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Author Topic: fantastic technologies
micmcd
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I'm posting in a bit of a flurry, so please forgive me, but one topic I'd love to hear from hatrackers on is the issue of technological progress in a fantasy story. I prefer a story that makes an effort to take an unworn path. Too often, in my opinion, the fantasy genre seems absolutely stuck in the middle ages, as if nobody would ever try to develop technology if magic existed.

To be sure, it would change things, but is there any reason not to wonder what happens when there are democratically ruled nations, and people have come up with the wonderful idea of a horseless carriage, newspapers, electricity, and other strange inventions? To be sure, one must always consider how magic would affect the development of technology -- would there not be entire industries devoted to magical progress, branches of study, etc? Would gunpowder be quite such a hit if a some of your opponents could point at the gunpowder in your pocket and say "bang!" and you die?

Anyhow, to take a different spin on things, my novel is set at a level of technology roughly equivalent to the 1920's. One of my test readers (an avid fantasy and scifi reader), though, said that he found it very jarring for there to be these modern touches in what he at first assumed to be a classical fantasy novel.

This led me to wonder, is it too dangerous to have a world not ruled by kings and queens with knights on horseback, archers, and pikemen defending the keep? Does it take you out of a story to see that? Have you ever seen that? Does it bother you in a fantasy novel if someone picks up a telephone?


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Meredith
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I don't see any reason why it couldn't work. It all depends on your rules of magic. If everybody has access to magic, then there's probably going to be less drive towards technological invention. However, if magic is available only to a few or is expensive or has extremely high personal cost to the magic users, then I can see side-by-side development of magic and technology.

The existence of magic is certainly going to skew things. I can't remember the names or the author at the moment, but it seems to me that I read a series of stories (maybe short stories) set in the Victorian period in which magic played a significant role.

I agree with you that magic wouldn't halt all social, economic, and technological development cold in the middle ages.

It sounds like a new and different approach. I'd say go for it.


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Unwritten
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I don't think it would be jarring, as long as you make some mention of the new technologies in the first 13 lines. Otherwise, people will start forming their own views of your world and it will probably be more classical. Your mention doesn't have to be anything grandiose, just a quick aside that your reader won't necessarily even notice.
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extrinsic
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In many cases, magical explanations preceded technological reality.

Astrology into astronomy; philosophy in the ancient sense into chemistry; myth, legend, and lore into history; mythical beings reimagined from haphazard archaeology; thaumaturgical practices that evolved into medicine, electronics, herbology, optics, physics, geology, and so on.

When gunpowder was first introduced in Europe, it was considered a tool of demonic magic by the uninformed masses. In the age of musketeers, a rifleman required two years of training, much of it to overcome preconceived notions. Nowadays, just a few weeks will do for most uninformed soldiers.

Inverting the order, a milieu of magic might be one that evolved from technology and science and knowledge. Knowledge, technology, and science receding as magic advances. Magical ability becoming a preeminent representation of technology; function and method emphasized with supporting science and theory abandoned.


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Jeff Baerveldt
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Fantasy fiction isn't "stuck in the middle ages." At the heart of high fantasy fiction (as opposed to urban, contemporary, or magical realism) is the desire and the longing to return to a golden age of history that has passed us by. For us, this desire usually means a pretechnological age. Hence, the excessive use of the medieval setting (though I'm not quite sure how excessive it really is).

That being said, I sympathize with your desire to literally update the genre by setting it in a technological age. It seems to me that the most crucial questions you have to answer are how technology developed alongside magic. Which means you have to first develop your magic system in some detail. You're walking along the path of what Brandon Sanderson calls "hard fantasy," in which an elaborately worked out magical system is explained and executed. If you have not yet read his MISTBORN trilogy, I would suggest you do so in order to see a worked-out magic system in action.

Best of luck!

[This message has been edited by Jeff Baerveldt (edited April 22, 2009).]


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Kitti
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There's actually an entire computer game (I forget what it's called, but it was one of the last things Sierra ever produced) that is based on the idea of magic and 19th c. technology coexisting... and conflicting. In the game, your character exists on spectrum from magic to tech, and depending on which way you go, and how strongly you go, that affects what you can do in the game. Obviously magic and tech don't have to be in opposition; my point is just that mixing magic and tech has been done before, and can be done very well.

