View Full Version : is it possible to reconcile magick and technology?

03-24-2005, 12:03 AM
i have the suspicion that most writers and readers feel the two, while different, can compliment a story. my question is, is there not an inherit awkwardness and/or conflict in logic when you mix the two together? that is, does warp drive capabilities interfere with calling upon a daemon to raise the dead, all in the same book?

03-24-2005, 12:14 AM
I see no real conflict. For instance, take a society where some members are actually advanced biologically and can control electricity like an electric eel, for instance. Others who come along later without that ability might view those with the ability as wizards regardless of whether they know or understand the reason for the differences. Given the wrong information while young enough by someone trying to tease a younger member of the group, it would be easy for those misunderstandings to take root in the society and possibly displace the real reason. Eventually, the individuals with the extra power might be viewed strictly in the role of wizards rather than as advanced members of their species, to be revered and feared appropriately by those without their power.

03-24-2005, 12:16 AM

Remember Clarke's Third Law; any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Look at Gibson's use of Voodoo/Haitian mythology in his Count Zero. Look at Stephenson's use in Snow Crash otherbooks.

Julian Black
03-24-2005, 12:23 AM
I don't see it as any more awkward than someone going in for open-heart surgery in a hospital that has the latest technology and the most highly-trained surgeons, while at the same time friends and family perform intercessory rituals and prayers. The magical and the technological--faith and reason--already co-exist in our daily lives, despite all of our advances in science and technology.

Personally, I don't believe demons exist (except within our own heads), but I'm willing to go along with the idea that they do if an author is skilled enough to make that imaginative journey worthwhile. If the story includes the use of warp-drive capabilities, I'm fine with that, too. Is the story good? Is it told convincingly? That's all I really care about.

03-24-2005, 12:40 AM
really, it's more about twirling magick wands kind of magic more so than an evolutionary or technologically-based brand. more of a harry potter-style thing, though those two worlds, magick and technology, are kept a pretty good distance apart. so, it would be okay to use your magick wand to change the t.v. station with readers?

03-24-2005, 02:00 AM
so, it would be okay to use your magick wand to change the t.v. station with readers?

Why not? Magic in fantasies isn't always illegal, or adept to certain people, or whatever. It can be done however.

But, here's something: using a magic wand to change the tv station... wouldn't that be a "remote control"? Now, I'm not discounting your idea in the least. But I brought that up only because in my WIP, magic doesn't exist as what we know it. Magic is actually science; everyone's on the brink of an industrial revolution. All of these new inventions and electronics seemingly may be a result of some "magic," but actually it's just what we know as guns or bombs and other weapons. Imagine you brought a television to someone in a culture who had never seen or heard anything about them before and didn't know of their existence. You turn it on... it's magic! Then, to their surprise, you can use the remote control to change it without touching it. Now you're magic.

03-24-2005, 02:02 AM
there are two types of magic: some magic IS technology, and the two would mix well. in one of my books, a city's electricitiy is derived from agic, but they use it to run modern machinery.

some magic, on the other hand, is wholly alien to the concept of science and while it and science could co-exist, anything touched by amgic would be outside the realm of science.

03-28-2005, 08:56 AM
Perhaps the warp-drive and demon summoning are both the work of star-fareing wizards who cna manipulate space-time

03-30-2005, 12:23 PM
Fantasy and technology can be combined, it's just how you put them together. Anything can be possible in a sci-fi or fantasy as long as you keep an open mind.

03-31-2005, 02:38 AM
thing with keeping an open mind, though, is like having a mouth to which to shut around something of substance, eh?

03-31-2005, 06:30 AM
Welcome to the Water Cooler, Lindsay, and especially thanks for choosing our the Science Fiction/Fantasy forum for your very first post! Always good to see new faces (even if we have to use our imaginations to visualize them). ;)


03-31-2005, 10:30 PM
Look, if Heinlein can do it in "Waldo," then there's no reason you can't combine the two, also.

There are issues, of course -- for instance, would the wizards in a society stop science from developing, since it would be a threat to their power? But you could have a warp drive spaceship that uses a wizard to go into hyperspace by waving a wand.

The Geek
04-01-2005, 01:27 AM
Star Wars is a great example of how magic (the Force) and technology can mix (refering to the OT, of course :) ). I have no problem with them being combined, but I do think it's risky. Pulled off well, it can be very interesting. Pull it off poorly and the story can become too jarring. But as a concept, the two can work quite nicely together.

