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Scifantasy - combining tech and magic

Discussion in 'World Building' started by kherezae, Jun 16, 2016.

  1. kherezae

    kherezae Dreamer

    I recently (...ish) started combining tech and magic in my worldbuilding, and I've found that I love the setting it creates. I started on it because I realized that my world was too static -- my humans were stuck in medieval-ish levels of tech for hundreds of years. Allowing them to advance also made the world more vibrant for me, solving a lot of my insecurities with writing boring, generic settings.

    Do you write or enjoy reading scifantasy? How have you combined technology and magic? What are some of your favorite ways of seeing them combined?

    One thing that I felt particularly pleased with in my current WIP was a society that has full-sensory immersion shows for entertainment. They can pre-print or engrave the intricate designs that direct the magic, and then theater employees channel their magic into them to engage the senses. Projectors play the holographic images and sound, but employees are the ones who engage smell, touch, equilibrium, etc. And on the outside of the theater they have these metal plates engraved with the designs for magic previews -- people passing by can channel their magic through the plates to watch the previews in full immersion.
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  2. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Yeah, it's great. Sci-fantasy > other fantasy
    I like the older Edgar Rice Burroughs, Flash Gordon style of sci-fantasy. Most modern sci-fantasy goes to sci-fi and lacks fantasticalness.

    Right now I'm trying to get a modern tech in a constructed world setting going. Unfortunately, I'm having a very hard time finding other examples of this.
  3. kherezae

    kherezae Dreamer

    As in an original world that developed tech similar to ours today? I... don't know of any examples, honestly. I'm working on it myself (sort of; it's a little more techy than what we have, but not that much), but I'm mostly winging it. I think Brandon Sanderson will get there eventually in Mistborn, but I'm sure that'll be a while.

    It is weird that I can't think of modern fantasies that aren't based on Earth in some way.
  4. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    The crucial part of that sentence to me is "in some way". Every reader will draw on what they know to understand what they are reading. It is all subjective. I read Tolkien and saw LotR [especially the Shire and Rohan] as a far softer greener world based around what I knew of where I lived than that Pete Jackson saw from his life and background in New Zealand.
    I like Sci-fantasy. One of my favourite books is King David Spaceship. It has elements of hard Sci-fi, Space Opera and more traditional Fantasy.
  5. kherezae

    kherezae Dreamer

    I should have phrased that better -- I meant "based on Earth" as in "takes place on Earth," and "in some way" to include alternate universe versions of Earth (for example, Earth if history diverged in a major way at some point in the past). Does anyone know of a fantasy novel that has a modern tech level but isn't set on Earth?
  6. Lunaairis

    Lunaairis Sage

    City of Stairs and City of Blades, part of the "Divine cities trilogy" written by Robert Jackson Bennett. I Highly recommend. It isn't exactly modern tech. Its more like 1950s technology, and between the two books tv's are invented so technology is evolving in the story. I don't believe they name the world but it doesn't matter because quite quickly you can tell its not earth.

    Another story that is pretty good that the classification for it is weird. Its called the Dark Angel Trilogy, its written by Meredith Ann Pierce its a fantasy if you take it at face value. But if you don't and try to understand whats going on in the history of the world. You quickly learn that it isn't a fantasy world but in fact is the moon, thousands of years in the future. Humans terraform the moon and create basically mini-humans to live on it. They populate it with monsters from mythology etc, to use it as a theme park. But Then earth dies from some sort of war/event and the few surviving humans try to live on the moon. The problem is that due to the low gravity the atmosphere they created is thinning. The last human is a woman, the original terraformer of the moon and lives in a dome city, that is now empty.

    Currently I'm writing a novel that is a secondary world with 1920s-50s technology that evolved along side and thanks to magic . Mostly because I wanted to write some kind of high-urban-fantasy detective fiction, and that genre is over saturated with story's that take place in real world cities.
    In my fantasy world some car's run on a nearly infinite magical fuel source (a magical steam engine pretty much), others have to use fossil fuels because in a place like a desert there isn't enough aquarium atoms in the air for water magic to work. They have also traveled to another planet (well a moon. Their moon to be exact) Thanks to portal technology.
    If I continue to write this series I may go so far to have a magical science fiction story in which they build ships, or portals or what ever I decided when I get to writing it, to travel the cosmos.

    I even want to write a short story for the world that is a fantasy story and takes place on earth. For them it would be a fantasy to not have magic in your life.
  7. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Thanks for the recommendations.
    I think "modern" fantasy is really only urban fantasy stuff (often with detectives) and that's what I'm trying to avoid in my story. It's going to have more of a suburban setting with some north Europe flavors. Like Rohan 1,000 years after the War of the Ring or Westeros centuries after the War of the Five Kings.

    As for your idea, I dig the idea of these being a constructed world rather than a fictional Earth. I'm sure it'll turn-out to be really cool.
  8. Reilith

    Reilith Sage

    I really like the idea of mixing magic and science, especially if there are some sort of steam-punkish elements. I haven't read a lot of it, I'd say, but The Dune always gave me that sort of feel - even though magic is explained as high levels of consciousness that help you do extraordinary things, it is some sort of magic.

    Last year I also stumbled on a video series by Geek and Sundry on youtube that Wil Wheaton made - it is science fiction fantasy roleplaying game, and has a very immersive world that deals with bots sides of the coin. I found it quite enjoyable.

