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Scientific concepts in a fantasy world

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Gryphos, Mar 24, 2015.

  1. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    So as my fantasy world is reminiscent of the 19th century, I've come under not so much a problem as a peculiarity, that being that scientific theories have been produced in the world which directly correlate to theories produced in our real world. For example, that of evolution.

    As we all know, in the real world the theory of evolution was created by Darwin (although an argument could be made for Lamarck, but that's another topic entirely). But obviously Darwin never existed in my fantasy world, so in my world it's not 'Charles Darwin's theory of evolution', it's 'Od & Eulices Lamb's theory of evolution'.

    At one point in the story the MC makes a humorous comment about how when Od & Eulices had to convince people of evolution over intelligent design, they must have only had to point out two flaws in the latter: that humans can bite the inside of their cheek, and trip over their own feet.

    Similarly, at one point the MC makes what we would call a 'Freudian slip', and recognises to himself that that was the case. Except, Freud doesn't exist. Seyyed Vahid, however, does exist. And so the MC actually makes a 'Vahidian slip'.

    I'm just wondering if this would trouble any of you reading. Would it pull you out of the story to read about Od & Eulices' theory of evolution and Vahidian slips and Rorkworth's theory of relativity?
     
  2. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Wouldn't bother me at all.

    The only thing that really troubles me in worlds that combine science and technology is whether the co-existence of the two is logically consistent. For example, where magic is prevalent, one has to wonder whether and how certain scientific advances would come about. That's the sort of thing I think about.

    But basically having a kind of alternate world where well-known scientific theories were discovered by individuals unique to the fantasy world doesn't bother me in the least.
     
  3. For myself? No it wouldn't really pull me out of the story. It makes logical sense that people would come up with those theories and what not. However, there is a line you need to draw and make sure each fake theory matches as close as you can to the real theory. Because, if you don't do that, other readers with more scientific background than myself would likely get frustrated. It happens to me a lot when I watch TV about lawyers. I see them in the court room doing their thing and then something majorly incorrect happens and I'm like that lady in the GEICO commercial, "That's not how that works. That's not how any of this works!" Then I turn the channel to something else because I just lost my immersion because the writers failed to do even basic research on the subject.
     
  4. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    @Brian

    I do the same thing with both law and science. Although if this fantasy world also has magic, I suppose the fantasy version of the theories could diverge from the real theories in a way that is consistent with the magic present in the world. The author would just need to make sure that this is explained.
     
  5. Steerpike,

    I think that would make sense. I was mostly referencing things that are inaccurate and have no relation to the magic or the world. Like, when someone uses pop science to prove a point without bothering to do a quick fact check and find out that the alleged fact was taken clearly out of context.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  6. Svrtnsse

    Svrtnsse Staff Article Team

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    I think that the way you describe it, I would probably associate a Vahidian slip with a Freudian slip. It'd feel a little like you'd just changed a name. Technically, you don't really need to do more, as the theory is sound - but pulling the reader's attention away from the story is usually not a good thing.
    You could probably get away with it if you changed up the naming a little bit more though. Instead of "making a Vahidian slip", your character could "make a Vahid" - it's still similar, but a little more removed.


    Edit:
    Side note. The setting I'm working on has at least one race that came about through Darwinian evolution (humans), and at least one that was created by a god (anfylk). The third race I'm not sure about, and the fourth race is from another plane of existence.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2015
  7. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    So long as these elements belong in the story, I won't have a problem with them. What I mean by that is as long as you don't devote more text to them than is deserved.

    If these things play an important role in the story, then great, delve into them deeply. But if they're just there for flavor, minor mention is probably enough, and if it goes beyond that, then it approaches the realm of an info dump, made worse by it being an unimportant info dump.
     
  8. Gryphos

    Gryphos Auror

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    Yeah, don't worry, I've thought about this. Magic really isn't big in my world anyway, and what magic exists probably wouldn't come into conflict with many scientific principles.

