My Writers SE question about an ice magic user reminded me to ask this question.
I'm writing a long (~1000 pages) hard fantasy story (in French, don't judge me on my English :p).

In this story, there are many different types of 'magic', including cooling and heating. I read other questions about how to make ice from air so I already know a way to make ice.

BUT, I want this ice to be controlled - that is to say one can change its shape or move it with telekinesis (at like 20km/12miles per hour). I already know how to move it, but I don't know how to explain that some can change ice's shape...

When I say change its shape, I mean : from a cube to a ball for example.

How would that work? I think maybe the same question could be asked for any solid object.

Do tell me if you need more details.

Thanks for your feedback.

Basically, in my world, magic works because some people have a natural ability to modify nature's properties, like giving energy to atoms to heat them.

So any magic would be explainable by our world's science, even if we aren't able of reproducing it. There's not much real technology except for basic mechanical engines.

About how to make ice, here's a question whose first answer includes how to make ice. Basically, condensing and cooling air.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 21:48

4 Answers 4


If it really must have an explanation:

Telekinesis = Virtual Particles

Virtual particles is a theory about how fundamental forces work. The basic idea behind this theory is that charged particles create and send virtual versions of themselves to run into other particles. These smaller particles running into 'real' particles gives rise to forces.

So you could claim that telekinesis is just exerting control over these virtual particles. Of course, how you do that is simply "magic," and this is mostly just a mathematical trick people use to get their heads around particle interactions.

Control The Shape of Ice During Formation

If you're forming ice out of air, you simply need to control where in the air the conditions for ice formation occur. You control the first nucleation point and can control which portions of air have the correct properties to cool and condense water out of air.

Ice crystals are formed from a hexagonal crystal structure: odds are some combination of one direction or another will yield the shape you want, you just control which sides are allowed to grow and which ones are not.

Shape Changing

Given that you can now move and shape ice, you just need to do what we do with many other materials: cut and join.

  • Step 1: A person wishing to change the shape of some ice 'cuts' by melting a thin plane of molecules or applying the appropriate shear force (like you do with scissors).
  • Step 2: Once that block of ice is separated, you move the ice to a place you want it to be.
  • Step 3: Freeze that ice block to the original ice. Phrased another way: provide the conditions for ice formation along the plane such that the two pieces will be joined.
  • Step 4: Repeat steps 1-3 until the desired shape is made.
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    $\begingroup$ Look too hard, and many 'hard' stories become soft. $\endgroup$
    – PipperChip
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:21
  • $\begingroup$ Well, my story is hard fantasy after all... I will try to make it the most simple possible to understand in my story, but I think this would work. Thank you ! +1 $\endgroup$
    – user20258
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:24

So here is my answer, please continue reading after my initial statement (or don't):

This is all a really bad idea. Being able to freeze air and make sculptures is one thing, but the implications are another one. If one could really just alter properties of individual atoms/molecules just like that, making ice cubes is the last thing anyone would ever do with it. The things you could do with this are endless - from powering near-lightspeed spaceships to killing millions of people with the blink of an eye. I do not want to go into the details, I already discussed some problems in the comments - but basically if you introduce those kinds of magic into our real world, things get messy. Luckily, there is still a chance for you:

You said that your civilization is rather primitive. So if you let's say alter how things work microscopically, they will not notice. Choose your battles. If you are doing iron age fantasy, you do not worry about general relativity and what the result of the Stern-Gerlach experiment would be. Your people live in a strictly Newtonian world - even further, they do not live in a world made out of molecules and "atoms" but in a world made out of water, ice and rock. This is all you need to stay consistent with. If you want "real physics", well, just do it. You already said that you know how to implement it and if your people rather build ice structures than kill each other - well, good for them. But be aware that things do not make as much sense anymore (paradoxically).

I think it is clear that "ice" needs to be what some people might call an element of your world. A state anything can enter and leave if given the right stimuli rather than a marcoscopic observation that is a result of microscopic behaviour. You should still worry about the pressure changes resulting in those escapades since even primitive cultures for example knew how sails work and certainly have experienced wind, but you could alter how density works and that things become heavier/denser once they enter the "ice state".

Some things are the result of what we call quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is completely lost once you say that you treat individual atoms and alter their speed. So do not worry about being consistent with our world. There will always be magic to save you - sure water ice does float on liquid water - so maybe do not change density in general but introduce magic density for example or remember that water even in our world is more of an exception than the rule - or as a third option make the liquid and ice state denser. There are many options once you backed yourself out of that corner you are in currently.

And the details - how do proteins work in a Newtonian world? Well, your culture still doesn't know what proteins are. There are many details like this and many things to clarify, but I would heavily advice you against trying to just introduce ice magic into our world and expecting that things still make any sense. Often enough, being super vague is a solution btw. Even pretty hard sci-fi technobabbles over all the important details. At the end of the day, all humans live in a Newtonian world made out of rocks and air and not in a quantum mechanical nightmare - that is how we see the world. This is how your audience knows the world. Introducing weird concepts to be consistent with contemporary physics is helping the 0.01% of humans that understand that stuff (I'm not one of them myself) - and even they think mostly in ice and rock. Choose your battles wisely.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Makes sense... Thank you for your answer, I might indeed do something like that to simplify. $\endgroup$
    – user20258
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 17:55

All magic implies handwavium, so don't overthink that too much. If you want a magic that follows physics more "realistically" what you have to do is taking account of physical constraints rather than meddling with physics theorems.

For example, you want ice magic. If a mage wants to shot an ice bolt, where does the water come from? Water moisture in the air? Then, his/her powers vary greatly with the proximity of a water source and the humidity of the air. An ice mage would be much more powerful in the sea than in a desert.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Whilst possibly correct this doesn't answer the question. Also an ice mage might be more powerful in a lake than the sea because salt messes up water's freezing temp. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, well, I was thinking in the quantity of water available more than anything. $\endgroup$
    – Rekesoft
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:11
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    $\begingroup$ I think this is more of a comment than an answer. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:19

Why can't telekinesis change its shape?

That is the ability to apply force to an object with one's mind, so why not ball a cube up mentally. The harder question is where do you get the water to make ice?

But you could get that from the air or blood or ground.