    As a writer, I more lean to usual epic fantasy, with twists of my own, but technology is not one of them. It is just my writing preference. I don't think any type of fantasy can be said to be better than another, although epic fantasy and high fantasy are predominant in the term of quantity.
  9. kherezae

    kherezae Dreamer

    (Belated) thanks for the recs, Lunaairis! Those sound intriguing, to say the least ^_^ And good luck with your project. The portal technology used for space travel is particularly fascinating to me.

    Ohhh, I'll have to find that scifantasy RPG, that sounds awesome! Thanks, Reilith! And I always love me some epic fantasy -- tech is just a current fascination of mine. :)
  10. weechlo

    weechlo Scribe

    You are me and I am you.

    That's what I'm trying for my current story setting: High Fantasy feel with none of the technological stagnation. My thought is if sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, surely magic is indistinguishable from advanced technology.

    My idea for it is mixing magitek with various -punk settings.

    For instance, I picture human societies being a mix of magitek and cyberpunk, elves being a mix of magitek and solarpunk, and dwarves being a mix of magitek and steampunk, with more of an emphasis on steampunk.
  11. The most obvious example of sci-fantasy I can think of is Star Wars. However, most other fantasies I know of take place in a world of fairly low technological advancement.
    I sometimes think of science and magic as being in opposition to each other, because they're pretty much the same, except one revolves around what we can know and understand, and the other is what is unknowable and mysterious. Or maybe I should put it this way: In the past, everything humans couldn't understand or explain was attributed to magic ir spirits/gods. Then, we learned to understand it through science. So the two naturally oppose one another in a way. Also, in a technologically advanced society, science might replace magic. In a less advanced society, magic might replace science. However, a sci-fantasy would be a story in which the two interact somehow.

    It would be interesting to read about a world that is approaching modern levels of technological advancement, where magic still exists but it is feared and ridiculed. The popular opinion is that use of magic is backward, unnecessary and even dangerous in the modern world. Similar to the conflict between science and religion in the real world.

    As for me, my world reached pre-industrial revolution levels of advancement until wars and disasters forced the world backward into an Ancient Rome-type level of advancement. Magic kind of replaced modern technology--technology just wasn't necessary. Thus, no advancement beyond early 1700's level tech. And yes, there probably was some conflict between the two, as magic was very controversial in those days.
    Sheilawisz likes this.
  12. MeanMachine

    MeanMachine Scribe

    I think the anime and manga Full Metal Alchemist can actually be considered “science-fantasy” (I see it as retro sci-fi, thought the single most prominent element of this would be the Auto-Mail) , as that world’s Alchemy is effectively a form of magic.

    My own WIP is going down that route too, but with magic and technology being much more intertwined, like in Legend of Heroes; Trail in the Skies or the slightly less fantasist Valkyria Chronicles. If that doesn’t tell you anything, I suppose the best way to describe it is that my WIP’s magic uses the same energy than that which is used to produce most of the world’s energy and make Sky Ships fly, amongst other things.
  13. Sheilawisz

    Sheilawisz Queen of Titania Moderator

    Hello Kherezae, and first of all Welcome to Mythic Scribes!

    I do appreciate the combination of Fantasy and Science in a setting and stories. I have done it in two different ways, and I think that both worked quite well and provided the stories in question with a nice and satisfying atmosphere.

    In one of those stories, the setting is a world that is quite advanced technologically. They have airplanes, and trains, and the equivalent of electric lights and even a TV system that broadcasts shows and news programs through the entire world. However, their science and technology are based on imaginary physics with things like Aylar Energy instead of science from our world.

    Instead of having the same technology and physics that we have, they have other things so it's a little bit like Star Wars.

    In a different story that is also all about Aylars (a strange imaginary species of my own) they have the same type of science and technology, with the difference that they are far more advanced. They have incredibly cool fighter jets equipped with force fields and directed energy weapons, not to mention that they discovered something called Violet Energy and as a result of that they have interstellar ships.

    My other science-involving Fantasy story is set in a parallel version of Earth in which Magic happens to be real, so at certain point there were fighter jets defending cities from supernatural creatures and also fighter jets that teamed up with Dragons in order to attack certain monsters that invaded the world.

    I agree that Fantasy worlds that are forever trapped in the Medieval age are a little strange, but it can work too, it all depends on what the story needs and wants to develop properly.

    Your full-sensory immersion shows for entertainment sound wonderful!

    I think that something like that could actually exist in our future, who knows. Your way of making it work by means of a combination of science and magic is good, but something like that cannot happen in my Fantasy worlds. In my settings Magic and Science are total opposites, so the only way for them to work together would be something like the Jets and Dragons Teams that I mentioned.

    What about a starship that uses Magic to perform otherwise impossible interstellar travel?
  14. The idea for a science fantasy involving interstellar travel has been knocking around in my head for some time, because I've always thought magic would be a suitable explanation for interstellar travel. It's not really a Science Fantasy though, just a magical world where magic is used to replace advanced technology, like that which would be used for interstellar travel. I haven't developed it beyond that, however.
  15. Smajdalf

    Smajdalf Scribe

    Did anyone play Rise of Legends® game? The developers did a great work with the setting of
    steam tech, magic and alien-like tech!!!
  16. gom

    gom New Member

    I think China Mieville does this really well in his Bas-Lag books. Brilliant writing too.

    You get a real steampunk feel, but this also feels like a world that had been both high fantasy and high technology before and then declined after the monsters its excesses spawned overwhelmed it like the ghosts of yesterday.
  17. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team


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