This article was written by fellow SciFan author Lander Allen, and has been posted with his permission.
In the 2011 movie Thor, Erik Selvig was having a hard time swallowing a fairy tale. After all, he was in a world of Iron Mans, Hulks, and Captain Americas. Everything in his universe so far could be explained by the Science of the universe. He stood in for the audience when he said in essence: Look, we have Chemical formulas that change people into super soldiers, and we have ARC reactors that produce insane amounts of power, and a man that is invincible to G forces flying around in a battle suit. We’re science fiction! Our universe can’t possibly fit in a Norse God that travels the universe on a rainbow bridge, shoots lightning out of a hammer that nobody else can pick up, and was featured as a Viking legend.
Then Thor saves the day with his Mighty Hammer. Selvig, and by extension, the audience are now on board. Thor fits in this world now. And if he fits, why not a guy who can shrink the distance between molecules? A talking raccoon with his buddy, a walking tree? A cosmic cube that can open portals across the far reaches of space?
I’ve been studying stories since I was a little kid. Then again, we all have one way or another. We consumed it in the form of Saturday morning cartoons and comic books. We heard stories told and read to us by parents and grandparents. We’ve read books. They permeate our commercials, they’ve been creeping more and more into our video games, they are how we relate to each other.
The first stories I told with purpose were fan fiction X-Men stories. Usually based on the same plot lines from the comics and Saturday morning cartoons but with a few twists (Not good ones, I was really young). I loved playing with those power sets. So, when I wanted to start writing seriously, my first inclination was to write fantasy. Because who doesn’t want to play with wizards, and warlocks and dragons and the like?
The problem was however, that fantasy for the most part had a pretty established set of rules. At the time, venturing out too far from a Tolkien style world was hard. I mean, the man himself took 40 years to create the Lord of the Rings – who was I to try in a year or less?
So, my eyes went to the stars. Space. Star Trek. 2001 Space odyssey. The Andromeda Strain. Millions of space pulp books. Here was an arena where we could push ideas through the cosmos forever.
After a few years of that though, I felt the longings to go back to power and Magic. I began to ask myself what would happen when the two were in the same story? I wasn’t the first to think about this obviously. Probably one of the biggest influences in that regard was Star Wars.
When Obi Wan Kenobi explained what the force was to Luke (and by extension, to us) in episode 4, something changed. We’d already been sucked into a world of aliens, space travel, tyrant oppressors, mono-ecosystem planets, and whiny moister farm boys. Now, there was this. On top of everything else this story has introduced, this world had laser swords and, most importantly, magic.
In movies, books, and art, magic has been used in various degrees. Harry Potter used the magic gun approach, where each kid was given a powerful tool that they could point at things, speak a little Latin, and poof their way through school and the bad guys.
The darker and more grown up literary Wizard named Harry, Harry Dresden, implemented a similar style in his magic: but there was a physical toll on his body taken when using it.
His author Jim Butcher brilliantly borrowed on the classics and implemented another cost. For more power, Harry Dresden needed to sell his soul. And not to nice people. To ancient demonic people.
But in both of the Harry cases, their worlds were separated from technology. Potter’s world distanced itself by giving non-magical people a nickname: Muggles. They went off to Wizarding sections of the world and hardly interacted with the normal world. Whenever Dresden interacted with technology and his magic, the tech would fizzle out and break.
Still no good.
Then Marvel started reinvigorating my love of superheroes with their many wonderful movies. And as that world was explored, we went from a seemingly ordinary Science fiction action story like Iron Man, to a fantastical space story with Thor, to a team quest movie with a bunch of very powerful warriors. This had everything I wanted. Fantastical elements, mingled with real world events and ideas. How would the world react to these living legends? I was going to write a super hero book.
While I was outlining that, I read an interesting book that finally put it all together for me: The Man with the Golden Torc, by Simon R. Green. In his book he had incorporated magic, and his setting was more or less in modern times. The key difference was in this universe the people who used magic also used technology to manipulate and magnify the magic.
Because that’s what we would do right?
If wizards lived today, we would develop technology to make the magic better! I knew that was the kind of world I wanted to build for my next story.
And so I wrote. The outcome was what some considered the most original thing they had read in a long time. On one hand it has spaceships, incredibly tall buildings, high tech suits that would give Tony Stark a run for his money, programmable matter that can be many things at once, and characters both good and bad pushing the boundaries of what is possible. On the other hand the story contains portals, people with unique powers, impossible minerals and materials, and ancient civilizations devoted to the old ways and the old gods.
Where it gets interesting is where these two worlds intersect. Those high tech suits? They manipulate portals. The programmable matter uses the impossible materials to make it even more incredible. Those scientists? They are behind the scenes pushing boundaries of possible science with the magic.
And this, I feel is the heart of what SciFan is all about. Science Fantasy shouldn’t just contain both elements Science Fiction and elements of Fantasy. It should be about exploration, about ultimate power, and about how people would react when both are apparent on the same table.
Lander Allen is the founder of the new small market publisher Eagle Mountain Media, dedicated to publishing Science Fantasy books. He has two books out now, with an estimated 7 books slated for 2017.
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