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

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Lowen, Mar 27, 2018.

  1. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Not initially, perhaps. But If a second-century person observed the Vulcan operating that tech--let's use something simple like a ray gun--then that person could copy the behavior. Pick up the gun, press the button. Boom!

    The principles of operation would remain opaque, probably never understood, but that person would have a pretty clear notion of what Romans meant by sorcery, and the ray gun doesn't fit that. So it would be a device not understood, but definitely not magical.

    In fact, what constitutes magic varies by culture. It doesn't mean "everything I don't understand." In some times and places, it meant only the operation of divine beings. Or that magic is merely illusion. And so on.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  2. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    skip.knoxskip.knox Exactly! What if people do understand magic?
     
  3. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

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    When the Maori first came into contact with Europeans they came face to face with firearms. They never saw it as magic, although they had no name for this weapon or any explanation for how it worked. What they did realise was that firearms could kill from a distance, which would give them the edge in fighting rival tribes. That led to a booming trade in firearms and the mass slaughter of Maori tribes in the Musket Wars of the 1820s and 1830s as tribes with firearms decimated those without.

    A Vulcan ray gun would be seen in much the same way. The 2nd Century person who saw a ray gun in action wouldn't understand how it worked but they would understand that it was capable of killing people which would make it highly sought after.

    As for a smartphone most of the features wouldn't work so all they would see is a strange tool which people are tapping words they wouldn't recognize and bizarre symbols. They wouldn't see it as magic, though. If it could still play videos they would try to link it to something they could grasp like graffiti or paintings, except these paintings can move.

    A 2nd Century person could've linked a smartphone or ray gun to something they understood so it wouldn't have been magic to them. They might've called something magic if they couldn't make the connection with something they understood.

    Assuming they had a concept of magic. After all, who knows which part of the world in the 2nd Century the person with such technology might've ended up?
     
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  4. Eduardo Letavia

    Eduardo Letavia Minstrel

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    Not just culture, in the end the problem lies with the witness of the supposed magical event. Allow me to quote a few sentences (found in Wikipedia) from different authors:
    • Arthur C. Clark, 1973: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". The last of the three Clarke's laws.
    • Leigh Brackett, 1942: "Witchcraft to the ignorant, … simple science to the learned".
    • Agatha Christie, 1933: "The supernatural is only the natural of which the laws are not yet understood". Found in the short story The Hound of Death.
    As you can read above, the question about what is magic has been around for a long time, and the answer is rather clear: is just a matter of perspective. Following this train of thought, we could say that words like magic, sorcery, witchcraft and any other sinonym or equivalent in any language represent above all superstition (which includes ignorance and irrational fear in one neat package). They're warning words for the humble peasants that know little more than their simple life in their villages, but those same expressions are also representative of the power and control hold by those in the know.

    So, lets say you build this fantasy world for your epic story. Fine, from your point of view, you human on this Earth, there are events in that world that are impossible to happen here, your reality. But those events will be natural to that reality and, even worse, you, as the creator of that world, will know the rules that make things tick in that reality. Therefore, you have an explanation to them, the same or a close one the wizards, mages, sorcerers or whatever you may want to call them will have to know to truly master those events and make what we, humans on Earth, would call magic. But for them is real science, with real explanations, and real experimentation that enables them to understand and control the, again for our perspective, magical phenomena in their world.

    And no, it doesn't matter if you put gods or any other supernatural beings as gatekeepers of sorts of that magic. They'll have rules to follow, or endure some sort of natural restrictions, and maybe they restrict the access to the knowledge for any reason, but that doesn't deny the fact that the magic is just another natural phenomena in that universe.

    So, for me at least, magic and technology are not just compatible: they're one and the same. Everything is physics!

    By the way, that previous conclusion of mine leads me to a quite curious consequence: to say fantasy is also saying science (or speculative) fiction. And the more detailed you make a magical system for a story, the harder science fiction will that story be.
     
  5. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    It's worth reading Bronislow Malinowski's classic essay on Magic, Science, and Religion.

    I have linked it HERE for those who are interested.

    This was written in the 1920s, so be aware of some archaic terminology, such as use of the term "savages" to refer to groups of people.
     
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  6. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    Interesting article. It's too bad he looked only at "primitive" cultures. My interest is in how "civilized" cultures regard magic, science, and religion.
     
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  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Yeah, Malinowski was interested in so-called "primitive" cultures. That was his area of interest as an anthropologist, from what I understand. I think it was also en vogue at the time.
     
  8. Snowpoint

    Snowpoint Sage

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    That's the trouble with "kitchen sink" systems. If it could do anything, what does it actually do? Hard to discus and extrapolate on the setting when the core element is fuzzy.
    I like it when fantasy elements are more lazer-focused on an idea, theme or goal.

    After you know what you want the fantasy element to do, then you can see how the world would warp around that thing.
    If you want Giant Robot Wizards, or Wizards who pilot Giant Robots. It could be done.
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  9. Toby Johnson

    Toby Johnson Minstrel

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    I disagree, steampunk for example. this is technology and yes I know traditional steampunk doesn't have magic in it but some books i've read do make steampunk and magic together
     
    S.T. Ockenner likes this.
  10. S.T. Ockenner

    S.T. Ockenner Auror

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    That would be Gaslamp Fantasy
     
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