1. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Science and magic... together?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by tristan.n, Oct 31, 2011.

    Almost everything I've written is science fiction. In the past, I could never write fantasy that involved magic without the "magic" actually being explainable through science. I'm writing two stories right now, and the first one revolves around someone who seems to have uncanny reflexes, endurance, etc., but it's because of several biological enhancement operations and years of conditioning, so there's nothing really supernatural about it.
    The second story revolves around a few people who are able to channel energy and use it for various purposes, but it has nothing to do with science. Some of them can heal people, some of them can enhance others' channeling, and some can even stop others from channeling altogether. There are a few others, but you get the point.

    So anyway... I'm debating on whether or not science and magic can dominate a story equally, if that makes sense. It seems like science fiction has no magic, and fantasy has only magic. Is it weird to mix the two together? And if anyone knows of any books that combine the two, please let me know! :D
     
  2. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Is it possible? Yes. There are several basis' by which science and magic can be written together. You can start with Arthur C Clarke's mantra that any sufficiently advanced science will be indistinguishable from magic, or put another way - magic is only science that we don't understand.

    But equally you can take a more philosophical approach as perhaps best described by the saying (somewhat mangled by me) that there is more to the world then is dreamed of in Horatio's philosophy. Science looks at things it can measure and quantify, but there may be far more to the world then these things. For example science can't measure souls, it can't find God, and as for psychic phenomena, even those pitiful attempts to measure them such as the cards, can't provide any explanation for why such things could possibly occur.

    Cheers.
     
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  3. colorthemap
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    colorthemap Contributing Member

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    In one way, not the other.

    Science can act as magic, but magic can not act like science.
     
  4. cruciFICTION
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    cruciFICTION Contributing Member Contributor

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    First example: that was the whole point of Islam and why it's better than Christianity. Islam had the lesson/motto/saying/thing "Go forth with Science in one hand, and God in the other."

    Second example: that was almost the entire point of Final Fantasy VI with its Magitek Knights. Maybe it's not entirely real-world scientific, but it was essentially the first science fantasy setting of them all.

    Third example, in retort to colorthemap: "The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment"
    That is the definition of science and there's no reason it couldn't be done with magic. Magic may be supernatural and supersensible in most of its settings, but that doesn't stop it from being physical or natural.
     
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  5. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    Of course it can! There are countless magical systems in which "technology" is driven by magic. They tend to be quite interchangeable. Look at something like Harry Potter -- very firmly fantasy, no Sci-Fi there, and even in that world, there's a lot of magic that looks suspiciously like technology.

    Er... why are you trying to turn this into a religious discussion? As far as I'm concerned, "religion X is better than religion Y", especially when you use false stereotypes to get there, isn't proper here. While many Christians ignore science, there is absolutely nothing in Christianity that necessitates this. There are a lot of Muslims who also ignore science for the sake of their beliefs (even though, once again, Islam doesn't necessitate this).
     
  6. Allan Paas
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    Allan Paas Contributing Member

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    Magic gives you right now what otherwise would take centuries, if not longer, to achieve. In case you don't have science on that level already. No wonder fantasy stories normally don't have any science in them, they have no need of it, they have an easier way to get it all.
    Magic and science together sounds nice.
    Magic acting as a catalyst in technological instruments, allowing stuff that would otherwise again take centuries to achieve without it.

    It would be very wise to leave all religion out of here and concentrate on magic and science.
     
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  7. Enerzeal
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    Enerzeal Member

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    All the magic I have read about usually has some kind of explanation behind it. A set of rules that govern it and allow it to be controlled by following those rules. In the Wheel of Time, The One Power is in two halves, male and female. Men access the male half, females the female half. Together the two create a force, fighting against, but also working together to push the Wheel of Time around giving the explanation of why time works the way it does. When people able to reach out and use the One Power they manipulate it with training and study. What I am trying to say is in a world where such an element, such a force exists it is not considered unusual.
    We have moved out of our orbit and traveled to other celestial bodies because we have an understanding of science so significant that perhaps to someone in the Wheel of Time floating a tube into the sky with an intense fire beneath it might either seem like some intense work of unknown magic or magnificent manipulation of the One Power.

