Technology and Magic

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

 

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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.

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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.

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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?

Three Things About Medieval Europe

The world I write in has a whisper of a basis in Medieval Europe, depending on the kingdom in question. I have a history minor and a love of documentaries, so I already knew much of what we know about the period is pretty bunk.

Still, it was intriguing to do a bit more research on certain areas. Seriously. People didn’t suddenly learn to like being clean in the Regency Era. Which leads me to:

1. People Bathed

Yes, they did. Usually, several times a month. No, this isn’t the daily showers we expect in America, but they did bathe far more often than we’re led to believe. Some even believe we bathe too often now, stripping the body of protective oils, which causes the body to produce an excessive amount of oil.

It was also very common practice in Medieval Europe to wash your hands before every meal.

Communal bathing was still a thing for a big chunk of medieval life, at least in places that still had functioning Roman baths. See, Roman was a vast empire, rich, and stable. Maintaining a communal bathhouse wasn’t cheap, and in the feudal system that arose after the fall of Rome, this wasn’t always at the top of the list. Still, where they were maintained, the Roman tradition of communal baths continued for a long time. Right up until the black plague.

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Roman bath in England. Yeah, not easy to maintain without an empire behind you.

We also know that the wealthy and middle-classes had bathing tubs that were lined in some sort of fabric. It was so commonplace no one thought to write down what it was, but modern day scholars suspect it was either linen or possible canvas as wet canvas is actually quite good at holding water.

 

2. People Lived Longer than You Think

We’ve all heard that people in Medieval Europe only lived to 35. Well, that’s true. Sort of. The average age was 35.

What a lot of people forget is that averages can be skewed. And what skewed this average is infant mortality. There were no vaccines in Medieval Europe. Even now, when the flu or whatever virus du jour is infecting everyone, the old and the young are most vulnerable.

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From Wikipedia Commons

What this means is that if you were able to survive to age 21, you were looking at, on average, another 50 years of life expectancy. trick was surviving to 21.

 

3. People Knew Things About Medicine

 Archaeologists recently dug up a medieval site that included medicinal waste products. What they found surprised many. For example, they had potent painkillers and general anesthetics, such as hemlock, henbane, and opium poppy.

They had tormentil, a herb that kills parasites and alleviate diarrhea and internal bleeding.

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Quicklime has been found being used as a disinfectant, which it totally is.

While medicine was not making the strides in Medieval Europe it had under the Romans, let’s get back to the fact that there wasn’t a Roman empire anymore than provided stability and wealth.

There are a lot of things about history that are shrouded in myth and misinformation. Not entirely sure why that is. Perhaps we want to feel better about ourselves now.  Perhaps we don’t realize how many advantages we have living in larger countries with stable boarders.

Have you ever come across any historical inaccuracies? What were they? Why do you think they were portrayed that way?

 

Game of Thrones Coward

There. I admitted it.

While I follow Game of Thrones, I’ve never actually seen an episode.

I know, I know, but here’s the deal. I’m a coward.

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When GoT first came out, I was super excited. I was trying to figure out how to get to see it even though we don’t have cable when a couple of close friends took me aside. See, they know me pretty well, and they’d read the books.

They proceeded to tell me some of the plot, the horrible things that happen to some of the characters, and to bring it all home, they told me about the Red Wedding. At the time, they didn’t think HBO would actually show a lot of what was in the books (boy were they wrong!), but they wanted to warn me about what was in it.

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Just that conversation gave me nightmares.

I don’t wish to see graphic violence, murder, death, rape, incest or gore. Among other things. I’m even less interested in the weeks of nightmares I have after seeing them.

I get that some people like to be afraid, but I can’t even sit through cheesy horror flicks from the 80s. Sure, everyone in it is too stupid to live and Darwin demands his due, but I just can’t handle it. I’ve never seen Silence of the Lambs. I made myself sit through Aliens in the theater to impress my boyfriend. I paid for it with weeks of nightmares.

I can’t even read scary stuff. I know Stephen King is an amazing author, but after reading Salem’s Lot, I kept peaking at my curtains for far too many weeks to make sure nothing was looking back at me. (No idea what I’d have done if a neighborhood cat would’ve looked in my window at the wrong time.)

And yet, I’m drawn to Game of Thrones. I eagerly await the day after the airing of a new episode to find out what happened.

I’ve learned to be careful. Sometimes just hearing about what happened from a gifted storyteller can trigger my over-active imagination.

So I “watch” from the sidelines. Enjoy the sumptuous costumes, the incredible story line, and the amazing characters at a distance.

And yes, I was very happy when Ramsey Bolton got what was coming to him. Karma also demands its due. I’m interested to see what Sansa does now, and I don’t want to love Lyanna because I don’t want her to die…

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How about you? Anything you’ve ever been interested in but too afraid to watch? Maybe too embarrassed? Did you watch anyway? Hang out on the sidelines? Or just move on?