04-01-2005, 01:37 AM
Wizards wouldn't necessarily view technology as a threat. for one thing, thery might find it useful to them as much as anything else.

also, i belive that in most cases the distinciton between magicand science would be less clear-cut. wizards would be as alikely a source fo technology as a consumer or victim. their powers and magic might intertwine. wizards wouoldn't have spellbooks, they'd have laptops. instead of nuclear power plants, we'd have power lants that extracted energy from imprisoned demons and used it to run public tansportation. email accounts could be enchanted to allow only it's true owner to use it.

04-01-2005, 02:37 AM
A lot of Diana Wynne Jones' books - The Homeward Bounders, Hexwood, A Sudden Wild Magic, Deep Secret, The Merlin Conspiracy, Dragon Reserve Home Eight, A Tale of Time City etc. - mingle magic with technology (usually involving alternate worlds) very successfully.

04-02-2005, 09:12 AM
well, alternate worlds is a whole different game, and involves little real mingling (at least if the worlds are kept largely separate)

04-02-2005, 02:55 PM
Most of these books involve a complex system of a limited number of linked parallels and people who travel between them, sometimes using technology and sometimes magic. The most heavily technical is A Tale of Time City, which concerns a city outside the regular time-stream, with machines which are used to regulate the parallels and stop history drifting too far out of true - but there's still a strong magical element involved.

The most off-beat is The Homeward Bounders, in which our world, and other parallel worlds, turn out to be being run as a vaste RPG by extra-dimensional beings, and anybody who discovers this secret gets thrown out of their own world and left to try to find their way back through randomly scattered energy-portals which are more likely to lead them further astray. You can call the gamers aliens and call the story SF; you can call them demons and call the story Fantasy.

The hero calls them demons - but then he is a mid-Victorian child, at least initially (homeward-bounders are immortal until they find their own world), so he wouldn't know the term "energy-being" if it bit him in the ankle. Various characters from earth's mythology appear in the story - Prometheus, the Wandering Jew, the Flying Dutchman - but since the first was really imprisoned not for bringing fire to man but for finding out about the demon-gamers and trying to warn people about them, and the last two are just very old homeward-bounders, you can still take the whole thing equally well as technology or as magic.

Terra Aeterna
04-04-2005, 08:05 AM
Melissa Scott's "Silence" Books are a pretty interesting combination of "magic" and technology. In her universe true advanced technology, such as the ability to travel faster than light, comes straight from new alchemical/magical technique. Computers and the machinery produce "anti thought" which cancels out the Art. So you have to choose between magic which allows you to do all kinds of interesting high tech things or "modern" machinery. Her universe is built in layers sub to super material, and different physical laws apply depending on what quantum layer you're in. Vernor Vinge does something similar in "Fire Upon the Deep". Technology that works in his "transcendent" doesn't work well (or in some cases at all) in the "slowness".

It's interesting to play with. Magic could be simply a whole different kind of tech. :)

04-04-2005, 09:00 AM
spellbooks kept on laptop? :)

04-04-2005, 09:57 AM
Here's another way to think about magic and technology.

The word magic ultimately descends from the word magus, probably more familiar in the plural form, magi, both of which are Persian in derivation.

Magic, magus, and machine, all have the same *Indo-European ancestor root, *magh-.

You can follow the etymological trail yourself:

Magic (http://www.bartleby.com/61/57/M0025700.html)
Magus (http://www.bartleby.com/61/67/M0036700.html)
*Magh (http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE292.html)-

And here are some other related etymologies to think about.

Technology, textile, and text, all have the same *Indo-European root, -*teks (http://www.bartleby.com/61/roots/IE523.html).

Glamour (http://www.bartleby.com/61/9/G0140900.html) is ultimately derived, as a word, from grammar.

04-05-2005, 02:26 AM
Glamour (http://www.bartleby.com/61/9/G0140900.html) is ultimately derived, as a word, from grammar.
As is grimoire, of course.

Btw there are already many groups of "techno-pagans" who mingle paganism and/or ritual magic with high technology.

04-05-2005, 02:36 AM
As is grimoire, of course.

Btw there are already many groups of "techno-pagans" who mingle paganism and/or ritual magic with high technology.

That's true; and I can't help but think of Babylon 5 and the Techno-Mages.

And books like Wen Spencer's Tinker, or Barbara Hambly's Silicon Mage.