    It might be that in our world we are yet to stumble across something we would explain as magic if we read it in a fantasy book. The only difference is we wouldn't call it magic because we would eventually come to understand it and manipulate it to its full potential. We would also accept it as a by product of our laws of physics and understanding of the universe.

    I find my favorite fantasy and science fiction magical elements to be at their best when explained to me with an easy to understand list of elements to add another level of reality to an otherwise otherworldy/supernatural element.

    A fine question to ask is, in a world where magic is easy to come by, how would its science develop around that and would it be integral to any understanding of their world around them?
     
  8. Arathald
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    Arathald Contributing Member

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    For what it's worth, Quantum Physics is spooky and pretty magical. In fact, my magic system is technically based off of Quantum Physics (though it's still magic, not science fiction).
     
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  9. sculyblast
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    sculyblast New Member

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    My question to tristan would be why he feels the need to use them both in a story.

    in my view, and apparently in line with most people replying here, magic and (scifi) science are both tools to work out a plot.
    it doesn't really matter which of the two you are using, as long as you develope it sufficiently enough to give readers the ability to see why your plot tool makes sense. just saying your character "simply cast a spell", makes exactly as much sense as saying he "just happens to have" amazing technology.
    my point is that once you managed to suspend disbelieve beyond a certain point the question becomes why you decide to use a certain plot tool. I believe that once you have chosen to go the Scifi way, it becomes unnecessary to introduce the second element of magic, or vice versa. you can use the type of plot tool readers are already familiar with to get the the end of the plot and create a good storyline, rather than creating the necessity of having to spend an extra amount of time trying the convince your readers of magic as a acceptable premise in your story. writing a story with both scifi and magic requires that you first explain how your world is highly technological and secondly why it is also magical. I think that double explanation in a story might make it look clumsy. therefore I would advice against using both magic and futuristic technologie in one story.
    that is not to say that there are some storylines that can work out brilliantly if you do combine them, for example an atheist scientist discovering god. in short, don't let your props determine your story, bring in the props when the story demands them

    Sculy
     
  10. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Er... If it helps, I'll clarify:
    The world is mainly scientific, with just a handful of people who can use magic. Magic users can be detected by a test, which is administered throughout all of the high schools in the area every year, as it is easiest to detect around puberty (you know, bodily changes and all that).
    The students with abnormal test results go through a second test and then, if they are still showing unusual results, they are taken to the school that teaches them how to control their magic. And no, this isn't shooting fireballs out of your hands or casting spells or anything like that. The magic is divided into three classes: external, internal, and interactive. If you can negate the effects of someone else's magic, then it's considered interactive, for example, because your magic is interacting with someone else's.
    Anyway, these students are trained to strengthen the one ability that comes naturally to them. They are not taught to use any other kind of magic, since that could be hazardous to society. When they graduate from this school, they are strongly urged into certain fields. A healer is strongly urged to become a doctor, for instance.

    Oh and I forgot to mention that the character in the first story, the science-based one, will meet with the magic characters from the second story, and they have to find a way to work together without relying too heavily on either science or magic in the end.

    I don't know if that helped to clear anything up or not, as far as why I'm mixing science and magic.

    P.S. Yes my name is Tristan, but I'm a girl, not a boy. :)

    P.P.S. I'm not even going to touch on religion in this. lol
     
  11. LX_Theo
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    LX_Theo New Member

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    "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
    - Arthur C. Clarke

    That could make an interesting jumping off point for ideas.
     
  12. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    I say write a book that is about science vs magic. Have each group go at it. Like, two nations or cultures. Fuse your two stories together maybe?
     
  13. Raki
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    Raki Contributing Member

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    I believe Terry Brooks' Shannara, pre-Shannara, and Word/Void series present a science versus magic world. If memory serves, they take the form of the fall of one and rise of the other, and it goes back and forth, though usually both are involved in some form or another.
     
