So I Am Committing Sci-Fi Heresy

And going against everything Project Rho and their excellent compilation on sci-fi tech, with far more physics than I could understand, says about stealth in space. http://www.projectrho.com/public_html/rocket/spacewardetect.php

That is, they infamously drone, “There is no stealth in space.” And then they laugh at you for trying the alternatives. And here is where I think they are thinking too much like a physicist who assumes information equals certainty. Not enough as a tactician who has to interpret the data, the poor snob reading the scope, and let alone the politician who has to decide whether or not to go to war based on those blips that he may or may not see on the screen.

First of all, I am going to agree with this article against Rho: http://scienceblogs.com/builtonfacts/2010/03/10/while-doing-some-poking-around/ and say “Internal Heat is irrelevant.” Now, that is not the case to the crew who has to deal with said heat–like the Normandy in Mass Effect. You’d need massive heat sinks to bury your signature for even an hour. But the potato is a viable analogy. Internal heat does not mean the skin is hotter. And as long as the skin remains essentially dead space, you aren’t detected. So if you train your bloom away from the detection apparatus of the enemy, and then ensure you don’t heat the skin, you should be clear from anything but luck.

Second, we can scan the entire night-sky in four hours. But anything outside your star system is essentially irrelevant. By the time you could intercept, they would jump away, and your fleet is going the wrong direction. Battles would naturally occur near fortified or strategic targets, or on the trade routes between them. Anything else, and space is so big, awareness of existence is pointless.

Third, if it’s so easy to detect everything in the night sky, why do so many asteroids go by at bullet burn range? After all, the sunward side of these is heated well above background. They should be seen for weeks, if not months, before they slip past Earth. Instead we hear of events like this: http://www.thedailysheeple.com/undetected-asteroid-explodes-over-the-atlantic_012014 on essentially an annual basis. So again, if you know where the enemy is observing from, and you orient your ship so your trail is aft of the other guy’s heat sensors, there should be functionally a low enough signature to make it unclear if you’re a ship, or just another piece of space junk.

And this is where I have my beef with Rho. Stealth as we know it isn’t ‘invisibility.’ Even a submarine doesn’t operate on absolute non-existence, or you get detected for being an impossible hole in the ocean. (I can neither confirm nor deny personal knowledge of such phenomenon.) Stealth is about the creation of doubt. The ability to convince the guy at a radar board that he’s looking at a bird instead of a plane. That the submarine is a whale, or a school of fish. Just the same, if you can make your Super Star Destroyer look like a freighter, even if your enemy knows SOMETHING is there, they may not know the Galactic Empire is on their doorstep and bombardment is ready to begin until they disintegrate your orbital defenses. Would it give them enough time even to refer that portrait in the sky to his High Command? Perhaps enough to make your President jittery about lighting off your orbital defenses?

Also there’s the issue of the difference between detection and targeting. You know an enemy is there even perhaps. But between passive stealth, active jamming, and decoys, can you be sure of what you’re shooting at? Can you be as sure as the guy who only has to shoot at one ship, which he’s positively identified and has a firm tactical solution on?

I agree that the Cloaking Device, and such gimmicks for ‘absolute’ invisibility would be impossible. But this is not the same as “Stealth is irrelevant.” This is like saying that because jamming doesn’t stop every missile, it isn’t useful, even if it stops 90% of them. It’s sure a whole lot easier to shoot down 1 missile with your point defense than 10.

So there’s still room to wish confusion to the enemy. IMHO.