I agree, though, if you're going to have 1920s plus magic you ought to set up your world in the first thirteen. The above-mentioned game began with orcs using guns to shoot down your character's zeppelin and the first mini-quest involved an angry ghost. That got you into the world, right quick


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Meredith
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quote:
I don't think it would be jarring, as long as you make some mention of the new technologies in the first 13 lines.

I agree, sort of. In a novel, I don't think it has to be in the first 13 lines. But it probably does have to be in the first chapter and maybe in the first page or two.


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Dame
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There are a few cases of technology preceding magic. Samuel Delaney did it in The Einstein Intersection where the rules of the universe had changed over time and some version of magic had arisen. And Moorcock at the edge of time had technology so advanced that the rules of magic seemed to apply.

But I think I have come across it the most, (and I'm trying it in a current fantasy short) where technology has come and gone, leaving scattered artifacts of tech power and where in the time of the tale, the science has been lost. So tech is considered magic and the magic (unknowingly supported by the ancient tech) is understood by children as a basic fact of life.

I would think that if you have had the need to develop technology simultaniously, then the rules of magic must be almost as (or more) restrictive as the rules of science. Otherwise, there would be no need to develop gunpowder or steam power if you could get a demon or a spell to do the job for you.

D


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rstegman
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I have done many story ideas where magic is used in some places in technology where they don't have the actual technology or some inventions were not found or perfected.

Consider a gas engine where magic acts like the spark plug. Consider if Electricity does not work or have not been perfected. Magic replaces the things that electricity usually would do.

Generally, technology really advances based on political conditions more than any other situation. In every case where invention has flourished, technology has advanced, it has been where the people have the best chance of gain from their efforts. The places where advancement has not existed, is where they are prevented from gaining from their efforts. In every case that has happened, it has been from a strong government, such as kings, despots, overpowering government.
Generally, the middle ages, when most magic worlds are set, you have a king and lords that forcibly take the best that the people have. Technology does not advance. People live a hand to mouth existence.
For a world where magic and technology works together, one has to have magic that is easy to do, and a social and governmental system that allows people to gain wealth and keep it.


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BenM
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quote:
This led me to wonder, is it too dangerous to have a world not ruled by kings and queens with knights on horseback, archers, and pikemen defending the keep? Does it take you out of a story to see that? Have you ever seen that? Does it bother you in a fantasy novel if someone picks up a telephone?

No, no, yes, no.

Terry Pratchett is well known for working modern technology into his Discworld milieu: Cities communicate using a telegraph system consisting of a series of semaphore towers, characters use PDAs (little boxes with an imp inside that takes notes and keeps a calendar), others use polaroid cameras (boxes with imps inside who are very fast painters), etc.

What he doesn't do is make these the focus of the story; they're little more than a hint to the reader that the story parallels real life despite its fantasy setting. This is often apparent in the fact that a new technology is introduced during a novel, changing the balance of power, etc.

I think many readers pick up a sword and sorcery novel, perhaps, because there is comfort in the fact that you *cannot* understand Magic. It's escapism in an almost pure form.

Thus, I suspect 'classical' Magic and Technology are almost mutually exclusive: In the real world, principles we don't understand have always been ascribed as Magic. Technology, on the other hand, *can* be understood.

I propose then, that for many readers to best connect, understanding of magic in a novel should correspond to understanding of technology: If a society is scientific enough to develop advanced metallurgy, internal combustion or (aerodynamic) flight, they should understand and exploit magic at a similar level. Conversely, if magic is, well, still 'Magic', then have the technologies reflect that level of science: Imp-in-a-box or simple semaphore towers.

Anything is possible though!


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BoredCrow
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I prefer to write the sort of fantasy that includes technology, and, like many others who have posted here, I've never found magic and technolgy to be mutually exclusive. That's one of the lovely parts where it's up to you as the writer to determine how magic works and how/if it interferes with technology, and where they overlap.

And I'm not certain that magic and technology need to be at equally sophisticated levels. There have been many periods in history when one science has been much more developed than others. For example, some ancient South American cultures (the Mayans, I think) were performing sucessful brain surgery millenia ago, but I don't believe they were quite as developed in microbiology or electrical engineering. I agree that it might make sense to have uniform investigative systems... unless magical research was forbidden by the gods/government/faeries or some such. Just as long as you can explain it and make it seem believable, I suppose


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Starweaver
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The story I'm starting on now has some 19th-century technology, in very limited spheres of application. I think it's a great idea to stir the pot by juxtaposing things in new ways. The medieval settings are getting stale.

