So, sometimes in fantasy settings, we find the occasional charlatan. Crazy thought; what if everyone were faking it? Okay, now, make it a high fantasy setting. Mighty wizards, priests who impose the will of gods, vampires, werewolves, stuff like that.
It is widely believed that our world shows that people can be caused to believe that werewolves, vampires, etcetera, really exist even if they don’t. Let’s just run with that. Imagine a world in which D&D-type magic is commonplace and taken for granted. Giant balls of fire are thrown, etcetera.
Now… Imagine that you are in the wizard’s guild, and the great secret, imparted to you under pain of death, is that wizardly magic either wasn’t ever real or has somehow failed, and the Guild maintains its position through trickery and cleverness. So that’s fine; you know your magic isn’t real, but you have to hide that because everyone else’s magic is.
But that’s what they all think. Werewolves are a wolf cult who pretend to their terrifying powers so people don’t dare come after them in small parties (they run away from large parties, because the large parties are easy enough to detect and avoid). Vampires just drain a bit of peoples’ blood because it makes people believe them to be real; they actually have false teeth.
And it’s all like that. Top to bottom.
I think the right way to tell the story would be from the perspective of one of the people who has access to one of the kinds of “magic”, but who still thinks the others are real. It’d be more fun if the reader didn’t catch on right away, I think.
Free to good home. Yes, I know ideas aren’t protected by copyright anyway; I’m just pointing out that not only do I not have particular legal rights, I’m also not inclined to be a jerk about the rights I don’t have. :)
From: Dave Leppik
Date: 2011-05-31 15:48:03 -0500
Read this right after the “am I people” post, and I can’t help but think they’re related. Much of human perception is like a magic trick: one thing enters the brain, and by the time it’s reached conscious attention, it’s been transformed into something much richer. For example, your eyes can only see a small area clearly, but through rapid eye movements, memory, and imagination, we have the sensation of a panoramic, HD view of the world. Another example: we feel like we’re consciously engaging the world during our waking hours, yet much of the time—especially when we’re tired—we’re running on auto-pilot, responding to questions with canned responses no better than those of a bot. In both cases, our mind stitches things together to produce the illusion that we’re more intelligent, engaged, and aware of the world than we actually are.
All of which makes me wonder how much of human intelligence is a bag of cheap tricks that make us look smart.
From: Linda Seebach
Date: 2011-06-02 11:30:46 -0500
I think one of John Scalzi’s Big Idea guest posts on Whatever had just such an idea, or one very similar. No idea whose book it was, though.