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I Am Neither GrimDark Nor PollyAnna

While reading the ever-amusing Ace of Spades Book Thread http://ace.mu.nu/archives/352551.php, I followed a link to this article, where it seems that some have had their fill of Sci-Fi Dystopias. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kathryn-cramer/speculative-fiction-book_b_5916266.html

This does not surprise me, as I suspect Dystopias grew popular in science fiction for the same reason that GrimDark rose to rule Fantasy. (A fact the author of the above article misses completely.) That is, that anti-heroes have grown from a once legitimate literary device to complement the hero/villain structure, to turn all of writing into a gray ammoral world where the only difference between protagonist and antagonist is who the primary point of view indicates we should root for. A fact Sarah A Hoyt commented on in her Human Wave manifesto (indicating this is no new concern):

5 – You shall not commit grey goo. Grey goo, in which characters of indeterminate moral status move in a landscape of indeterminate importance towards goals that will leave no one better or worse off is not entertaining. (Unless it is to see how the book bounces off the far wall, and that has limited entertainment. Also, I’m not flinging my kindle.)

I am pleased to see those who hailed the arrival of these ‘ambivalent heroes’ now finally come to the ground we have held for most of a decade. I find it amusing that of all people to blame for no longer envisioning big futures, ASU’s president picked Neal Stephenson. Whose Anathem was probably his biggest and most optimistic future, set well after the more dystopic cyberpunks that made him famous. And even his retro-futures, Cryptonomicon and The Baroque Cycle provide optimistic glimpses of science, finance, and the progress of society. There are MUCH better targets to aim this charge at than Neal Stephenson. Also, at this point, I remind you of my posts on dystopic Sci-Fi’s mystic cousin, Grimdark fantasy here: https://tariencole.wordpress.com/2013/08/17/how-grim-is-too-much/, and here: https://tariencole.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/i-am-over-grimdark/. Blatant pessimism, moral ambiguity for ambiguity’s sake, and no attempt to even FIGHT for a better world does not make for an entertaining story. Not fantasy, not sci-fi. And the prevalence of this nonsense is a large part of the reason for Mysteries being the big genre fiction for profit today. At least in those, there is closure, resolution, and a knowledge that justice has been done.

I don’t like them, by and large. As they are too formulaic, and the contrivances of the genre do nothing for me. However, their elevation at a time that Speculative Fiction is screaming ‘Diversity” and “realistic characters,” and hemorrhaging readership all the while, probably hints at a problem in the mindset. A problem that runs through the love of Dystopias, antiheroes, and an unwillingness to embrace a true heroic journey. You see, if you’re committed to moral relativity, there can’t be heroes. Everyone is just a different point of view. We can’t accept that some things are legitimately beyond the pale. A mystery gets around this by having a protagonist who is only judging the ‘facts.’ But what speculative fiction writers have to realize is that sympathetic aspects to a culture, or a villain, don’t make them heroic, as such. Just like flaws in the hero don’t make for anti-heroes, as such. A hero seeks to overcome their vices via their best qualities (and often they have the vices of their virtues). A villain makes a virtue of his vices. A hero admits there is darkness and accepts a measure of (gasp) hypocrisy in any moral creature is unavoidable. A villain spreads his arms like Don John and says, “At least I am plain dealing!”

Yeah, that doesn’t commend him much. This isn’t to say villains can’t be redeemed (over time), or that heroes won’t fall. This isn’t to say people can’t die trying to change the world, and the villains maybe even win. It means that we accept that morality exists outside of who wins or loses. And that the true hero may calculate the odds, but that doesn’t mean they refuse to do the right thing because of them. Or for comparison, let me leave with this:

A hero: The Iron Code of Druss the Legend: Never violate a woman, nor harm a child. Do not lie, cheat or steal. These things are for lesser men. Protect the weak against the evil strong. And never allow thoughts of gain to lead you into the pursuit of evil.

An Antihero: Jayne Cobb from Firefly: “Like my Daddy used to say, ‘If you can’t do the smart thing. Do the right thing.”

A Villain: “Kneel Before Zod!”

Objects in This Article Are Not to Scale

One of the recurring arguments I hear is the Low Fantasy/Epic Fantasy argument. That is, does the audience want small-scale stories where we spend time close to a few (or even one) character. Or is the balance in favor of the traditional Epic Fantasy (“saving the world”)?

