Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#1
I had this idea about a story/setting for a while now and I was wondering whether it sounds interesting to you:
It would feature "math as magic" as in that certain geometrics/projection effects of mathematical phenomena would be used to explain magic, leading to a very pure and close-to-reality system of magic that required little in-world rules. It would mainly be about the protagonist figuring these things out while travelling a world outside of normal bounds of forests plains and mountains and find his way back home.
Now when I say "math" I dont mean "calculus" or "arithmatic". there would be no calculations necessary for the readers or characters to understand how certain "spells" work, only strictly logical concepts.
Do you think this could be interesting to a reader base? 
Are you a mathematician or a math-wiz and would like to help me figure a few things out? I have only surface-level experience in higher geometry, basically anything that I glean from the internet. 

Re: Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#2
Descriptions of a phenomenon are usually less about the concept and more about how it’s told at least when it comes to writing fiction. 

If you want to make mathematical concepts the basis of your magic system then go for it, whether it’ll be interesting has little to do with it though as just that concept alone, unless it is the main focus of the story, is but one part of many. It’s like giving a species in your world a self created language, sure it’s neat, but it’s likely just a footnote in the grand scheme of things.

Re: Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#3
What you need is an 'in', as it might be called -- an interesting fact or phenomena about math that, once your MC discovers the hidden secret of its mystery, an entire new world unfolds.

I have a story where a scientist discovers how string theory leads new types of Time -- and then on and on it goes.

You mght find a similar vehicle in a secret code found in the randomness of PI, or how you can get trapped inside Russel's Paradox, or how Godell's Incompleteness Theorem leads to an alternate universe.

You know --  stuff like that. Some sort of odd fact about math that lends itself to being a plot for a story. 
❤🐉❤

Re: Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#5
I think using math as a logical basis for a magic system sounds like it could be very interesting. Of course it really depends on how it's incorporated into the story. The idea that certain shapes have magical properties is inherent in many cultures. I do like ArDeeBurger's suggestion that the discovery of some mathematical fact opens up a new world for the MC. The morphing of one shape into another could be a means of changing its magical properties. However, as others have mentioned, don't let the magic system get in the way of the story. Allow it to emerge organically and allow the readers to discover it along with the MC.

Re: Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#6
parkertallan Wrote: I think using math as a logical basis for a magic system sounds like it could be very interesting. Of course it really depends on how it's incorporated into the story. The idea that certain shapes have magical properties is inherent in many cultures. I do like ArDeeBurger's suggestion that the discovery of some mathematical fact opens up a new world for the MC. The morphing of one shape into another could be a means of changing its magical properties. However, as others have mentioned, don't let the magic system get in the way of the story. Allow it to emerge organically and allow the readers to discover it along with the MC.
Why thank you, PT! I always value your opinion. 😸

The idea I have in mind, and one I often like to use, is you don't really mention the specifics of the system at all. You describe very clearly what it does, but keep all the E=MC2 stuff to yourself.

Of course, that's the Soft approach. If you want to go with a Hard SciFi or Magic system, half the fun is in describing the stuff. ❤🐉❤

Re: Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#8
I hate calculations and haven't touched math much since I was in shool. But I always loved the mathematical mysteries. Puzzles. Like magic squares, and other recreational forms of mathematics. I think if you can frame it like a game, you'll have a lot of people interested in reading a system like that. Especially some among the litRPG crowd. Personally I skim the blue boxes most of the time, but I'm sure some out there do play RPG's because it's the math they love. 

Re: Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#9
Straight up the concept sounds cool. 
Though I can see the concern that math magic may not seem appealing but with how you're describing it, as long as readers themselves can just enjoy the flow of the story, then it'll be great. 
Don't think I've ever seen such a thing done before and it seems rather ambitious. I've seen all too many stories suffer from great concept, poor execution, so while math magic is cool, don't let it become the sole overarching drive in the story. 

Re: Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#11

Consistent Wrote: I have a degree in mathematics  DrakanThinking What do you want to talk about?  DrakanPopcorn
Me too.  I think a magic system based on logical conjecture and proofs would be interesting.  Where completing a proof could unlock a spell.  Though, it's hard for me to wrap my head around exactly how it would work.  It would have to be a setting where people don't share their discoveries.  There was a time when mathematicians would keep their formulas secret (ensuring their job security doing some quick calculations that would take others days).

Re: Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#12

TaxReligion Wrote:
Consistent Wrote: I have a degree in mathematics  DrakanThinking What do you want to talk about?  DrakanPopcorn
Me too.  I think a magic system based on logical conjecture and proofs would be interesting.  Where completing a proof could unlock a spell.  Though, it's hard for me to wrap my head around exactly how it would work.  It would have to be a setting where people don't share their discoveries.  There was a time when mathematicians would keep their formulas secret (ensuring their job security doing some quick calculations that would take others days).


It is true that there was a time when mathematicians kept some of their discoveries secret to protect their academic positions. That can be used as a plot device in a story. But using logical conjectures and proofs seems a little too complicated. People already have a hard time following stories.

The only way I can think of is as the OP suggests, using geometrical objects as a basis for a magic system. For example, say that in the fictional world magic is produced from thoughts, and people capable of imagining more complex mathematical objects are capable of producing more complex and powerful magic. It would be interesting to see how a character forms those objects inside their mind by using geometrical shapes of various dimensions and then applying physical qualities to those objects. A coherent and consistent system such as this can surely be made and understood without much of a background in either mathematics or physics. 

Re: Math as Magic: interesting or boring?

#16
Woof.

I honestly think that ANYTHING can be a good basis for a Magic System, as long as you can *make* it interesting. Most things are not interesting by itselves but, it is all about your ability to make it mysterious.

Most magic pends on the sense of Wonder about its function AND its effects, so it's your duty as a wordsmith to find a way to enrapture your readers with the posibilities of Mathematical Magic.

In my opinion? You could use the perspective of a student or a recently learned mage, for the audience to slowly grasp the system, and make that student witness the power of an already experienced Archmage.

Oh, also. Remember that most people will flock to a story not only because of a magical system, but because of the characters and the story in it. Giving thought to the inner workings of your world is great, but remember that the main show is with the story itself! Never give priority to explanation when people wish to know of your characters!