Magic and Science

I see magic and science blending more and more in stories and it makes for an interesting effect, especially when done well.

I have noticed two moments when it stops working for me. And of course, this is all my own opinion and as always, I welcome your ideas on this.
  1. Magic is explained with science.  I actually let it go for several chapters but then every little bit of magic was explained in very painful detail with science I didn't understand. It wasn't magic anymore it was science from another planet or something, I kinda lost interest. Magic adds a sense of mysticism and creativity that lets the imagination soar. Don't place it in a box.
  2. Science is explained with magic. This creates the opposite problem. The world is very real, I am enthralled by the science when suddenly I am told there is no logical explanation for this, it's magic. What? Why? Magic is wonderful. I love magic, but it is not an easy way out of a scientific problem. I like science and the way it makes me think beyond what I know and do, don't make me feel stupid by telling me what I believed possible is now magic only.

So when do I really enjoy it?
  • When the magic and the science have their own beliefs that never waiver. Each is in their boxes and neither is over-explained.
  • When I am prepared for both. This takes work from the writer as they must build a foundation that explains the science and the magic about to happen.Sometimes this means special trigger words or a specific setting or character for each.
  • Each has its place. I know when to expect hover-boards and when to expect flying unicorns. Neither come as a surprise, and neither need explaining.
It's that simple to me. Magic and Science can exist in the same story, but know when to explain it scientifically and when to let magic handle it.

So what do you think about blending Magic and Science to create a Sci-Fantasy? Do you have rules you follow? Any books you enjoyed that blend them well or that you didn't enjoy because of one thing?

Here are a few other articles on the subject:
Blending science and magic I especially like the part about using words that work for each world.
Questions answered I like the answer that says not to get too deep in explaining how these things work and just let us know what it's used for. 


DUTA said...

As a reader only (I'm no writer), I don't like them blended. Each category has its own fans; no need to mix the two, it'll not attract more readers, it'll not make the novel more plausible, credible, or interesting. On the contrary.

There certainly is a relationship between magic and science. We cannot ignore that. What used to be once magic is now made real by science (flying, seeing the invisible through instruments such as microscopes, telescopes etc...). That's why magic reads have become more of a childrens' domain to enrich and expand their imagination. Most adults are looking for facts and reality.

Richard Hughes said...

I think your take on it is the right way. Keep them separate and clue the reader in to when each is operative in the story.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

This was an interesting post, and I like the questions you raised. I think a classic example of someone who blended science and magic well was Madeleine L'Engle. She made it easy to suspend disbelief when you were entering the magic — I'm saying "magic", although hers was Sci-Fi fantasy, I suppose — and she prepared you for the themes you'd encounter with science. How she did it, I don't know, but it worked for me in the Wrinkle in Time series.

Tanya Lynne Reimer said...
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Tanya Lynne Reimer said...

Duta, I bet a lot of people share that point of view. It is a craft that has to be done right and for a valid reason. If it's to win over sci-fi or fantasy readers I agree with you in the doubts that that will happen. I have found times when it works. Like when a magical world meets with a real world or futuristic one.

Thanks Richard, it is something I've been experimenting with and finding it very challenging to write. Of course it means reading a lot in this genre and some things I really enjoy reading.

Ah yes, Elizabeth! That is a wonderful example. I'll have to study her work and see how she pulled it off properly.