This article is relating to games. But it dredges through this argument on the side of Low Fantasy/”small scale” story telling again. http://toybox.io9.com/im-sick-of-saving-the-world-the-case-for-smaller-scale-1631918032?utm_campaign=socialflow_io9_facebook&utm_source=io9_facebook&utm_medium=socialflow

Here’s the first thing I’d say: It doesn’t matter.

No Really. This is a Much Ado About Nothing debate. Execution matters more than scale. Characters have to be memorable in either setting. And there has to be stakes, or we’re in the realm of navel-gazing lit-fic, and while you might get an award, you won’t have enough readers to buy you a pack of K-Cups. If the story isn’t something that resonates with the reader, it doesn’t matter if you’re a hacker hiding from the Corps in a CyberJungle, or off on the world-saving quest.

Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence for an audience for both. Especially in books: Urban Fantasy sells. So does Game of Thrones, Wheel of Time, or Malazan Book of the Fallen. Execute your vision well, market the story strongly, and there will be an audience. No, you won’t win everyone over. Guess what? No story does. But write your story with ambition, drive, quality characterization and a taut plot, and you have a chance. Don’t, and you won’t.

In games, I think it’s a little harder to prove. Everyone remembers Planescape. But it never really sold well, especially in comparison to the other Golden Era of Infinity Engine Black Isle/Bioware titles. The games we know: Mass Effect, Baldur’s Gate, Knights of the Old Republic, Neverwinter Nights, Fallout, Diablo, and the Elder Scrolls series. They are all ‘save the world’ games. Set against that Planescape, a fine, if quixotic game. And if we’re being generous the Witcher series, which even here has a ‘global’ component to it. Now, do I think a smaller scale COULD work? Sure. But again, it has to be executed well.

I don’t buy what the article says about more ‘variety’ in smaller scale stories either. The only thing constraining either small or large scale stories is the imagination of the writer. Indeed, a large scale story can be comprised of several ‘smaller’ ones as subplots that tie into the overarching one. And a seemingly small scale story can blow up into a world-spanning one (See Dresden Files).

And as The Black Company showed, and Daniel Abraham is doing now with The Dagger and Coin series, one can write a seemingly large scale story from a constrained cast. Thus we see the universe as it effects each of the personal issues involves. Babylon 5 did this exceptionally well also. Londo and Mollari forming the heart of the story that the rest of the universe circled around.

So not only is this a Much Ado About Nothing Argument. In a very real sense, it’s an argument from a generation ago. This isn’t the Speculative Fiction environment anymore. Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser CAN save the world.

Explaining Away the Magic

Ashley Capes shared an interesting take on “soft” magic systems today. http://mythicscribes.com/?wysija-page=1&controller=email&action=view&email_id=12&wysijap=subscriptions&user_id=712. I’ve had discussions on this in the past, including a rather interesting Twitter exchange with Nat Russo. While in general, I hold to Branden Sanderson’s First Rule of Magic, which is never have a PoV character use it without explaining it, it’s important to qualify that even there, he is talking about the Point of View character.

And even there, he’s quite willing to change the rules, let them learn things piecemeal, or just be flat out wrong on issues. See Kaladin in the Stormlight Archives. Neither he nor Shallan actually have much of the picture with regards to what they’re doing. And they learn more all the time. He did the same thing in Mistborn. So he’s certainly not adverse to having characters surprised by magic.

And I think that’s important. Especially if you have a character that doesn’t use or understand magic. Why should the reader inherently know more than the people living in the world? Let people be surprised. Let them learn by doing and interacting. Even when some things appear contradictory.

Contrary to the article, I don’t think this is a ‘market’ issue. It’s an issue of good storytelling. Whether you mean magic, tech in Sci-Fi, or high-stakes finance in a political potboiler. The rules the characters live under need to be explained as they’re encountered, to the extent they understand them. No more. No less. Neal Stephenson can get away with dropping an author tract that no one but ten people understand because he’s funny as Hell when he does it. But if your name is different from his, don’t get wrapped up in minutiae they haven’t seen. Let them explore, learn, read, and conjecture with the characters.