The difficulty, as I see it, is that we've come to see the development of science and technology as depending on the rejection of magical thinking. The two approaches imply (for most of us) different worldviews. So somehow, you have to set up a rationale for your milieu that defeats this assumed dichotomy.


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micmcd
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Thanks for all the response. I'm certainly going for what someone called a "hard fantasy" type setting, and I take the rules of magic very seriously and have put a lot of effort into sketching how how magic and technology advanced side-by-side. There's not reason that magic wouldn't be incorporated into technology, or that people would think of magic as something terribly mystical. For instance, since (in my world) "magi stones" can be "cast" -- set to permanently activate exactly one magical action, they are fantastic for fitting into a building's HVAC system.

Perhaps I didn't make enough of a point in my first few chapters to introduce the technological aspect of the world, though (or my reader simply prefers his fantasy classical). I'll definitely go back over that part.

My main goal in having a world like this is that it felt more fun than just working in the middle ages, and it felt more like I was treading in unknown territory (though I was assuming it had been done before, just not that often). I can't stand it in my writing when I feel like the sequence of events is obvious to the reader before they get through them, and changing the setting of the world improved that feeling to me.

Not quite as prominent in the discussion is another key point about introducing moderately common magic to a world (not everybody has it, but it is relatively plentiful in one nation, where most of the action takes place) -- politics and laws. What are you and aren't you allowed to do with magic? What is just so easy that, though it is regulated, you still defend against or take precautions for? In my case, combustion engines are dangerous because it is very easy with magic to make things explode... you don't generally want to carry around large quantities of explosives in obvious places, though there are ways to stop that sort of magic, it's just difficult/expensive to do well. Another fun question is how the study of magic takes place. Can you get a PhD in magical studies? In a certain type of magic? How does industry develop to take advantage of magic?

My worldbuilding experience with this WIP has been tremendous fun, though also a tremendous amount of work. I suppose one other motivation for this setting is that it is easier/more fun for me to be thorough in how the world works, since I'm an engineer and I love the history of technology anyhow. I'd never write a book that has a lot of action with horses or on boats -- especially boats... there is so much terminology and so many details that you need to get right in order not to look like a fool, and I simply am not that interested in sailing. I am, however, interested in the Babbage difference machine, so when I can put thought into that sort of thing I do.


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tnwilz
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I didn't read all this because I have laziness issues, but your question made me think of Star Wars. You know, wizards on spaceships. Or The Golden Compass, that had tech and magic too. I'm just saying it can be done.
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Robert Nowall
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It's iffy to make that kind of judgment about "Star Wars." In those days, movie SF tended to lag some thirty or forty years behind that of print SF...and, if a top SF writer of the 1970s had come up with something along the lines of "Star Wars," it would have soared and sung, and wouldn't have sagged where "Star Wars" sagged.

On its own terms, "Star Wars" was a terrific movie (and the sequels were terrific sequels.) On SF terms, it was like being able to watch something out of Planet Stories, only with a little less sex and violence.


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Crystal Stevens
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I didn't read all the posts either, but I did think of two other examples of modern day fantasies. One is the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher that takes place in modern day Chicago and the other was one of my all time favorite TV series. Remember Charmed?

So, yes, magical fantasies can work in modern times .

Two more TV series just came to mind from out of the '60's & 70's: I Dream of Jeanie and Bewitched .

[This message has been edited by Crystal Stevens (edited April 24, 2009).]


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Robert Nowall
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Well, until Tolkien came along, modern-dress modern-day fantasy was probably the field of fiction most closely allied with science fiction. Think Unknown, and also Weird Tales.

Kinda getting back on topic...there's a certain "suggestion of stagnation" in some (maybe most) fantasy worlds. It would seem that magic would become highly developed---but there's a certain failure to develop any number of technological things that were not magic-based.

Seems to me some of this science and technology we deal with could develop in a world-with-magic---side-by-side with magic.

(Here and there, Tolkien spoke of "waning" civilizations---I don't think he used those precise words---that human civilization in Middle Earth reached its height in Numenor and the early days of the kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor, then slowly decayed and ebbed. He didn't go into much detail, but he did imply a certain amount of techology was involved.)