    I'm not going into detail about them or anything. I think Od & Eulices' theory is mentioned in passing twice in the novel, and the actual specifics of evolutionary theory aren't gone into depth or anything. And the Vahidian slip is actually rather vital story point, as the MC realises something he never knew, and thus changes his mind about something. Even then, it's not like I go on for a paragraph explaining Vahid's psychological theories.
     
  9. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    To me it's actually MORE of an immersion breaker if magic causes a world to plateau at a certain tech level for thousands of years. Given a certain population size, and a class of people in that population with the time to devote to research (Like the magic users themselves) and most tech would still be discovered. It might happen on a different time scale than our world, but it would still happen. As for reasons? Let's see, Religious, Cultural, Monetary, Individual Prejudice, War, Politics, Genetics, etc...

    Look at Magic like Technology in our world. Even in the United States where it's available to every citizen we still have the Amish who refuse (for religious reasons) to use "Modern Technology".
     
  10. Hainted,

    I don't think that is what steerpike is saying. Rather, ithas more to do with magic supplanting technology. Like if magic users could create portals to different locations. Likely airplanes wouldn't be needed since someone could just walk through a portal.
     
  11. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    Oh know I'm getting what he's saying. It would be more jarring and immersion breaking to mention Darwin or Freud and most readers will not be bothered by it. I'm using a similar line of thought in my own stories, but at the same time magic wouldn't supplant all technology.

    Take your portal example. What if a minority of people get violently ill from portal travel, and another percentage don't like the idea of shunting themselves through the Seeming Nothingness, and a major religion disavows the portals as blasphemous, while the dictatorship over the mountains don't like the ease of travel portals offers its citizens and another nation is looking for a new way to attack their enemies that doesn't require the portals to move troops or a better way to deliver ordinance?

    Just as you can't predict all the effect that will ripple out of any change in the world you can't just say "Well, My world doesn't have [example technology] because {Magic Item} rendered it obsolete.
     
  12. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    "Can't" is a very strong word.
     
  13. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Sage

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    I'm a fan of finding technologies and scientific facts and then finding out if I can port them into my world with their level of knowledge and technology. So far it's been limited to toxins, poisons, radiation and the like, stuff that I use in interrogation scenes.

    However, I've for example seen a design for a special water facility somewhere. It's supposed to be built at a coastline that has daily heavy fog coming in from the sea due to climate condition there. The plan was to have cooled pillars to which the fog would be funneled. It would then condense and trickle down into a basin in the form of drinkable water.

    'Any sufficiently advanced form of technology is indistinguishable from magic' I don't know who said it, but when I see things like that waterplant, I immediately scribble it down somewhere because it's something I could see done with magic.

    So you can have magic and technology at odds, with competing solutions to problems. Or you can have magic and technology live in separate spheres. Or you can magify your technology or technify your magic. All are valid methods, as long as internal consistency is obeyed for those elements important to the story.

    I'm a personal fan of magifying science.
     
  14. Noldona

    Noldona Scribe

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    In a story idea I have been working on fleshing out enough to start writing a novel on, I am doing exactly that. That world is a steampunk style world where alchemy exists. In this case, alchemy is based upon the more philosophical side of historical alchemy and less on the chemistry side. The symbols and such represent ideas and concepts and are combined in specific ways to form the spells. The issue is the spells are powered by the life force of the alchemist thus causing rapid aging and short lives. This issue is compounded by the fact that the nation is at war with another nation, and alchemists are very useful for that. The story will end up being a trilogy with each book as a step in the apprenticeship system.

    ***Spoiler***
    In the first book, the MC is an apprentice alchemist who figures out a way to augment alchemy with energy generated from steam power to power the spell and thus solve the issue of the shorten lives of alchemists.
     
  15. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    Yes it is. You couldn't predict that the discovery of the process to make cheaper steel would have driven infant mortality rates down considerably.
    Or maybe it should be how reading was killed by radio which was driven to extinction by movies which were wiped out with the introduction of televisions which no one owns anymore since we all have computers( which IBM said would never find any use in the average person's life)
     
  16. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    I was actually referring to this:
    And I disagree. Yes, you absolutely can.
     
