Daniel is the author of Blood Drive, Lost Women of the Admiral Inn, and Kai the Swordsman: The Imprisoned King.
Systems. They’re everywhere. That’s a broad word for an even broader spectrum. Everything is part of its own system and many others seen or unseen. From microsystems to solar systems and beyond.
That opening sounded like something you’d here while waiting for a ride at Disney World to start, but not one of the good ones. I’m talking about one of the rides the parents insist on going because the line is short and it has air conditioning.
But I’m not here to bore you with science talk. I’m here to enrich your mind with my knowledge or fantasy and sci-fi system building. This isn’t “world building”, which is a term any speculative fiction writer should know before they start. I’m not talking about creating my universe and inhabiting it. I’m talking about the systems that go into that universe.
If you don’t specify, your reader will mostly fall back on their baser instincts of what happens in a world. Gravity is something we take for granted. You may not know how it works, but you know if you throw a brick in the air you need to move before it comes down and bashes into your skull. You may not know how electricity works either, but you know if someone flips a switch the lights will go on.
Working in a system that doesn’t exist in the real world is something we, as writers, enjoy. I mean we really enjoy it. For your approval: I give you magic. Let’s say you have your world, and you want it to be a fantastical one full of unicorns and dragons and mystic hippies . Aside from that, you want to have a system of magical laws in places just beneath the surface. Your characters need to spin spells or use enchanted relics. Is it a free-for-all of magical nonsense, or is there a structure to which said spells and enchantments must adhere?
There’s a law. There always is. There are formulas to prove why gravity pummeled your head with that brick. There are equations and laws that can prove why the lightbulb above your toilet goes on when you reach over and flip the switch. In your magical world, there should be laws that can be proven why it’s there.
But here’s where things get tricky. Tell me why, and I’ll yawn. Give me a page or more of info-dumping, and I’ll start fiddling with my phone. I took all those classes about how electricity works, and it’s so boring it took two years before I could get a minor degree. I don’t want to be told about how your magic works. I want to be shown. Subtly.
The same goes for the sci-fi realm of this discussion. Time Travel is a big one for me. I love it. I love everything about it. I love wondering what would happen if I went back in time and undid my own birth. What would happen if I gave Hitler a wedgie during an important speech? What subtle change can I make in the past that would result in me having a billion dollars today?
Time travel, like magic, needs rules and laws. There have been countless books, TV shows, and movies dedicated to this. Everyone has its own science and laws. I’ve explored this on a multitude of occasions, and I have a short story planned to get into this again with a new sci-fi theory I’ve concocted. There are a few of them, so hold on.
For starters, if time travel ever became a reality, we’d know it. We’d know it because someone would have come back by now. With that theory, time travel doesn’t nor will ever exist. The only exception would be if the time travelers in question were sworn to secrecy like time ninjas. If you changed the past, would your memories change when you got back to the future, your present? Would you have to write down what you changed really fast before the timestream caught up with you and erased the memories of the events you changed?
Another theory I’ve worked with is that we can never know if time travel ever happened. If it has, this timestream was the one that was changed, and we’re living in the one and only affected reality. Same thing goes for the time paradox that ends up in a lot of writing. If a paradox is ever created that erases all of space and time, then I wouldn’t be able to type this. I would have never existed. None of us would have! A paradox cannot happen, making it a paradox within itself!
Wait a second… “A paradox within itself?”
Whatever. The point I’m trying to make is there are laws and consequences you must map out before you dive into travelling through time. Think about your favorite time travel movie or series. Whether it’s Back to the Future, Quantum Leap, Time Cop, The Time Machine, Avengers: Endgame, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, etcetera. The common thread in all of those is that they have rules that govern what they can or can’t do when travelling through time. When you create your own world around time travel, make sure you have a set of rules and laws in mind. Even if you don’t spell them out in an infodump (which I prefer you don’t), make sure your characters adhere to them at all times.
Magic and time travel systems are similar, though completely different. Some may even say science is just fancy magic. I wouldn’t say that, but I know some characters who would. Then again, one could argue either practice is just a manipulation of energies through separate means. We can even time travel by magic if the magical system in your world allows it.
I’m a modest guy. I always tout myself as such to anyone who’s willing to listen. I love writing, but I’m an engineer by training and trade. If you can put yourself into that mindset, you can create systems that can bring your world into a whole new life. I’m not saying you have to put yourself through engineering training like I did, even though I didn’t do it for the writing benefits. Just keep the basics in mind when you’re setting up the systems in your world.
For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What comes up must come down. Like charges repel while opposite charges attract.
You can make up your own for your world.
When you open a portal through time it’ll stay open until the timestream rights itself. Multiple dimensions do exist, but only one of you can exist in any given dimension at a time. A paradox in time can be reversed with another paradox of equal paradoxical magnitude.
Don’t steal those. Make your own and have fun with it. I’ll leave you with a quote from Ray Samson from an upcoming book I’m final-drafting called I’m in Sci-Fi Hell: “Anyone with a third-grade education knows that science and magic don’t mix.”
Thank you for your time.
Daniel Aegan lives in New Haven, CT with his family. He started writing at a young age and gave it up, only to start again fifteen years later. Comedy, horror, and dark fantasy are just some of his preferred genres, and he’s not opposed to mixing or mashing them. Other than writing, Daniel enjoys reading tarot for himself or his friends. He’s a supporter of the indie writing community of which he’s a part as well as all LGBT+ people and authors.
Daniel’s published works include Blood Drive, Lost Women of the Admiral Inn, and Kai the Swordsman: The Imprisoned King. There are more books on their way as the pile of drafts gets sorted and whittled. While not writing or drafting, you can often find Daniel Aegan embarrassing himself in public.
Kai the Swordsman: The Imprisoned King:
It’s a fairy tale etched in blood; a pitch-black fantasy. The secrets of one man’s past reverberate in the present, and those secrets have the power to topple a complacent empire.
The village of Umi no Mura knows nothing but peace. They’re far from the capitol of the empire, far from crime and poverty. They fend for themselves, fishing and farming for what they need. They have only one protector: an exiled swordsman named Kai.
The swordsman has a past he cannot escape. His dreams are haunted by blood and demons, and his waking world is haunted by the sins he committed in the name of his Emperor. Umi no Mura has its secrets, and Kai can’t help but feel they’re somehow tied to his checkered past.
Deep in the heart of the empire sits Emperor Aki-Jin, who is more obsesses with immortality than he is with his people. He was once a friend of Kai in his childhood, but that friendship led them down a path that ended in blood and wrath. He kept his old friend alive, making his sword grow rusty as the protector of a village that needs no protecting.
The atrocities of Emperor Aki-Jin reflect in the waves of the ocean. The swordsman Kai who would die to protect has an impossible choice ahead of him as Umi no Mura faces the harshest of days. Does Kai turn to the Aki-Jin and doom them to another threat, or does he rescue them and make them enemies of their own emperor? What clues in Kai’s past can help him in his present dilemma? What chaos will be inflicted if past and present enemies collide with a lone swordsman in the middle of it all?
Kai the Swordsman: The Imprisoned King is Daniel Aegan’s third book and his first foray into creating a world of dark fantasy. Follow him into the Empire of Hojite, a land ruled by magic and dark forces; a place where swordsman and shinobi fight in the forest; a realm where one man’s sacrifice and toil can save the lives of all.
Today, I’m over at Mirrigold’s Musings, with an excerpt from The Flowers of Time.