Sci-fi and Heroic Fantasy discussion

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General SF&F Chat > Magic and the powers of Science

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message 1: by Jonathan, Reader of the fantastic (new)

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 525 comments My question is about both magic and science. Do you believe they need to be kept separate, are they comparable, do they damage each other, which is more powerful. Basically a discussion and comparison of the two as they pertain to sci-fi/fantasy.


message 2: by Xdyj (new)

Xdyj | 418 comments Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
--A. C. Clarke

Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.
--Phil and Kaja Foglio


message 3: by E.J. (new)

E.J. (ejschoenborn) | 53 comments Science and Magic go hand in hand, what is a potion other than chemistry?

The separation comes in that science is more mechanical and magic is more along the lines of supernatural so you can't explain it as much. But if you want to make magic more believable, then follow the rules of science.

Ex: Matter cannot be created or destroyed, it merely changes form so if you turned someone into a frog, you'd actually change them into an army of frogs to account for the matter.


message 4: by Xdyj (last edited Nov 12, 2011 09:14PM) (new)

Xdyj | 418 comments Many science fictions may also break the rules of science (at least as we currently know about them), like time traveling & FTL.

I do agree that the difference between science and magic in sf/f is often how hard the author tries to justify them. Star Wars movies might be more similar to epic fantasy than to hard science fiction, and Peter Watts wrote a 21-page "A Brief Primer on Vampire Biology", together with 100+ references to articles in scientific journals.

As to the relationships between science and magic, I've seen works in which they coexist and can work together (Star Wars and Buffy), coexist but somewhat incompatible (Harry Potter), or what appears (at least to the narrator) to be magic are actually technology (Anne McCaffrey's Pern and C. J. Cherryh's Morgaine, as well as the "dying earth" sub genre), or "sufficiently analyze" the magic with scientific methods (the fanfiction Harry Potter and the Method of Rationality).


message 5: by Jonathan, Reader of the fantastic (new)

Jonathan Terrington (thewritestuff) | 525 comments Awesome thoughts there. I've thought often about similar things hence the topic. And the A. C. Clarke quote is one of my favorites.

The one thing though that I think though is that in novels and so forth magic generally comes from the spirit of individuals and science generally is seen in technology. I do think that technology is different from magic personally. But some science and magic is very similar/ near identical.


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