That’s what Speculative Fiction is about, at its heart, after all. The sense of wonder at finding the unknown, entering a new world and dwelling in it with the characters.

So Hercules the Movie Is Out

And it has The Rock, who I think it just about a doggone perfect Herc.

But I will not be seeing this. Why? General principle, it’s a “demythologization.”

Yeah, all those cool things you see in the trailer, they only happen in the narrative during the first 4 minutes of the movie. “Son of Zeus?” Yeah, Herc made that up so his enemies would fear him. We’re going for the “true” story, you know.

Like the “true” story of King Arthur and Troy, this is once again a sad attempt to strip away anything fantastic and leave the audience with a “real” sense of who the character was. For a given value of real where historical elements that could not have existed together are thrown together by Did Not Do Their Research Screenwriters (Llamas in Troy? Oh yeah). With the result that we get a by-the-numbers Hollywood cliche story attempting to be the biopic of a character we can’t know anything about without the myths.

What a load of tripe. You want to go sword-and-sandal non-mystical? There’s LOTS of stories to tell that could do it right. But those wouldn’t have the ‘name’ value. Say “Hannibal” and people think of a cannibal, or a black dude on an elephant (hey, btw, he was Phoenician w/ a Spanish mother, and thus olive-toned, but yeah “History Channel” you know). Never mind the Punic Wars would be an amazing series to bring to the screen. We need to tell people that no one believed that silly mystical stuff back then. Religion only comes from the rubes, you know. Oh wait, you mean Plato had a section about Atlantis? Welllll… don’t look here, because shut up. Instead, we get Hercules trying to play a mercenary general with a heart of gold. Because…”history,” meaning, “We made up the story. But we have to start somewhere, right?”

Whose history? The history the revisionist hucksters want to sell. There’s never been any sense of wonder or adventure in the world. So you can just sit back, dull your minds on Rom-Coms, and forget about dreams, faith, or anything that makes you creative. What a sad, myopic, universe to live in.

UPDATE: Oh, and here’s another beautiful “historical gem” from the Hercules movie. So Hercules, the Founder of the Spartans, the Warrior Elite of the Ancient World, whose classic saying was “With Your Shield or On It.” IOW, come back victorious or come back dead. The people who took a King’s personal guard to Thermopylae and commit mass suicide trying to hold off Xerxes Army (300, anyone?). Yeah, THOSE people learned all this from Hercules. Now this would be a very HISTORIC element of his life, if anything.

So what does the movie do? Hercules gives a mealy-mouthed speech about how it’s more important to ‘survive’ than to win the battle. That’s sooooo historical. So truth-telling to power. Brett Ratner, you are a freaking clown.

Change This Title to “Since 2005”

And it’s closer to right. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/21/disappointing-series-finales_n_5514671.html?ncid=txtlnkusaolp00000592

I can’t argue with most of the list. The final season of Lost literally destroyed my enjoyment for the years before. Of course, the article makes the popular canard of saying J.J. Abrams was still involved with the show then. He wasn’t. Alias, a show he was involved in the entire run, had a very good finale, IMHO. 

What’s the difference? Well, it’s not a matter of difficult mythology. Alias had its Rimbaldi myths, which dominated most of the early seasons, and then slid into the undercurrent of early Season 4, when they rebooted the show. But the finale bathed in it, right down to using Sloane’s quest for eternal life against him. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-XJyk6qIos

BTW, Jack Bristow’s line in that scene is one of the greatest lines I’ve ever seen. And he was right, Sloane trapped in Rimbaldi’s tomb forever. Poetic Justice on the ultimate scale. How is that for a perfect finale? Oh yeah. There was still Sydney’s finish. Which was almost as satisfying.

Lost? Well. Not everything can make as much sense. But at least it could’ve answered half its own questions.