  14. Protar
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    Protar Active Member

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    They both might be plot tools but they're also an integral part of the setting so if the setting calls for science and magic at the same time that's what it should have. I don't think anything should just be used as a plot device, it should also contribute to the world in a way that makes sense. Also in a lot of works magic isn't readily available and is just used by an elite class of wizards or whatever. It would make sense then that either the entire society is dominated by these people, or the others have developed mundane technology.
     
  15. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    If you want a technological magic, Larry Niven's short story, 'The Magic Goes Away' is quite an awesome read.

    Cheers.
     
  16. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    @Jhunter: I went ahead and made it two different cultures. There are a few magic people thrown in with the scientific culture so they grow up learning that science is the only real thing in the world, then they find a way out of the culture and realize that there's much more to the world (so maybe I will incorporate religion after all, but a made up one probably). Call me a nerd but I think I'll shoot for something Final Fantasy-ish. :p Thanks for that suggestion, that helped clear some other things up I was struggling with, too!
     
  17. tristan.n
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    tristan.n Active Member

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    Ha, reading back over the replies and I forgot you already mentioned Final Fantasy! (although I've never played that one, just X and XIII)
     
  18. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Wouldn't "Star Wars" be essentially science and magic combined together? I mean, Jedi being able to use "The Force" to do crazy shit seems to be in the realm of magic. However, the movie still has space travel, warp speed, force fields, lazer guns and robots that are usually found in the realm of science fiction. Most people would consider Star Wars to be a SciFi movie because of that reason.

    But... really what's the point we're trying to debate here? You can do one or the other, combine them if you want. There really isn't anything preventing you from doing something like this. I guess that's the question you are asking. And the answer is yes. You could have a world where robots exist... but then for some reason one of the characters can shoot beams of light out of his hands. And honestly... I'm sure ever Sci-fi series (book or TV) has had the plot line where they run into the bad guy that uses magic. So this kind of further proves that point to be possible.
     
  19. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Double post
     
  20. JPGriffin
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    JPGriffin Senior Member

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    I've seen a few stories that had a mixture of science and magic, although I generally define magic as a force not defined by science, but that's just my opinion. One series that comes to mind is the anime Full Metal Alchemist. While they describe Alchemy as a science, the ability to transform material into other material is unexplained, leaving that portion of the story as a form of magic. So, in that sense, advanced science and magic coexist in a single story, although even I would call that a stretch. But by all means it is possible to incorporate magic and technology together (technology, I'm assuming, meaning space-age, robots, etc.), as the same concepts can be explained in both instances. (Time travel and teleporting for example, are both abilities seen with technology and magic alike.)
     
  21. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Well, if loving the Final Fantasy series your entire life makes you a nerd, then count me in. I grew up during the golden age for JRPG's on NES, SNES and PSX. I am also a regular fixture on the Kotaku comments section. Which is a gaming blog if you didn't already know. I also read/watch Bleach, Naruto and Fairy Tail each week once it gets fan-subbed/fan-translated. I also grew up during the golden age of anime as well. So, I guess I am a nerd as well.

    But, I am excited to see how your story turns out, it sounds like it will be a fun and intriguing read. If you ever want some feedback and don't want to post it on the site, you can shoot me an email if you want.

    Jhunter85@hotmail.com
     
  22. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    6, 8, 9 and 12 are the best. You should play them.
     
  23. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Star Wars is 100% a fantasy.
     
  24. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    I figured that would be the case. But then again I would make the argument that if you have elements of both "magic" and "science" in that movie series. Artificial Intelligence and Space travel are two major calling cards of the sci-fi story. It's definitely not a "magic" thing.
     
  25. Jhunter
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    Jhunter Mmm, bacon. Contributor

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    Spaceships and robots don't make a book science fiction. A book about science is what makes it science fiction. There is no science in Star Wars; it is all about Jedi's and the force.

    Another good example is Jurassic Park. On the surface it seems a straight up fantasy. But it is actually a total science fiction book. It is all about the science of cloning.


    Edit: AI and space travel are calling cards for fantasy as well. Science fiction and fantasy share a lot of similarities. But one has science. The other does not.

    Edit #2: But, you could say the prequel trilogy has science fiction elements for many reasons. But I like to pretend those do not exist.
     

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