Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

July 9, 2009

The other side of escapism – fantasies of service

Filed under: sf — Tags: , , , , , , — Sam @ 5:56 pm

I’ve started re-reading Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series, more or less concurrently with Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files books. I didn’t pick them as a pair deliberately, but they do have quite a bit in common beyond the wizards-in-cities schtick – they’re both fantasies of service.

A lot of people characterize SF as escapist, both as a positive and a negative term – it takes you away from the real world, it takes you to a better one, and so on. But there’s a definite tradition of engagement as well, and the whole it might be you trope isn’t always about Being Special, about being the One Princess Destined To Whatever. Sometimes it’s just about validation – the hope that one day, someone will turn up and hand you a magic sword, a talking horse, or the root password to the universe. And then they’ll say, It’s yours now. Do good with it.

Mercedes Lackey is a perfect example of this. If the Powers want you for a sunbeam Herald, they’ll send a shiny telepathic horse to kidnap you and be your best friend, and then you’ll jump into harm’s way for everyone’s good. Or from her urban fantasies, Diana Tregarde has the Guardian power – when she’s certifiably Doing Good, she gets an extra huge magic battery to plug into.

Duane’s Wizards do it a bit differently. Wizardry is, by definition, service; using magic reduces entropy and slows down the heat death of the Universe. It’s a choice you have to make for yourself, and one you have to keep on making, and the reward for a job well done is always another one.

What more could we wish for?

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