But my choice for ‘best finale ever’ has to be Babylon 5’s “Sleeping in Light.” A quiet, emotional piece that even in repeated viewing wrings manly tears from me. The choices they’ve made have consequences that cannot be avoided. But Sheridan, Delenn, and Babylon 5 itself has changed the galaxy in every way they could hope. It is the opposite of the expansive, explosive Alias final act (though the station gets a big boom). And yet no less rewarding.

And that’s why, compared to the ones on the list, they worked. Those finales were honest with their characters, worlds, and the fans who had invested in them. They gave real payoffs in return, and answered the key questions of the story. That’s what a good ending should do. To me, that’s why I’ve never bought the argument against the Scouring of the Shire in Lord of the Rings as a proper ending. The readers don’t see the events of the story through Aragorn and Gandalf’s eyes. But through those of the Hobbits. And we have every reason to see they are capable of solving their own problems now. No longer hiding from the world of men or easily cowed. It’s important to demonstrate the growth of our heroes. 

A proper ending provides resolution. If it can leave another story to tell beyond that, all the better.

Does the phrase “Strong Female Character” MEAN anything anymore?

For Comparison Shopping, Look Here: http://litreactor.com/columns/overcoming-object-love-how-to-write-female-leads-who-are-people

OK: What am I NOT saying: I am not saying women shouldn’t be written as people. Obviously they should be. Since most of my books have a female lead who is often the more powerful of a pair, it’s not even that I’m against ‘strong female characters.’ Though I think this phrase is so trite and overused as to be emptied of all meaning, to the place that ‘strong’ has become ‘interesting.’ 

Even in the article I link, you see the diluting of the word ‘strong.’ So they’re not physical. They may or may not be intellectual. And if you dare to make them temptresses, look out, because the accusation of ‘objectification’ soon follows. In the comments of that article, the author seems more inclined to defend social action in fiction writing than he is telling stories. This incurs my wrath on level one of fiction writing: WRITE TO ENTERTAIN!  If you want to campaign for social action, go write a political blog. They’re not the same form of writing, and nothing is more unsatisfying than message fic with a listless story.

Subverting cultural and genre expectations is always fascinating when done well. But part of doing it well is to do it in the context of the story’s organic narrative. Karrin Murphy in the Dresden Files is probably one of the strongest–and most interesting–characters in fiction. But her determination to succeed as a police officer in a male-dominated environment–and yet deal with the demons that drive her to rely on Harry–create a dynamic and vibrant character who can inspire without appealing to the artifice of feminism imposed from outside.

I’ve said this so many times I should just post it as my blog mantra. But I’ll say it again: If your name isn’t Neal Stephenson, DROP THE MESSAGE FIC! If in the context of the story, your character organically says something political, fine. But if it doesn’t fit the story, it’s just bad polemics. And I get enough of that on TV for free already.

I’ll add this to the fire too: I don’t buy that Cersei is a strong female character in GoT. Her ‘strength’ comes from outmaneuvering a man with all the subtlety of a chess pawn, and her position. She consistently misuses and fails to use the power that provides her. If Tyrion didn’t save her bacon, Barratheon would’ve won. Her brilliant gambit following this? Let’s alienate him, and then let Joff get away with murder (literally and repeatedly) , because no one would notice. Not even people far more subtle than Cersei ever was. She’s a selfish character with impossible motives and an inability to use what she has, saved by competent people around her repeatedly that she disdains continually. And this is a ‘strong’ woman? Eh, not nearly as much as people make her out to be. Believable? Sure. But that cuts again at why I think that phrase has been emptied of all meaning.

And, by and large, emptied of it by the very people promoting the idea of ‘better’ female characters. If you want ‘powerful’ women, that has to be understood in the context of the story and the world they live in. And if that world involves, for instance, women who have little in the way of property or political rights: Like the Late Roman Empire transplant in Codex Alera. What then can give women power? The ability, among other things, to guide, support and protect the men who HOLD those rights. But read that series and say Amara or Kitai are weak characters. And yes, sometimes that means seduction is a weapon in the arsenal. 

