Last column, I looked at writing magic and technology for your setting – and noted that in many ways for the sake of world building they could be treated the same. I still believe that, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t call out the differences as well. Or perhaps I should say “areas of variance,” as it gets complicated, but more on that shortly.
I believe it’s important to loo at differences, as in too many cases creating the magic and/or technology for a setting treats them as the same for all the wrong reason – as opposed to the right ones. Technology easily becomes hand-woven neutron particle miracle rays, a mythology with lab tools and circuit boards. Magic can get systematized or explained in such a way it either is technology, or is really just magic wearing technologies clothes and wandering around looking out of place.
So, having suggested that you have to look at them as similar for the sake of worldbuilding, I now want to deal with when you have to look at them differently. Yes, this may produce writing whiplash, but who said worldbuilding was going to be boring and straightforward? I certainly didn’t promise that.
Think of it as general and specifics. In general, they’re the ways people change and affect the world. In specifics, well . . . (more…)
We’ve all heard the saying that goes “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” made by the incomparable Sir Arthur C. Clarke.
I would ad a corollary, especially in the worlds of world building (and perhaps in an age of mind hacking and psychological techniques, our own). “Any sufficiently organized magic is indistinguishable from technology.”
Because when you world build, you’re getting things organized in your head to explain how they work. In the case of Magic and Technology, they’re really the same thing most of the time. Not entirely, but mostly.
Now you may wish to argue with this, but for the sake of building a setting, magic and technology are no different. I would state that magic and technology are the ways characters manipulate themselves and the elements of their settings to achieve results fitting a specific goal – and thus really no different.
Vaccum tubes and potions, ethereal forces and electrical energy, it’s all about Making Stuff Happen. So for the rest of this essay, I’ll just call it MaT since I can’t figure any other word to encompass the two of them, and I won’t call it MT as it invites innumerable jokes.
As a world builder, you just have to figure out what it all means. That’s when it gets complicated. (more…)