Science Fiction

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Magic & Technology in Sci-fi Fantasy

Is there a difference between magic and advanced technology in the genre of Sci-fi Fantasy?

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Magic and high-tech each separately define the two genres of fantasy and sci-fi. I'm not sure why these two distinct genres are clumped together - I'm a bit old-school so I tend to discriminate between them genres. With fantasy, the laws of the universe aren't meant to be explained. It's not fantasy's mission to expain it. Whereas sci-fi's mission is to plausibly explain the "magic". High technology is a tricky thing when it comes to sci-fi. If a high-tech concept is possible with current physics/science, then it ceases being sci-fi.
e.g cloning; this tech is proven so it isn't sci-fi anymore. The socio-politics based around cloning would be sci-fi because that would be a plausible scenario and its effect on humans would be an unknown factor.
Another example i can think of is ekti (from K.J Anderson's Seven Suns saga) - Ekti is an allotrope of hydroge. Unproven in modern science but used as a sci-fi plot device that powers this universe's FTL star travel. For all intents and purposes, this is high-tech magic, as is the FTL.

Sci-fi is, IMO, an unproven hypothesis about society, whether affected by high technology or by some other area of science, whereas fantasy does not rely on science/tech to explore society, it uses powers and concepts beyond science.
Both use magic, but two different types of magic.

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It would be interesting to set these two types of magic against each other, fantasy magic vs science fiction magic. I guess both seek to harness and control forces, one uses rational (enlightenment) means whilst the other uses non-rational(?) occult means.

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Well, there's an interesting challenge that's been fermenting in my head for some time now, hence why this thread got my attention. But I can never pin down the fantasy angle. Plus it would indeed be horrendous work.

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I am mainly a fantasy writer, but there are elements of Sci-Fi in the same story. Sci-Fi is introduced in my fantasy story when an alien falls from the sky and is from a high tech non-magical background. I have a physical wall/bubble between the two worlds, which seems to be the only way I can rationalised it.

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This is an interesting question.

Firstly Niven's corallary to Clark's Law needs bringing to the table: Any sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.

In reality that is true. If we found out tomorrow that magic exists then scientists would poke and prod until they could articulate the rules by which it works. Magic and science would become indistinguishable.

If, however, you wrote a story about scientists discovering how magic works and transforming the world it would no doubt be classed as fantasy.

If by contrast you wrote a story set in the time of King Arthur where Merlin is an alien hybrid (he's a demon hybrid in the myths) using alien technology to fight off an alien invasion and which ends with Arthur and Merlin going into suspended animation ready to fight a second wave in the future then would that be fantasy or SF? Also where is my idea's notepad because I really like that idea and it just came to me while I was writing this post. (I bet someone has already done it since it's an obvious angle).

And similarly if you have a society that controls the weather and increases crop yields via a "weather control system" it'll be seen as an SF setting even though there's no explanation of how it works. There's little difference between "a wizard did it" in Fantasy and "an engineer" did it in SF.

So, perhaps in fiction, the difference between magic and science is in the eye of the audience.


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