If that bothers someone, the answer to that isn’t to annihilate history. It’s to understand that not every story caters to every reader. And not every story is going to be a feminist utopia. And maybe, just maybe, we can get people to accept that there were powerful, fascinating women–meaningful and influential characters even–in those times. It’s the duty of the writer in such a setting to explore ways such a character can exist. It’s the duty of a reader in such a setting to accept that the ‘truths’ we cling are often anything but ‘true’ in another society. Especially when values are involved.

PS: For truth in advertising I’ll note that my current WIP has a female lead who is BOTH an influential politician AND a sacred courtesan. No she doesn’t mix business and pleasure. In fact, she’s forbidden to, though others try to get her to. Oh yeah, she’s also a mage. USUALLY she uses that for healing. But sometimes people who objectify her live to realize they’ve underestimated her.

Sometimes.

A Slight Change of Plans

Rather than adding five thousand words of setting document to my text of The Iron Conqueror, I thought it better to add it here. That way, those who are interested can look up anything they want. And those who don’t worry about the worldbuilding don’t have to wonder if they’re expected to read it all. 😉

Linkage here: https://tariencole.wordpress.com/a-griffins-tale/

I’ll include further detail on the Magic System in the Future. But this is a start.

On another note, I’ve almost finished the first book of my Sword & Sandals. Just in time to start a war. 😛

 

 

How Grim is Too Much?

I’ve followed Luke Scull since the early says of NWN, and chatted with him on the old Bioware Forums and NWN Vault more than once. He was a remarkable module creator, and I enjoyed the interactive stories he wrote. So I’m interested a great deal in his coming The Grim Company. Already in your hands quite possibly if you’re on the right hand side of the Atlantic.

But I was a bit troubled by his comment to this review, which does not put off my interest, but does inspire me to rebut http://www.lukescull.com/2013/08/publishers-weekly-review.html. Having tried to read Joe Abercrombie’s Best Served Cold I can honestly say the answer to the question, “Does it matter if your characters are not truly sympathetic?” is, to myself and many readers Yes. I don’t mind grim worlds. Reality is a pretty grim place when viewed honestly, and it’s not likely to be different for most people in most settings. The United Federation of Planets sounds wonderful, but its functionality doesn’t withstand scrutiny. At the end of the day, a functioning world is going to involve lots of people doing very disgusting things to other people. And the hero who doesn’t understand this is in trope terms, Too Dumb to Live.

That said, being forced to live in such a world doesn’t mean having to enjoy it. Or at least not conceding that when one does enjoy it, it’s a perverse amusement. The characters in Best Served Cold, to my sentiments, all enjoyed being jackwagons far too much. “Interesting” will only carry you so far, once you figure out that you really don’t care if the character lives or dies, there’s not a lot of reason to keep reading. It’s a similar problem to the one I had with The Name of the Wind. I can’t bring myself to care if Kvothe lives or dies. He’s as snobbish as the nobles he feuds with. And his one flaw is he’s abrasive. Because anything he tries to do, he excels at. Now I can acknowledge both Abercrombie and Rothfuss are insanely talented writers. But skilled authors have turned out books that failed to capture the attention before. That’s not always the fault of buyers being too dumb to see their brilliance. Sometimes it’s the fault of authors being too clever for their own good. So yes, please give us a character to care about.

I read another interesting piece here. http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2013/08/i-hate-strong-female-characters. There’s a lot to be said about this article. Much I agree with. One-dimensional ‘strong’ female leads are just as dull as one-dimensional ‘damsel-in-distress’ leads. And I absolutely agree about the pass female characters are given when it comes to using lethal threats as a way to prove they’re just as tough as guys. And yes, the examples she gives in that article are two of the more overtly shocking ones. Now I do have Aishe unleash fire on Kilian once in my Aurori Saga, but she does so knowing Kilian can stop it, and holding back her strike enough to make sure it doesn’t hurt him. Honestly, I will at this point aim my finger at feminism and say, “You wanted non-feminine women leads. You got them. They’re still dull.” Better answer, write real women as leads, and don’t apologize for letting them being overpowered like any other hero every once and a while. We all get overwhelmed by the world sometimes.

