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Magic can't coexist with technology... like really...

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
There are many kinds of magic. Take a look at what exists in Tolkien's world. No rules, or almost none, yet it *feels* powerful in that world. Or look at what Piers Anthony did, where each person can do only one specific bit of magic and sometimes it's incredibly trivial, like the ability to make a fart sound. Systems like Le Guin's Earthsea can be elaborate without having a whole bunch of rules. There is, in fact, no particular reason why you have to have teleportation exist at all. You can still have magic. Then there's god-based magic where people have to pray for magical effects, never knowing quite what they'll get.

All and any of that can exist in a 21st century setting. Steampunk showed the way on this. You just invent one or more magical substances to power your machines.

The range of solutions and approaches really is quite broad. The more fantasy you read, the more you will discover.
 

Corwynn

Troubadour
I do like settings like Irregular at Magical High School and Fullmetal Alchemist, where technology and magic are essentially intertwined, as you can use magic to assist technology, and technology to assist magic. I think it makes for some much more interesting applications of the two, and uniqueness in setting.

As do I, and my setting is one such world. Instead of being contradictory, magic and technology can bolster one another, both directly in the form of magitech, and indirectly by uncovering new scientific principles that can be applied to the other.

For example, a magical healer could heal someone by sending out vague healing energies at the patient, but this would be an inefficient use of energy, leaving less for the treatment of other patients. A knowledge of medicine and anatomy would enable a magician to know exactly what needs to be fixed and how to do so, allowing them to save their power for others who may need it. Of course, they can avoid using any magical energy at all if they have access to an effective non-magical remedy.

Even if anybody can learn magic, and magic can be really powerful, technology is still useful as a labour-saving device.
 

Svrtnsse

Staff
Article Team
I mix magic and modern day technology in my setting too.

In theory anything you can do pretty much anything with magic, but in practice it gets more and complicated the more advanced effects you want to achieve. Throwing a fireball would be a relatively simple task for someone who's skilled in magic and who's practiced it a bit. Speeding up time in a localised area to allow an injured bodypart to heal faster would be a lot more complicated, and doing it while the person in question is in active combat would be impossible in practice, but not in theory - unless you're using divine magic in which case it's really your god doing it and not yourself, but only if the god feels like it.

In addition, not everyone can do magic, and of those who can most will require a partner.

In order to cast magic spells you first need to channel the aether into a weaveable stream (or multiple streams), and then you need to weave that stream in the right way to produce the effect you want.
Roughly one person in twenty five is able to channel aether, and roughly one person in twenty five is able to weave aether streams into magic. Most of these people work in pairs with one channeling and one waveing.

One person in twenty five times twenty five (625) is able to both weave and channel, and can cast magic on their own.

The numbers are picked in such a way that an average size school class will have at least one kid who's fluent in magic in some way, either as a weaver or a channeler. This means most people will have personally encountered someone with magical abilities of some kind (this doesn't include elves who are all able to both weave and channel to some degree).

To sum things up then.
- Magic can, in theory, do anything.
- Magic is, in practice, limited to the skill and training of the practitioner.
- Not everyone is capable of wielding magic.

In this case, there's still plenty of room for technological advancements for the convenience of everyone who's not magically gifted.
 
Hi,

I agree with the other posters. There's no particular reason why magic can't exist with technology unless one is all powerful - or unless you've got a rule as in Arcanum where magic interferes with technology and vice versa. Eg turning on your toaster kills the light of your enchanted stone etc.

But a more interesting question is, what happens when one of these two things suddenly becomes far more powerful and prevalent. Say one day the world has both and muddles along, and then the next someone finds a way to give magical, near godlike abilities to everyone. Then you have the makings of a story on your hands! The reason I suggest it is because I used it in a recent book, and created an entire history based on the very concept - and the disasters that happen when that miracle of magic slowly goes away.

Cheers, Greg.
 

elemtilas

Inkling
i've realized it never worked out because i was ripping off Tolkien. Honestly it was even worse, it was basically a "copy paste" thing. So now i'm trying to build it in the hard way, trying to sound as original as i can. Instead of creating a single continent to make biblical stuff happen there , i've created an entire world map with different civilizations having different religions and stories. I've also made a fictional timeline based on the real one, so my world won't be stuck in the "lord of the rings" , "dungeons and dragon" , "world of warcraft" , game of thrones" concept.

Heh. It's in running away from what we fear that we run straight into fear's bosom!