  17. I disagree as well Hainted. There are some things that are obviously replaceable. For example if everyone could open portals and none of the negatives you said happened, clearly airplanes would not exist. They wouldn't need to. Furthermore, isn't necessity the mother of invention. Without the need there is no invention.
     
  18. Hainted

    Hainted Sage

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    Every advancement has drawbacks, and both your counter arguments hinge on this NOT happening and completely ignore the cultural, religious, and political reasons that would prevent people from using of the Magic Whatsit. Magic will always have a cost, and their will always be people who WILL NOT pay that cost, thus creating a need for alternatives.But let's focus on need.

    Mindfire has a nice country, but is well defended from invasion by portal No one has managed to successfully invade and hold the nation. Brian Scott Allen has one of his wizards approach him with the idea of lighter than air craft. Brian Scott Allen builds airships and launches a surprise blitzkrieg from the sky(since no one checks the skies, because why would they? People travel by portals!) This leads to my nation starting to develop a way to counter this by building better airships and technology to detect them. This leads to other nations developing better machines, powered by magic, to patrol the skies and others to develop machines that function without magic(One good counterspell and your magic airship engine's slag). Decade down the road? First Gyrocopter followed two years later by the biplane.

    Once that happens? Well let's see. The rich will start buying them first as status symbols, then various amusement parks and traveling shows will offer rides and shows involving this new invention. Some smart forward thinking businessman will decide to break the monopoly of the Portal Shipping services and use planes for delivery, etc, etc..

    You both miss the obvious, that nothing, no matter how easy, or necessary is going to be used by everyone. People will always find a reason to not use the portals(or whatever) no matter how safe they are proven to be. Look at the Anti-vaxxers, or the Homeopathic movement or Crystals for Healing when we have some of the most advanced medical care in the world. Go on reddit, or Facebook, or Twitter and find a subject you know to be good and necessary and something everyone should have access to and use and read all the arguments from people against it. Study the Edison/Tesla wars over electricity.

    Bottom Line: No matter what you introduce, or how easy it is, or how much better it would make everyone's lives, some people will always refuse to use it, and others will oppose it until their dying breath no matter how stupid their reasons seem. This will generate a need and a market for alternatives.
     
  19. 2WayParadox

    2WayParadox Sage

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    I think you're both on the same side of the argument here. Both of you say that something will only be developed if there is a need for it.

    Hainted, your example hinges on the fact that there are tactics that can make use of ingrained customs that have spawned through the use of a certain technology. There is no need to state that that tactical space would be filled by a form of technology though, that is just one of the possibilities, and in a magical society I think it more likely that a magical solution is found, unless the technical challenges are just to great. (i.e. the terrible cold when flying at high altitude, plus the distances that need to be overcome and the needed ability to inflict damge on ground targets) There is also no need for the countersolution to be technical. It could be magical.

    In the end, it all depends on the decision the writer makes. If the writer decides that nobody thinks of an alternative to portals, then nobody those, and screw the possibilities. It's as simple as that.
     
    Mindfire likes this.
  20. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

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    Says who? Does not the author control the world and not vice versa? There is nothing that dictates that every world must inevitably evolve along the same path as ours, or a even a remotely similar one, in spite of all differences in geography, culture, religion, and the presence of magic. You seem to be operating from an almost 19th/early 20th century paradigm: that "progress" is inevitable and inherently good. (It's the similar to the thinking you see in some who malign the fantasy genre for portraying what they consider to be stagnant, unenlightened societies and simplistic moral landscapes. But that's a topic for another thread.) But I think this betrays a cultural bias. It ignores that different cultures can and do value different things. And simply put, if a culture doesn't value technology for whatever reason, they won't develop it. Suppose that everyone is, in fact, willing and content to stick with the portal system they've been using for generations? You keep saying that rejection of the magical apparatus is inevitable and thus will lead to technological alternatives, but you have not and cannot show that to actually be the case. Because, the fantasy world is controlled by the author and they can do as they please. You can accept a world where magic exists, but your suspension of disbelief is broken by a world in which technology does not? That seems rather arbitrary.
     
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