Magic versus science

Open old book on wooden table and dark background with light shine and flying particles with mystical and imaginative look

Anthropologists tell us that humankind has generally embraced three fundamental explanations for the universe: magic, religion, and science.

I love magic. I love science. (I’m going to avoid religion for this discussion.)

Consequently, I love speculative fiction. I love science fiction.

I love them too much to ever mix them though. I won’t bore you trying to define them. You know.

This is the difference between Trekkies and Star Wars geeks, right?

Between Asimov and Le Guin.

You can set a story on another planet and use space ships and blasters. Yet if you’re also wielding some strange, unexplained force, that’s magic. Ghosts, witches, super powers, magic rings. That’s speculative fiction. Fine and noble territory. I traverse it myself, albeit carefully.

If you’re going to write science fiction, you better be prepared to present scientific explanations for what’s happening. Heinlein defined sci-fi as “realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world, past and present, and on a thorough understanding of the nature and significance of the scientific method.”

Realistic. Based solidly on adequate knowledge. Real world. Scientific method. Got it.

It still can be way out there. It can even be wrong, if you’re shooting far enough out. Shelley, Verne, Wells, they extended their visions far beyond available contemporary technology and scientific understanding. And some of it turned out to be, um, dated. But they still offered scientific explanations. And we love them in that context.

We owe it to science to make our science fiction plausible.

In this blog I will try to draw distinctions whenever possible between science fiction and other forms of speculative fiction. Many of my ideas have to do with difficulties of science, rather than the easy answers of magic. I’d like discussions. If you want to weigh in at anytime, please do so. Let’s contemplate these ideas together.

You’re welcome.

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