Anyways , my point is : "_Magic can only be ignored in the dark ages, because of religion. And if you're talking about magic in the way we human beings know , you can't really mix magic with religious stuff. When a priest or a god uses magic , people consider it a miracle and say it has nothing to do with magic". And that's why i belive that Magic can't coexist with Technology, that's all.
Now someone please say something. Prove me i'm wrong, add more reasons why if you agree , curse me because you don't have arguments and it seems like i've made you look stupid...just tell me what you think about it

Depends on what magic actually is. I tend to favour the argument that magic per se never actually makes an appearance in LotR, for all Gandalf is called a wizard. Remember, he and Saruman and Sauron and Tom Bombadil are not wizards, They are not even beings of earth. Bombadil's case is a little unclear, but the others are all powerful spirit beings from Outside the world and have come Inside for various reasons.

Those things accomplished by Sauron are not accomplished because he waves a wand and recites some hocuspocus words. They are done because it is in his nature to be able to do those things, and through his will those things are sustained.

Even the Elves do not understand what is meant by "magic". Galadriel herself tells Sam that she doesn't understand what he means, and as much as says "our high technology and deep understanding of the world seem like magic to you, when in fact it is not".

My take, in The World, is that what we'd call "magic", they call dwimmery and is simply the (unusually lucky) result of certain natural forces being properly manipulated. Dwimmery is like an airplane: you're lucky that the forces of lift and drag and acceleration and gravity were well balanced and the whole contraption landed safely --- that was magic! Dwimmery is like a light switch: we flip a switch in blissful ignorance of what goes on, but somehow an entire room is illuminated! --- that too is magic!

Dwimmery is, I think perhaps, a little more difficult to add to the mix without screwing things up royally. Some people have a nearly innate capacity to manipulate dwimmery. To others, it seems like they but wave their hands and fire appears to consume a stick, or they pass their hands into an injured body and on bringing them out again, all the hurts are healed --- is that not also magic‽

Some people have a more difficult time and have taken to "storing" the dwimmery they are able to command. By perhaps imbuing a wand or staff with power, and causing a manipulation of substantial reality by use of cunning and arcane spells.

Still others have sought to combine dwimmery with ordinary technology. This is called thaumology. Here, certain components are strictly technological in nature, while others are strictly matters of dwimcraft. Take for example, Lord Maytagge's Self Actuating Laundry Board Mechanism with Attached Wringer.
300px-Selfactuating_Laundry_Device.png

It is a fairly nondescript and ordinary looking device, entirely mechanical in appearance. You stoke the thing with coals or wood chips, make sure the water line stopcock is open. You open the great bronze lid on its ordinary brass hinge and throw the clothing in along with some washing soap. But it's when you turn the great Knob on the front that the magic begins! Stored within the device is a kind of energy. A potential, if you will that will, once activated, bring the whole glorious mechanism to life!

I guess if I told you that magic in The World largely involved the subtle manipulation of wee strings of matter, either changing their composition or rearranging their position with respect to one another, then it may no longer seem so entirely magical anymore!
 

L. Blades

Dreamer
I've thoroughly enjoyed reading this thread...

Firstly Lowen I would like to suggest to not to limit yourself too much. What I mean by that is, don't force one thing to depend on the other; consider that Magic, Technology, and Religion can all be Completely independent of each other. You can make a great start at this by asking yourself what each one is exactly. They could be broken down into the following categories:

Magic; a type of power, source of energy, or force, or even an act. It may have no prerequisites, it may not need a religion or god, it may not have any bearing on technology.

Technology; a physical thing that has been constructed, using materials and methods. This is purely the focus of design and manufacturing, no matter how primitive or advanced.

Religion; this is a belief system, and can be based on anything. This can be a belief in a supernatural being, or a system, or even the worship of a technology. It doesn't require technology, magic, evidence, or logic; religion can be created by a story, and can be just as, as if not more powerful than any magic or technology as a tool of control or oppression.

None of these necessarily have to conflict with each other. From reading the thread though, I do like the interesting ideas of how some can be related to the other, such as a magical substance being required to fuel a technology in the steampunk genre. Or for example you could have a society whose religion worships a technology, say the sword.

In a fantasy world limitless magic would make it deeply flawed, as others have pointed out (what's to stop someone blowing something up with ten thousand nukes?). I particularly like Yora's comment, "Limitations are more interesting than powers. If magic is free, unlimited, and can do everything, there isn't much interesting going to happen." - I would focus on how magic works in the world, rather than how a world could function around magic. You don't need to go into too much detail of How your magic system works, but you can if you want as long as it's relevant to the story. I've wrote the whole of my first book deliberately not going into much detail of the 'how's (or the 'limits') of magic; but have laid the foundations of how it is going to be explored in the sequel.
 

tofit

Dreamer
Some technologies will still be useful. You could use magic items to power machines like some kind of heated item. Magic in a sense is a science, if it were real scholars would break it down into a science. Technology would be your magic wand, or your telepathic glyph. There would still be ways of explaining technologies and magic and how they work together. Just treat it like it's a science.
 
This was a really useful interesting read.

Just wanted to add one thought that I don't think has been said yet: geography.

