Magic Monday Dispatches No 1: Worldbuilding

Welcome to Monica’s Magic Monday Dispatches where I dive into magic, magic systems, and worldbuilding! Behold, the first dispatch.

What is magic, anyway? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it’s “the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces” (1). That power, then, is wielded by a practitioner–witch, wizard, sorcerer, mage, etc.–to affect themselves, other people, or the organic and inorganic in their environment.

Science, on the other hand, is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment” (2).

Magic and science have been entwined for millennia because the universal system–the scientific method–wasn’t commonly applied to study, observe, experiment, and record findings until the late 19th century. This proven method is the best way to separate magic from science in our world and is still being used today. There’s a longer history of the scientific method and its deployment, spanning multiple countries and centuries, so if your interest is piqued? This is a fun rabbit hole to fall into… *evil grin*

The process of separating magic from science is recent (within the past 150 years or so) and slow; many scientists are still dealing with this today. Despite this, its impact cannot be overstated. The term pseudo-science, “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method” (3), was popularized as a result of this process. Other words, like witch, have since been rebranded as well. More on terms in a future post!

Questions for Worldbuilding

Applying our basic definition of magic to a fantasy setting, it’s clear you’ll need three components to form a magic system: source of mysterious power, practitioner(s), and one or more vehicles (such as a wand, potion, rune, spell, etc.) to access, store, and wield that power.

With this in mind, here’s twenty basic questions to help you worldbuild and troubleshoot different areas. Please keep in mind your answers are to help you brainstorm the components of a magical system and will spawn other worldbuilding elements. Ultimately, what the reader interprets about magic in your story isn’t linked to your notes, it’s connected to your characters. Before you can figure out how your characters view and treat magic, though, it’s helpful to understand what it means to you.

1) What is the source of your world’s power? Is it unlimited or finite?
2) What effects does your power have on your world?
3) Who has access to that power?
4) Who has the ability to use that power?
5) Can that power be stored? If so, how long does it last?
6) Is your magical source perishable or no?
7) If magic can be stored, how are those objects distributed?
8) Are there any side effects or chance of failure?
9) How is magic taught?
10) How does society view magic? Its practitioners?
11) Is there more than one source of power?
12) Is there more than one way to access that power?
13) What “in universe” nomenclature will you use to describe your practitioners?
14) Is gender a factor? Why or why not?
15) Must a practitioner be literate to perform magic?
16) Is there a moral attribute (good versus evil) to that power?
17) How does faith and religion intersect with its use? Study?
18) Does your world have scientific disciplines? If so, how are they impacted by the presence of magic?
19) Is disability a factor for your practitioners? If so, why?
20) Does class affect the use and distribution of magic? If so, how? Why?

Hope you have fun with this exercise. Until next Monday, my lovelies. Have a magical week!

[Guest Schedule] My RadCon Panels


I previous announced that I’m a guest of honor at the RadCon Science Fiction and Fantasy convention in Pasco, Washington. Today, I’m happy to share my panel and event schedule with you. All scheduled events are one hour long.

Friday, February 14

Collaborating Without Bloodshed
5:45 p.m. / 3121

Ever wondered how authors, writers, artists, and other creative’s work together on the same project without driving each other crazy? Come find out tips and tricks to make the collaborative process work for you.

Researching and Writing
7:00 p.m. / 3125

From science to history to magic, the world is full of source material for writes if you only know where to look. Our panel of writers, game designers and fellow travelers will share tips and tricks to help you research your worlds.

Saturday, February 15

Creating Believable Religions
11:30 a.m. / 3125

Creating believable religions From the creations of gods to the interpretations of their messages and powers, we will examine how to create religions within a world that are compelling and believable.

Writing Guest of Honor Keynote
12:45 p.m. / Bronze: Main Stage

That’s right, readers. Someone decided it was a good idea to give me a microphone and a stage. Hee.

Reading and Signing with Monica Valentinelli
2:00 p.m. / 3121

I will be bringing bookplates! Some of my books and games are ginormous and I realize they might be too taxing to lug around.

Deep Dive on Worldbuilding and Magic
4:30 p.m. / 3125

Ever wonder how magic systems in fantasy are created? In this panel, we’ll discuss tips and tricks to create your own magic system using historical occult sources and folklore as inspiration.

Sunday, February 16

Magic and Pop Culture
12:45 p.m. / 3117

Magic is experiencing a wonderful renaissance in modern storytelling. How do contemporary TV shows like She-Ra, The Dragon Prince, The Witcher, and The Magicians portray magic? Magicians? What do we enjoy? Wish was improved?

[Upcoming Appearance] Writer Guest of Honor at RadCon!

Hello readers,

I’m pleased to announce that I’m the Writer Guest of Honor next year at RadCon, a science fiction and fantasy convention in Pasco, WA. I’m really looking forward to this–Washington State is so beautiful and I rarely get to visit during the winter months.

Right now, I’m proposal panels, figuring out what I want to read, and prepping a keynote for the show. I’m really grateful for this opportunity to connect with a lovely segment of the community, and hope to see you there!

[New Release] Essay in Uncanny Magazine Issue 13


I am pleased to announce that I have an essay titled We Have Always Been Here, Motherfucker in Uncanny Magazine Issue No. 13. I am joined by a fantastic list of contributors

Here’s more about this premiere issue for year three:

Space Unicorns! Uncanny Magazine Issue 13 Part 1 is LIVE! Featuring all–new short fiction by Paul Cornell, Brooke Bolander, Jennifer Marie Brissett, reprint fiction from The Starlit Wood by Amal El–Mohtar, nonfiction by Alyssa Wong, Monica Valentinelli, & Navah Wolfe, poems by Neil Gaiman & Theodora Goss, and a Jennifer Marie Brissett Interview! Plus Julie Dillon’s “Impact Crater” on the cover!

The Uncanny Magazine Podcast Episode 13A: Editors’ Introduction, Paul Cornell’s “Don’t You Worry, You Aliens” as read by Heath Miller, Brooke Bolander’s “Our Talons Can Crush Galaxies” as read by Erika Ensign, Theodora Goss’s poem “Rose Child” as read by Amal El–Mohtar, and Brooke Bolander interviewed by Deborah Stanish.

The entire issue is available for purchase as an eBook (PDF, EPUB, MOBI) RIGHT NOW. The second half will be released on December 6.

PLEASE SUPPORT UNCANNY! SHARE YOUR FAVORITES! Or feel free to purchase subscriptions from Weightless Books or Amazon Kindle or become a Patreon Patron!

For more about this magazine, visit

Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore and game store near you.

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