11 April, 2020

#GuestPost :: Marriage of Magic and Technology in #FantasyFiction by @miladyronel

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Amy has only known one life. Now she needs to put it all on the line to save what is precious to her. Can this simple farm girl survive court-life? Can she stop a war from burning down her world? And what of the mysterious princess of Hazel Wood and her covert glances…? Not to mention the prince of Acacia Wood who might or might not be involved with the prophecies ruling their kingdoms. With mysteries and secrets threatening the life she longs to return to, can she separate her feelings from the mission?


Marriage of Magic and Technology in Fantasy Fiction

The idea that magic and technology can work together is the subject of many arguments. For the most part, readers and authors take Tolkien’s stand that technology is the enemy of good. Maybe because a book where “magic rules but is not the only game in town” is hard to categorise? Would it be sci-fi, fantasy or sci-fantasy? Or could it just be speculative fiction?

Must magic be tied to medieval tech?

Most books with a strong magical component plays off in a medieval-esque world in regards to society and tech. Is this just a comfort-thing? Would centuries of magitech alienate readers and cause unnecessary work for authors?

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. – Arthur C Clarke’s 3rd Law

Arguably, Urban Fantasy has found the best fix for this dilemma: hide the magic from most of the population.

But what about High Fantasy? Can’t it have advanced tech?

Questions one should ask, though, before pursuing technology, should include: what would the benefit of tech be in your fantasy setting? If you switch out the horses and carts for spaceships, would the magic still be strong enough to call the story “fantasy” or will it become “science fiction”?

It’s not fantasy without magic and it’s not science fiction without advanced technology. But even a world heavy with tech can offer magic: The Force, anyone?

Magic is meant to accomplish one of three things:




– Myth and Primitive Psychology, Bronislaw Malinowski

A world with magic has less incentive to develop technology. If all problems can be solved with the wave of a wand (or hand), then there’s no need for anything else.

But, not everyone is born with a magical ability, which is why technology still develops. (Watermills, etc.)

And the less knowledgeable a society is, the more believable magic is.

Which is where magical ritualism comes in. It’s a form of anti-science and does not seek progress. Steel-making was once a ritualistic and magical practice. Magical paper was bound to a block of iron, pounded into it, and this combination was folded and pounded again and again, repeated a hundred times, and steel was magically produced. This ritual was passed from Master to Apprentice – producing steel long before we scientifically knew that carbon added to iron would produce this result. Magic!

This brings us back to: in essence, magic in fantasy and high-tech in science fiction aren’t dissimilar. One can shoot fireballs from a wand or a rifle – the only difference is the explanation behind the ability.

Remember Star Wars? Han Solo has trouble believing in The Force because he knows how his ship works. One of Darth Vader’s officers refers to The Force as old sorcery that has no true power because the ship he stood on could destroy a planet – Darth Vader showed him differently, of course.
Why? Because science can explain everything – even floating cities – but there is no explanation for the power behind firing lightning from one’s hand or lifting things with one’s mind.

But isn’t magic just another tool to make things possible? It’s also a system of knowledge that establishes differences between practitioners.

Those with more knowledge can blur the lines between magic and technology – blasting fireballs from a wand instead of a rifle, both of which only changes energy from one form to another.
Thus, magic is technology just as Clark proposed. And with magic, you are only limited by your imagination.

In Magic at Midnight, I chose a medieval setting because it is what my story wanted to be. There are magical doorways opened by pocket watches and secret passages made sound-proof with magic. If it were in an advanced society, technology would explain all of this… Thus the argument above that you need to ask what your story needs and wants. Pegasi feature heavily in Magic at Midnight. But they wouldn’t be comfortable in a high-tech setting… and probably not even welcomed.

What are your thoughts about magic and technology?

About the Author:
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Award-winning author Ronel Janse van Vuuren mainly writes for teens and tweens, though she is known to write mythology-filled short stories for anthologies aimed at older readers. Her dark fantasy works, usually full of folklore, can be viewed on her website and on Goodreads.

Ronel can be found tweeting about writing and other things that interest her, arguing with her characters, researching folklore for her newest story or playing with her Rottweilers when she’s not actually writing.

All of her books are available for purchase from major online retailers.

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