This is a point I generally see people (myself included) forget. When creating a world, we need to think about the real specific geographies in between cultures. So let's say you have a tribe of people using magic close to a river. Then across from the river I write about a society of people which technologies are advances more than ours today - they can time travel, beam themselves up, live forever. Wouldn't these two cultures have interacted over the hundreds of years they've been living there? Wouldn't they have strongly influenced each other?
Now what if there wasn't a river separating them but a few continents? Then I can totally believe that these two cultures have not advanced in magic or in technology.

This is based in the assumption you want to have both magic and technology but use them in different settings. With putting the two together, there are smart posts here. To me it also depends on what the culture you're describing would deem the stronger force: magic or technology? The secondary force would probably be used to enhance the primary.
 

raygungoth

Acolyte
I'm always weirded out by this idea and statements like this. Where I grew up, a song that's supposed to make it rain and the ability to fix a car were both considered what you'd call magical in a book.

But let's back up a bit. Technology is defined as a tool, system, or process designed to solve a problem (this is the working definition). This means that if your setting has spells that work, they're technology. Just like how a different series of evolutionary paths would result in a different ecosystem entirely, so, too, would a different set of physics result in a different technological base. Just because we wouldn't recognize familiar elements - i.e., electricity and its properties, magnetism, gravity, etc. - doesn't mean it's not technology. Magic wouldn't have to coexist with technology because it is technology.
 

Steerpike

Felis amatus
Moderator
It always seems to me that when people make such categorical statements they've somehow forgotten that they control the world of the story.

There are plenty of stories where magic and technology co-exist, so that should be empirical evidence that the proposition posed by the OP is wrong, as least insofar as we're talking about constraints on actual fiction. If you want to make your world as logically-consistent as possible, then yes you have to game out some of this stuff, but at all times you remain in complete creative control--if something doesn't make sense at first, tweak the world so that it is logical, or come up with a rational underpinning for it that make sense in the context of your story.

There is rarely a can't in fiction writing, and especially in SF/F, that holds up to scrutiny.
 

Miles Lacey

Maester
The notion that magic and technology cannot co-exist is nonsense. In my work in progress there is both magic and the technology akin to that of the 1930s with a few minor tweaks here and there.

In the world of my work in progress magic (called sharara (Arabic for Spark)) is gifted by the gods to 0.5% of all adults when they turn 16. However they have to learn how to use the sharara properly as it takes skill - and both excellent physical and mental fitness - to use and master it. A Master of the sharara can fly carpets over long distances, heal practically any injury or illness and even take out a fort but Masters are very rare. Healing powers isn't much good in a world where technology has now meant that one hundred sahir (mages) couldn't heal tens of thousands of wounded people suffering the complex array of wounds and diseases that can be inflicted by Western Front (World War I) style combat. The modern army has little need for a sahir who could bring down the walls of a fortress when artillery, tanks and bombs dropped from aircraft can do pretty much the same thing. And who needs a flying carpet when an aircraft, airship or glider can do the same thing? The very role of the sharara is one of the core sources of conflict in my work in progress.

In a society where magic is confined to a few people technology would still evolve. The question is how that technology emerges, what type of technology emerges and the pace that technology emerges. Equally importantly, can the technology and the magic within a society work together? In The Legend of Korra the sort of technology we would expect in a world modelled on the 1920s has come about but magic hasn't died off. Instead a new bending power has emerged: the ability to metal bend. It has also raised fundamental questions about the roles of technology, science and bending in society with the very religious, social and political stability of the world of Legends of Korra at stake.
 

Drakevarg

Troubadour
The degree to which magic impedes the progress of technology is proportional to its mass applicability. In a world where magic exists, it's not going to be some conflicting force with science - it's just going to be a field of science. Even in soft magic worlds where magic is sentient and unreliable. "Science" is nothing but the act of studying something. So what if magic behaves inconsistently, so do people, and we have sciences to study those too.

So for technology to be suppressed by the presence of magic simply means the magic is a more reliable means of getting things done in that universe. Why spend all that time trying to figure out the complex series of mechanics needed to build a car, when you can just politely ask your carpet to perform the same tasks? By the same measure, if magic is the sort of thing where minor errors will summon city-destroying demons on a fairly regular basis, maybe it's better to leave the task to the natural forces that don't open up hellgates when mishandled.
 
Um, no. If your magic system is limited enough, it is definitely possible to have advanced technology. Take my magic system for example. Magic is 100% rune based, and you have to be born with a black beard to use it. It coexists with technology quite well. In fact, it even supplements it, making the technology less prone to failure and/or enchanting objects to help perform their actions, like a cybernetic arm being enhanced by a fire rune.
 
