Technology and Magic

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
― Arthur C. Clarke


Better have a dragon, Joffrey.

Fantasy and science fiction share some elements, particularly the need to build a world for a reader. One thing that’s true for either genre, though, is that you can have so many things be true for the world depending on the level of technology.

Transporters = Teleportation Spell

Faster than light space travel = Cosmic ships following the time flow

Blasters = Wands

Seriously, if you told my great-grandmother about smartphones, netflix, and the internet, she’d have looked at you like you were crazy. Even my grandmother hasn’t gotten past basic television.

I can see how technology can very easily appear magical. As a reader, I am absolutely willing to suspend disbelief when I pick up either genre of books.

I will caveat this with some science fiction gives little lee-way for made-up science. One particular author I read years ago refused to use faster-than-light travel as it didn’t conform to what we know about space travel. Interestingly, however, the same author had cryogenics in the story to compensate for the long flight times to Jupiter where they were going to terraform moons.

Terraforming in process. Or is that a magic spell…

Neither cryogenics or terraforming are exactly proven science, but it was a still a good story.

For me, that’s what it’s about. A good story. I want to read something and be immersed in it. I want to care about the characters and what they’re doing.

Start bogging me down in too much scientific detail or the minutia of your magic system, and I start skimming. If I can’t find the good bits again pretty quickly, I move on to the next book.

Both genres also have to be careful how they handle gender differences. I have seen too much misogyny masked in, “But that’s how it was.”

In some cases, it could be an accurate portrayal if medieval Europe, though frequently it isn’t. But here’s the thing, this is a fantasy world. The religion. The norms and mores. You can choose a Judaeo-christian society, just as you can choose to create one like the Mosuo.

Still, it’s interesting how certain themes come through both science fiction and fantasy.

Okay, so maybe some we’d rather not see.

It’s fun to explore the impossible, and both genres do that. I enjoy reading both. Of course, there is that one thing I see in fantasy that science fiction has yet to tackle: dragons!

You knew I was going to say that, didn’t you?

How about you? Do you see magic and technology as interchangeable? Perhaps indistinguishable? Why or why not?

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6 thoughts on “Technology and Magic

  1. Not interchangeable but existing side-by-side as they do in my Mor’a’stani series. But if you think about it, it does in the real world. An astrologer (as well as being a writer) such as myself, is more than happy to use a computer to draw up the charts we read for our clients. While astrology is not magic per se but it can seem like it when people watch a prediction happen. 🙂

  2. Oh what a leading question! I’m not a hardscience tragic but…I prefer sci-fi that is at least /slightly/ possible…maybe…someday…somewhere. That said, my favourite sci-fi novel of all time is Dune, and that is probably the best example of science leavened with fantasy you could ask for. But I don’t really like elves and ‘magic’. Hmm….

  3. I have terraforming, teleporters, and a dragon 😀
    I’m not sure what genre my current project is though, it has me stumped because it has elements of fantasy, history, and sci-fi! I like the idea of mixing magic and technology: It’s fun trying to strike a balance!

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