Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Balance

Traditionally Balance registers or influences the state of play between above and below (> As Above, So Below), Good and Evil, Law/Order/Stasis and Chaos, male and female (> Gender) or Yin and Yang. Laws of Magic generally acknowledge Balance – in that action and reaction are equal – and the greatest of Ursula Le Guin's vaguely Taoist Wizards in her Earthsea sequence avoids all but urgently needed magic since there must always be consequences. Often the world or universal Balance needs to be restored when upset by Wrongness: Michael Moorcock's Stormbringer (1965) has a concluding Vision of a literal Cosmic Balance righting itself with the defeat of Chaos. More liberatingly, his The King of the Swords (1972) finally sees this Balance swinging free with nothing to weigh, all the law and Chaos Gods having been joyously slain. Gordon R Dickson's The Dragon and the George (1976) explicitly acknowledges that one may need to fight for Chaos to prevent the Balance tilting to the stasis of perfect order; but the latter is the precise goal of John Brunner's eponymous Traveler in Black (coll 1971 US), whose purging of irrational magic from the Universe will ultimately bring Time to a stop. R A Lafferty's Aurelia (1982) unusually suggests that one should be absolute for good or evil, and portrays the yin-yang symbol of Balance as a vicious weapon. Piers Anthony's On a Pale Horse (1983) makes much play with individuals' personal good/evil Balance, which if exact consigns them to Purgatory rather than Heaven or Hell. Patricia C Wrede's The Seven Towers (1984) pivots on the good/evil Balance in magic, which must not be wholly one or the other; Diana Wynne Jones's Black Maria (1991) explores the wrongness resulting from lack of male/female Balance in, again, magic. L E Modesitt's Rationalized-Fantasy Recluce books make Balance a natural conservation law as for electrical charge: creating new Order automatically produces counterbalancing Chaos energies. Louise Cooper's Time Master sequence (1985-1987) shows the lords of Chaos and Order as morally equivalent, and the temporary victory of Chaos as a necessity.

Occasionally, Balance itself is used as a Plot Device, as in Moorcock's The Queen of the Swords (1971), where the eponymous Chaos Queen is lured into violating a Condition of the Cosmic Balance, which then destroys her. [DRL]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.