Really, it depends on the writers imagination and willingness to put time into building a system that will work for their story. If it works it works. As far as the originality goes, readi g is good, it helps with ideas, but people for generations have taken ques from day to day life, history or the world at large, so if your day and life are mostly or consistently filled with those stories then yes those will be your muse, esp. you have a love for them. There was a quote I read some years ago, that went along the lines of "don't write to be original, write what you love and write from the heart, and in time you'll find you are original." Basically you aren't, or most aren't, writing to just be a writer or make money, some are, but a true writer writes for the passion and love of it. Do that and take things you love and do it. It maybe more original than you think. And magic exists in our day today already, sometimes you just have to block out the haters, and be willing to see it. Life's not dead.......yet.
 

Saigonnus

Auror
I tried a similar concept. I was imagining what it would look like if a "fantasy world" were taken forward in time to a pseudo-modern era. Many of the cultures of my planet already have an almost 100% presence of magic ability in the population (To a verying degree. There are still very few "powerful" casters.) And many are used to manufacture the new magical items people take for granted or maintain those that already exist. I tried to consider all the ways that magic could replace technology and how it is accomplished.

Some examples of this is with transportation. First is airships. The ship is constructed normally, but then magically "lightened". The heat within the dirigible is controlled magically; using a core of moltan and water energy (meaning you need a suitable caster to control this aspect of the ship) and piloted using charms that contain air magic. Most have about the same of turn radius they might have on the ocean, and the speed varies with the talents of the pilot. The military forces tend to use them.

A more everyday example are the "enchanted gardens". Basically, each one is a well-manicured park with typical flora and fauna and ordinary paths of stone or concrete. They act as a mass transit center because these paths lead to "shrouds" (magical doorways) that are keyed to take a person to a specific shroud somewhere else in the city. The bonus is that each side of the shroud can be independantly charmed, so one shroud can take you to two different places depending on which side you walk into. So as you are walking through the city, you might see a shroud in a small plaza or park on a street corner, and see people walking into and out of the shroud. Shrouds are also used inside of the tall buildings to take people to the various floors of the structure. So they replace TAXIS, BUSES, ELEVATORS, ESCALATORS, HELICOPTORS etc...

Another aspect I considered was water-supply and waste water treatment. In a metropolitan area, water and waste would be fundamental. With magic, water can be created from air/water charms, so most buildings would have a cistern for their water supply. The pipes are charmed to keep debris and pollutants from tainting the water, and those same pipes clean the outgoing water; which can be incorporated back into nature, or used for the landscaping around the buildings.

Lighting would be largely ambiental. Charmed crystals on desktops, similar stones/crystals for light fixtures, torches that don't produce heat or smoke, designs on walls that glow whatever color you want... etc... the concepts speaks for itself.

Another fundamental is food and food storage. Charmed boxes/bags/baskets/bottles etc. can be used to keep food as fresh as the day it was placed in the containers. Bye-bye food waste. You can also use similar containers to keep food cold or hot depending on what it is and simple stone/metal circles/squares in a countertop can be charmed to cook your always fresh beef for your nightly meals or for making your farm-fresh eggs, bacon and hotcakes for breakfasts. Ecological and Magical!
 
To be honest with you, I do believe magic and technology can coexist, but under certain qualifications. It would all depend on how advanced one's world is and how one would like it utilized in their world.
1. For advanced worlds were "Time of Winter". (aka; a world were all of mankind are served by A.I. robots) Magic can be used a an alternative power source fused into crystal like batteries instead of using fossil fuels or nuclear Energy.
2 For times like the current time. (Present time) This is a bit of harder topic as I believe that in this time would be more of an Industrial, Medical, Military, or a segregation topic.
3. For the Mid-evil Times. I do think that magic would be more of a political topic, with nothing to do with technology.

The reason for my opinion is I too have the same opposition on this subject with a story I am in the process of writing.
 

Azaraiha

Scribe
Magic can equal technology however. If a being from an advanced society, I e. a Vulcan traveled back in time to say 100 c.e. on earth, there is no possible way for the people of that era to distinguish Vulcan tech as anything but magic.
 

Queshire

Auror
There would be if he explained it.

You know, I'm not actually sure about that? Like, check your pockets. Do you have a smartphone?

How would you explain that without it basically amounting to magic by another name? Sure, you could say "do this, and this, and this" to build one, but if they're just following the instructions by rote then what's the difference between that and following the instructions for a magical ritual by rote?

Sure, you can teach them the basic principles behind scientific advancement like the good ol' scientific method, but if they're then asked how to get from there to a smartphone, well, what are they supposed to say?

There's a tremendous amount of material science, manufacturing processes, basicall all of computer science and more that would have to be taught.

Hell, all that is just for a smart phone. It'd be even worse for sci fi Star Trek technology.
 

pmmg

Istar
I could explain it well enough that it would not seem like magic anymore. Magic would be stuff that could not be explained. Course i am not sure i would, only that i could.
 
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