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jdt
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I heard a rumor that this fellow named Orson Scott Card has "dabbled" in some post-medieval fantasy.

One book I found interesting some years ago was "The Practice Effect" by David Brin. In it, technology used on this world was improved by use. An ax became sharper when used, a home became better when it was lived in. More advanced technology (robots, computers) became specialized to its use and changed when it was used in a different way. The magic enhanced the technology, and the technology degraded when it wasn't used.

For what it's worth.


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Robert Nowall
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There's also a certain "scorn of [our kind of] technology" in some worlds-where-magic-works, too. There's a thread of this in Tolkien...you may recall that gunpowder existed in Middle Earth, and was seen in Gandalf's fireworks and again in Saruman's bomb at Helm's Deep.
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Jaguarfeather
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I don't think anyone in this thread has used the term "science fantasy" yet. That might best be represented by Roger Zelazny's "Amber" books. Not exactly a true simultaneous blend but more of an incremental stepping from pure scientific/technology elements in one "world" through various shades or mixtures in between and finally to pure magic on the other end of the spectrum. I always loved those stories.
I'd say you are in refreshing territory there. Why not play around with it and see if it works for you?

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TaleSpinner
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"as if nobody would ever try to develop technology if magic existed"

I think that's exactly the reason stories rarely mix technology and magic. (Also, the SF and Fantasy audiences are quite different; but that's no reason not to try a fusion, just a challenge.)

Technological development is driven either by need -- typically the need to win a war (e.g. the atomic bomb, or the space race) or the need to make money (e.g. mass production and Ford, or Google) -- or curiosity about the world's natural laws (e.g. Newton and gravity).

When technology and magic co-exist, the question indeed is, why develop technology if magic can do it all for you? In JKR's world, the magical people appear to feel no need for technology because they can win their wars and meet their needs with magic. (And, they have schools, a ministry of magic, etc.) Technology fascinates them only because it's different, exotic, or amusing.

In a world where the natural laws support magic, surely technology would only evolve to meet needs that could not be met with magic. In Star Wars, the Force seems to be a magical force, one developed by few to give them an edge in a hi-tech world.

When technology exists, for SF readers it has to answer the question, why don't they do it with magic?

Researchers like Einstein, investigating the natural laws driven by curiosity, would surely be discouraged for the threat they'd present to those with significant magical powers; the hierarchy of schools and ministries would be designed to maintain the status-quo -- the power of magicians.

A world of magicians would certainly include wrong-doers and empire builders, people who refuse to play by the rules, or whatever laws a democracy establishes. Law relies on two things -- the willingness of most people to comply, and means for detection and prosecution of wrongdoing. If magic leaves no traces, if it can be done remotely with no way of identifying who did it, how will transgressions be detected and prosecuted?

If magic can be performed non-attributably, then I think that would work against technological development.

For example, if news is carried by long-distance whispers amongst a network of magical town criers, they'll surely sabotage any development of radio or TV, in order to maintain their monopoly.

And any endevour that relied on technology would be vulnerable to extortion by any evil-minded magician -- "give me gold or I'll throw a spanner in your works."

The simplest defence would be little or no technology.

I think a world that mixes magic and technology could be quite lawless if magic can be performed without trace -- and full of dramatic potential ...


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Robert Nowall
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I wouldn't think the use of magic as a long-distance communication method would prevent someone from developing steampships, railroads, and automobiles...but it seems to be implied in a lot of things. It would greatly depend on the rules of the magic in the story and what it was capable of.

In "Star Wars" and sequels, we learn a little about the Force...but, really, nothing about what propels those fancy spaceships or how their robots actually work.

*****

Actually, the certain bias against technology also extends to culture...a lot of post-Tolkien fantasy seems stuck in Middle Ages Europe...kings and nobles, lords and ladies, soldiers and serfs. (Actually again, hardly anybody in the stories is actually a serf.) Democracy and elected government never evolve, little is shown of any art and culture.


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TaleSpinner
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"I wouldn't think the use of magic as a long-distance communication method would prevent someone from developing steamships, railroads, and automobiles"

True -- but if the magic allows magic carpets or broomsticks or a floo network ...


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Robert Nowall
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As I said, it's dependent on the rules of magic. But the implication is that magic can do anything and, therefore, can do everything. Where's the conflict in that?

