No good author or game master creates without some level of conflict within his or her stories or games. Without friction or disagreement of some sort, fiction or fantasy games would be as dull as watching paint dry, or perhaps, more so. At least something changes as paint dries, if only the glare of the paint on the painted surface.
At root, conflict is the clash of opposing elements, ideas, or forces. It can stem from hostility or be part of a natural process or progression. In either case, conflict changes things for better, or for worse. This latter alteration is where the meat of something interesting waits in the shadows to be discovered and explored by the reader or player. Conflict is intrinsically fascinating and peace, not so much, although we all like to live our lives peacefully and free from trouble hounding us every other minute.
The literary world has historically put conflict into a framework of four categories: Man against Man; Man against Himself; Man against Nature; and Man against God. Another category of conflict could be: Man against Ideas. One could place Ideas in the Nature column, but concepts are different and distinct from most naturally-occurring elements of Nature.
Although a hurricane embodies the concept of pressure, is pressure something separate from the natural phenomenon of the hurricane? Is pressure one of Mother Nature's tools, or is it an idea with which she must contend? If the latter is true, then another kind of conflict has reared its mighty head; Nature against Ideas.
Why not mix it up? Why not write fantasy stories or create fantasy scenarios from the point of view of Nature or one of The Gods, or even from the perspective of a Concept? When you start mixing and matching, the windows of opportunity begin to fling wide-open. These openings feed the fires of the imagination!
Time is a concept most of us take for granted. Sometimes we personify Time by referring to it within sayings like, "Time marches on whether we want it to or not," and in lyrics to songs such as, "Time flexes like a whore, falls winking to the floor, her trick is you and me, boy." Websters defines Time as a period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues. This definition doesn't shine much of a light upon the concept, but at least, it's a starting point.
Many people are slaves to Time and pay attention to every passing second, while others fritter away their Time as if it is an endless commodity. Everyone deals with Time in their own way. For all of the effort spent on keeping track of Time and measuring it, nobody seems to have much of a handle on its nature.
Hang Time, the shifting Sands of Time, a stitch in Time saves nine, Time waits for no one, The march of Time, lingering Time, wasting Time, and managing Time are all within the lexicon of common usage. Within the context of a fantasy setting, Time can be weaponized and used like a stick to beat beings into submission. This concept can even be utilized to grind away at reality. The idea of Time can be so much more than something through which characters move forward and backward through eras or histories of reality. What if Time were measured in echoes, moments, and glimpses, rather than in seconds, hours, and years, or referred to as the past, present, and future?
The idea that Time is relative to the observer has yet to be explored fully by fantasy artists. Does it have to be one observer, or can it be a team or system of observers? What if two observers are equidistant from one another and from the object of their mutual observation? What factors come into the equation? Does geometry have anything to do with it? Can Time stalk us like a predator, and if so, what would that be like? The imagination just fires and fires when you begin to think about the possibilities of this cool little concept, we call Time.
Time is an integral part of the physics of The Cosmos. It is connected to gravity, space and thus is embedded into the fabric of The Cosmos, and movement which is a measure of objects going from one space within The Cosmos to another. Time, however nebulous a concept it may be, is important to anyone hungering for Cosmic Truth.
Diluvians understand these connections and have embraced this understanding within their magics. Diluvians manipulate equations to manifest physical changes within The Cosmos and Time is often the focus of their theorems and algorithms. Humanity woefully needs to catch up to The Diluvian's mastery of Time, or these creatures so alien to the human condition will either enslave or erase humanity altogether. For years cosmologists have been warning of these dangers that have been lurking in the shadows, waiting for a window of opportunity to open. Whether humanity can survive its ignorance is yet to be seen!
They say the eyes are the windows of the soul. For an artist, the windows of his or her soul are the works he or she creates. Every artist imparts a bit of his or her soul into every story, every song, every movie, every painting, or any other creation he or she makes. That's what distinguishes art from mere objects or things.
Every creation tells a piece of the artist's story. All you have to do is look for it, and its there to be discovered in all of its splendor. The artist draws from his or her well of experience and bestows that upon his or her masterpieces. That's why the artist has to be keenly aware of his or her self in order to produce true works of art. With this in mind, take a fresh look at your favorite pieces of art, whatever medium, and see for yourself!
Philosophy is literally the love of wisdom. It is a wellspring of ideas from where fantasy artists can draw upon as inspiration for their craft, whether that be paintings, sculpture, stories, or any other media. Philosophy is so much more than old, dusty ideas, dryly written down by authors who are no longer coming down for breakfast. It is the study of life itself as it connects to the human condition. As such, it is as relevant today, maybe more to the fantasy world, than when the ideas were first mined from The Dark and dragged into The Light.
Webster's defines philosophy as, "A critical study of fundamental beliefs and the grounds for them; a basic theory concerning a particular subject or sphere of activity; the sum of ideas and convictions of an individual or group; and calmness of temper and judgment."
How can artists use philosophy in their work? Ideas are inspiration and kernels that can be built upon and converted into other mediums. For instance, Aristotle, a famous Greek philosopher, wrote about his theory of The Cosmos. He thought The Cosmos was a series of planets which spun on a crystal plane, creating universal harmonics. This simple, if inaccurate depiction of our solar system, is perfect fruit for fantasy artists. Songs can be written about Aristotle's theory, surrealistic paintings can depict the idea, and fantasy authors can base their worlds on it. The possibilities are endless, and this is just one idea from only one philosopher.
Ideas drive the artist's train. Without concepts, there is no art, and that strikes at the core of the fantasy artist more than any other kind of creator. There is a bounty of philosophy waiting to be mined and depicted in art. Wild, outlandish ideas are out there, laying dormant, for those artists open-minded enough to seek them out. To that end, the imagination is your only limit!
Darkness is a common theme writers use in their flights of fantasy, but what is it? Without disrespect for Webster, it has to be so much more than the mere absence of light or a gloominess. For many, Darkness is a state of being, a lens through which they perceive the world. Maybe, it is some kind of sentient thing that holds The Truths of The Cosmos.
Those who tap into Darkness, delve into something intrinsic to existence, and through that connection, come to a greater understanding of everything. Maybe, just maybe, this was the unspoken truth behind Stephen Hawking's Theory of Everything. They do say truth is stranger than fiction and is often disseminated in bizarre ways incomprehensible to us mere mortals. Such is the nature of attempting to understand this thing called Darkness.
Madness is a theme in literature and art. The term gets bandied about quite a bit, but what does it mean? We all fancy ourselves to be in control of our minds. That seems to be an integral part of the human condition. If we can't control our minds, then how can we trust anything we perceive and have taken for granted our whole lives?
We know madness manifests in many forms. What is this thing we call madness? The absence of reason is the obvious answer that comes to mind. Webster's defines it as a loss of one's mind, having a disordered mind, and simply as being insane or crazy. Blacks Law Dictionary does not define madness, but defines insanity as that degree of mental illness which negates the individual's legal responsibility or capacity, and indicates a condition which renders the affected person unfit to enjoy liberty of action because of the unreliability of his behavior with consequent danger to himself and others.
Stereotypes aside, there are no standards when it comes to madness. That is the point. Madness brings the affected person outside the norms of society and traditional behavior. I see it as a coping mechanism to something so traumatizing the mind either snaps or finds another solution, a way of interacting with the unknowable, or a nonconforming form of understanding. In any event, this concept has intrigued mankind since the beginning and is a driving force in many of the Greek tragedies.