But she’s dead on about Sherlock Holmes being all the things she lists, and then a woman getting to be ‘tough.’ Meh. I thought Sydney Bristow in Alias was probably the best female action lead I’ve seen drawn. Definitely capable of being tough, but still intelligent, resourceful, capable of being vulnerable emotionally, truly damaged without being broken. And determined. Interesting she wasn’t mentioned in that article.  In short, Sydney was a real person who happened to be a woman, and more interesting for being one.

Where I don’t agree with the article is this insistence on a quota system. Along with changing token characters into female ones just for the sake of being there. I don’t see how token switching character genders makes for better ‘representation.’ A token is a token. And it’s still pandering. Better to say, concentrate on making enough fascinating female characters that we don’t think about how many background females there are. Make an honest attempt to portray a real world, and I think the readers–or at least those not hung up on representation questions, which is there OWN hangup–will fill in the world appropriately.

Fantasy Worldbuilding: On Technology & Magic

One of the reasons I love to write Steampunk and Urban Fantasy is I don’t have to make excuses for why there is both gunpowder and magic in my world.

Or better said, I don’t have to argue why I shouldn’t have to make an argument for having both magic and gunpowder in a fantasy. To me, one of the most annoying tropes in fantasy is the assertion that magic removes tech. First of all, it’s applied with horrific inconsistency. There can be High Renaissance fashion, castles, rapiers, full plate armor, caravels, and even primitive steam engines. In other words, all the trappings of the late 1600s. But, JRR Tolkien forbid you ever, ever include anything that looks like even a primitive firearm. Somehow, the inclusion of a musket ruins fantasy.

I once read Raymond Feist’s defense for this. That was where magic emerged, technology stalled because it wasn’t ‘necessary.’ OK, if that’s what you want to do with your world, fine. But let me point out why this is actually illogical.

First, magic is unpredictable. Even Mordenkainen or Pug can find their spells going awry every so often. Whether that be because they’re out of reagents, the Gods thought it would be funny, or just plain bad luck. Magic is not reliable. And the less certain your mage is, the more likely it is things go boom in your face. So why should we think that the uneducated masses would trust magic as far as they could carry a stake?

Second, It assumes that every genius is a wizard. Why would this be true? Does every genius pursue the same fields of knowledge in our world? Do the all become politicians? Businessmen? Even philosophers? Nope. So why do they all become magicians in your world? ‘Cause? Not an answer. Then there’s the question of what happens if magic is a gift that not everyone has access to? isn’t it entirely likely that a certified Leonardo Da Vinci doesn’t get the magic bug? So what does he do? Stay a farmer? Not buying it. See Tavi in Codex Alera on this score for a character where this is well done.

Third, philosophically, magic and technology are opposed forces. Magic is insular, elitist, academic, esoteric, and expensive. Thus it;s the province of a very few. Technology is practical, utilitarian, comparatively inexpensive and reliable, and easy to reduplicate compared to magic as well. Thus, it becomes the force that gives power to the masses. Magic is the essence of an elitist feudal regime. Technology the harbinger of advancing freedom and the Renaissance. So it’s somewhat laughable when technology is stifled and yet the masses yearn to be free without knowing what the rest of the masses are thinking.

So, while my current writing project is an Epic Fantasy set in a pseudo-Hellenistic era world (thus no black powder), I have no problem writing fantasy with firearms and advancing technology (pretty much everything else I’ve done). And even in my current project, the Hellenistic era saw a lot of advancement in society and technology, and I can emulate that freely. 😉