(Like the transporter on "Star Trek"...the transporter could remove Kirk & Company from whatever dreadful situation they were in...and how contrived did the situations get to prevent the transporter from being used?)


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micmcd
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Wow -- this thread certainly has gotten a lot of action. One key that has been mentioned a few times, with regards to the stagnation of technology, given that there is magic...

In plenty of fantasy stories, the existence of magic doesn't seem to help people move about faster than on horseback... I still think there's a need for an automobile, or an airplane.

Also, (as has also been mentioned before), quite a bit depends on what magic can and cannot do. Certainly, if you have Harry Potter-style magic, where you can enchant your sponge to magically wash your dishes as if an invisible person was doing it for you, you'd never invent a washing machine. Though I enjoyed the Potter series, I kind of hate that sort of "limitless" magic. It creates all sorts of holes. For instance, they have a magical time machine that Hermoine uses to go to many classes simultaneously. They also use it to save the life of a hippogrif. They fail to use it to save the lives of the countless people murdered by Voldemort.

If you're going to allow magical time travel that has virtually no consequences, in my mind you may as well just toss out your story (unless you have the one and only machine that can do it break) because you've destroyed either suspense or believability. (Why were they in a rush after they went back in time? They have a time machine... if they are late, they can just go back in time a little. If they fail to save Buckbeak's life... they can just try again. And again.)

My point isn't to snipe at JKR (again, I loved the books), but only to say that being able to do stuff by magic wouldn't eliminate the need for tech, unless magic is all-powerful and plentiful.

I'm also shying away from the type of story that has been mentioned on and off in the thread, in which magic exists in our modern world (i.e. the characters live in otherwise real-life New York), but it's kept very hush-hush. Potter is a type of this story, but I don't really count it in the genre because almost none of the action goes on in the "real world" of non-magical folk. Kelly Armstrong is a master of this type of story, and there are others, though I find they tend to tilt towards vampires and werewolves, as opposed to just plain "magic."

Anyhow, there is tremendous range. I suppose my goal was only to get out of what I feel is stagnation. I'm glad to see so much thought and debate on the issue. I think my story will do just fine in a world with magic where people still take a trolley to get around the city, the electric streetlights come on at dusk, and there is a functioning stock exchange.


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Robert Nowall
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To cite an example where magic is worked into a culture alongside of technology, I'd recommend the late Randall Garrett's "Lord Darcy" series---the novel Too Many Magicians and several shorter works---which takes place in a world where the Plantagenets descended from Richard the Lion-Hearted rule the Anglo-French Empire and magic is a codified science with predictable rules of behavior right alongside all the other branches of science.

As I recall---been awhile since I read it---because of the early realization of the theory and practice of magic, the technology we're familiar with came later in development, having reached, oh, the mid-nineteenth century (in our terms) by the mid-twentieth century (in calendar terms).


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rstegman
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The real question is (assuming other conditions allow technology to develop), How easy is it to do magic?
If anybody can do magic (Think Piers Anthony's Xanth series), then technology will not develop. No real need for it.

If magic is simply genetic and one simply becomes a powerful magician due to life's lottery, and can be really powerful, magicians then can mass produce stuff with their magic, like the dishwashing sponge, for example, Technology might not develop, or might work in concert with technology.

If doing Magic requires extreme training and can really serve the creator, then technology is more likely to develop.

If magic does not really do much "useful" work, then the development of technology would be quite likely.

I love to think about how magic and technology might be mixed.

Magic might be used for improving the nature of metals, the same way it is used to amplify swords. An engine made with some demon within the material. The metal could still be wrought iron and cast iron which are not really useful for high techology. the demon or other magic could make it useful.
I have previously suggested the use of magic in the place of electricity. Magic wires causing the glow of the lights, spark cased by magic flickers.

Consider, if petrolium was not been found. One is stuck with vegitable oil and lard as lubricants. Magic might be used to change their properties to be used in all the different ways we use them.

Even if magic does not "blast enemies to smitheriens," it can be useful to a technological world.


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Kitti
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Okay, so I'll confess to not really thinking hard about this when I first replied, and then not paying much attention to the thread for awhile either, but now as I look back over it, I'm thinking about magical technologies in a different way. Warning: dorky academic hat firmly on head.

