets of magic are powerful beings. They use their knowledge to oppress others until some brave hero comes to challenge them.

In Edgewhen, magic is usually integrated into society. Magical talent is used in the practice of a certain profession. It may inspire admiration, but it rarely inspires awe.

Why is that?

Because I’m modeling Edgewhen societies on our own. I call it …

The Backhoe Theory of Magic

Let me tell you about my neighbor, Daniel. Daniel owns a backhoe. This should make him the most powerful man in town.

He has the ability to move huge chunks of earth. He can dig trenches and build hills.

The backhoe is a powerful machine. If someone does something Daniel doesn’t like, he can knock their house down. If they go over to Daniel’s house to complain, he can take his backhoe and smash their car.

This would make people angry at Daniel. They might call the police. But why should Daniel care? With his backhoe he can dig an impassable trench around his house. He can push the police cars into heaps and cover them with earth to build an impenetrable wall.

Daniel should be able to establish a reign of terror. His backhoe gives him great power.

But for some reason, Daniel chooses to use his backhoe to dig trenches for people. They pay him money and he uses it to buy groceries. He doesn’t use his backhoe illegally, and he doesn’t build a fortress to fend off the law enforcement authorities. Because he’s not a megalomaniac.

I’ve got nothing against the archetypal mad wizard who uses his power to seclude himself in a tower and plot the downfall of the neighboring populace. I just think that given the choice between brutal conflict and a respected occupation, most people would choose the latter.

Magic: Rock Stars

Magic in Edgewhen depends on a person’s ability to resonate with certain elements and on the skill a person has in manipulating those elements. How common are these skills?

The easiest way to answer this is to make an analogy with a skill in our world. Let’s consider singing.

How common is singing?

Most little kids sing. Maybe not very well, but they sing.

Most adults don’t sing. Unless they’re in the shower. Or drunk. Or at church. (So if you want to hang out with uninhibited singers, you should build a church with a giant shower in the sanctuary and serve free liquor.)

Among the Children of Knowledge, magic is kind of like that. Everyone practices elemental manipulation in school, but once they grow up, they leave the magic for the talented people.

Cultural Differences

I said most adults don’t sing, but of course that’s not true. In my culture, most of the adults I meet are less likely to burst into song than I am. But in other cultures, people are less embarrassed about singing.

Every culture has situations where singing is appropriate. In some cultures, these situations are more frequent.

It’s like that in Edgewhen, too. Some peoples have common magical talents that most everyone uses every day. Among other peoples, magic is practiced by only a select few.

Innate Differences

Everybody can sing, but not everyone sings well. Some people just can’t hear pitches. Some people have unmelodic voices. Some little kids can go on tour before they turn ten.

In Edgewhen people do have innate limitations on their magical abilities.

Limited Range

No matter how hard a soprano trains, she’ll never be able to sing bass.

In Edgewhen, the same is true of magic. No person has affinity for all nine elements. Affinity for more than three elements is very, very rare.

You Can Improve With Practice

When you practice something, you get better. If you don’t like the way you sing, you probably won’t believe me when I say you could get better with practice. So let’s talk about woodworking.

If a carpenter showed you how to make a chair, you could probably make one. And if you made a hundred chairs, you would be better at chair making than when you started.

The same is true of magic on Edgewhen. People who practice magic get better at it.

But as with singing, people who think they can’t do magic never practice and never get better.

So How Common is Magic?

Magic is a skill that everyone on Edgewhen has in some degree. Usually this degree is so small that they believe they cannot do magic.

People who are willing to use their meager skills can do very, very weak magic. Those who practice get better.

But very few people put in the effort required to develop their skills to the point where they could use them to earn a living. They choose to spend their time on other pursuits.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Do It?

Magic is pretty cool. It might be hard to believe that someone would choose to ignore their magical talents.

But in our world, rock stars are pretty cool. In fact, “rock star” is sometimes synonymous with cool.

Everyone is born with some ability to sing. So why don’t we all grow up to be rock stars?

Magic: Resonance

Edgewhen is a magical world. This is the first of several articles that explore what that means.

Elements

All magic in Edgewhen is based on elements. People can re-shape rocks, change the viscosity of liquids, alter the smells in the air. People can add heat or motion to an object and they can create light. They can manipulate the flow of life, sense a creature’s emotions, and perhaps even read others’ thoughts. And many other magical effects become possible when one considers elements in combination.

Only Elemental Magic is Possible

But certain magical effects that we know from other stories are impossible on Edgewhen.

Time is not one of the elements. No one on Edgewhen can travel to the past. No one can foresee the future.

Space is not one of the elements. This makes teleportation impossible.

Sight over long distances might be possible, but only by manipulating Light. Co-location is impossible.

These limitations apply even to the deities. They are able to see what happens in the world only because they are incredibly sensitive to resonances between the world and the Elemental Realms. In effect, they are seeing over a long distance.

But the deities cannot see through time. They do not know what the future will bring. Accurate prophecy is impossible.

Still, they are omniscient enough to make some pretty good guesses.

Resonance

Magic is accomplished by resonating with the elements to be used. Most people have an affinity for one or two elements, but not everyone has the will to develop their affinity into a useful skill.

Creation

When a person resonates with the creative half of the Elemental Realms, he or she can increase the rate at which that element flows into the world. Skilled practitioners can sometimes shape this flow as it comes in.

Gold cannot be created.

Manipulation

Elements in the world can be manipulated by resonating with them.

Iron cannot be manipulated.

Destruction

By resonating with the destructive half of the Elemental Realms, it is possible to cause an element to disappear from the world.

Silver cannot be destroyed.

Elements

Everything in the world is made of elements in some combination. Each element is close to its own particular Elemental Realm. In this sense, the world is a place where the nine Elemental Realms commingle.
The nine elements are:

Matter

Earth: Earth is the predominant element in all solids.

Water: Water is the predominant element in all liquids.

Air: Air is the predominant element in all gasses.

Most objects have a mix of elements. For example, rocks are lighter than metals because they contain Air. The amount of Water in ice becomes apparent when Heat is applied to destroy the Earth. Clouds are made of Air and Water.

Any object, whether solid, liquid, or gas, may contain some measure of the energetic and spiritual elements as well.

Energy

Motion: Anything moving has Motion.

Light: Light flows into the world from the moon, the sun, and the stars. It flows quickly toward Destruction.

Heat: Heat flows into the world from the sun and from an unknown source under the earth. It flows slowly toward Destruction. Some of those who resonate with elemental Heat claim that the element is part of every object. Others claim that some objects have Heat, but some objects have Cold. Some people are able to sense Heat only in warm objects. A few claim to be sensitive only to Cold.

Spirit

Thought: Thought is the element that allows people to speak and reason. It is rare in the world. Plants and animals require only a tiny bit of Thought for existence. On the other hand, some nature spirits are almost entirely made of Thought.

Life: This element is essential to all living things. In fact, it is the distinguishing factor between living things and inanimate objects. Dead living things may also retain Life for a time. It seems to flow toward Destruction at the same rate that Heat does.

Emotion: Emotion distinguishes plants from animals. Plants have very little, while animals have it in abundance. Emotion is required for any action. It is the means by which Thoughts are translated into Motion. Emotion means more than just feelings. Emotion is the dominant element of the will to act. As such, it can become part of the action itself. Some nature spirits are almost entirely made of Emotion.

A person’s soul appears to consist of Thought and Emotion. Either element may dominate. Life is essential for keeping the soul tied to a body, but after death, the soul persists. It may remain in the world as a spirit. Alternatively, it may be drawn to a heaven or to a hell.