In the anthropological sense, technology is a body of knowledge used to fashion implements, practice manual arts, extract/collect materials, etc., etc. Guess what? Whether or not there's magic in the world, human beings still have to figure out how to boil water. That's a "technology".

Most humans are inherently lazy. We want to save time and energy doing tasks. Who likes hand washing dishes or laundry? Not many of us. So you've got three sorts of people who might be of interest in your world-building 1) the ones who have a little bit of extra time on their hands and innovate like crazy to get more free time/power/etc. 2) the ones who have been marginalized by some group and innovate to get back into the center of things (socially, politically, economically, whatever) and 3) the ones who like everyone to have a place and purpose and won't embrace any technology that makes someone redundant - or marginalized! - in their community (yes, these sorts of people do exist, often in non-Western cultures with different values).

So depending upon the social mores of your culture, you'll have people who exist on a spectrum of embracing new technologies to being skeptical of them. If the majority are the former, then your world - howsoever magical or not it is - will have a wide variety of technologies in it, and a lot of innovation. If the majority are the latter, then you'll have some tried and true technologies and no innovation allowed thank you very much. Then there's the middle road, where new innovations are cloaked in historical precedent (generally fabricated). Ever wonder why the first books printed off the moveable type printing press were made to look like illuminated manuscripts, anyone?

At any rate, I wonder how many people have been reading "technology" and immediately equating it with "science." That's what I did, first time around. But if you accept the anthropologist's definition of the former, then they're two VERY different things. So, switching gears into science: if you start reading anything recent in the history of science, you will soon start to realize that the average, intelligent layperson's understanding of science is very rigidly defined and exclusive. It was not always this way.

Ask yourself: when did astrology become magic and astronomy become science? They don't have to be mutually exclusive. Read Kepler's Harmonices Mundi sometime and you'll realize Kepler's 3rd law came out of an attempt to fit platonic solids between planetary orbits in able to define a LITERAL music of the heavens which could then be matched to human souls' harmonies for use in astrology. Yeah. Not exactly "science" even though we cherry-pick the "scientific" result out of it and sweep the rest under the rug.

More generally, before you can create someone's geniture (astrology) you have to know stuff about the position of stars (astronomy). Then factor back in technology, such as the telescope. Man, what that thing could do... for astronomers AND astrologers! If you're creating someone's geniture, imagine the difference between being able to pinpoint the location of say a hundred stars versus a thousand? Wow. So whether your technology of telescope is created by mirrors or magic, it's a nice thing to have around. Especially during a siege...

I'm getting a little carried away here, sorry, but before I stop I'd just like to mention two books. Lawrence Principe's The Aspiring Adept and Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs' The Janus Faces of Genius. Neither are for the faint of heart. But what they are is monographs dedicated to the alchemical explorations of 1) Robert Boyle and 2) Isaac Newton himself. These guys didn't distinguish at all between what we call magic and science. To them it was all the same thing, and the study of both was "advanced" by innovations in technology.

P.S. If anyone is interested about the political side of the history of science, check out Mario Biagioli's Galileo Courtier.

<quietly puts academic hat away and hope she hasn't frightened anyone>

[This message has been edited by Kitti (edited April 29, 2009).]


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bemused
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Building off of what rstegman said, “The real question is (assuming other conditions allow technology to develop), How easy is it to do magic?"

As I have been reading through all these posts a certain possibility struck me. What if in a magical world technology aided a Marxist style revolution? Imagine a world where magic and technology can exist together (not one of the proximity to magic short-circuits tech worlds). If the ability to perform magic is something that is either a genetic gift, random providence, or only obtainable by the extremely erudite; then technology could be used by the common man to gain an equal footing to (or even an advantage over) the magic wielders. Mass produced technology could allow the populous to mobilize against and governing body or aristocracy utilizes magic in favor of technology which might be considered baser or less elegant method of accomplishing similar tasks. Granted you would need at least one gifted inventor, but one person could outfit a great deal of people with tech. This is just a roughly sketched out idea, and only one possibility for tech/magic interplay. I personally believe that there are many interesting stories that can come out of exploring this topic.

Side Note: The Good Fairies of New York by Martin Millar details the effect of the invention of the steam engine on Fairy culture, not exactly a magic/tech mix but certainly an upheaval of typical fantasy.

(edited for spelling/gramar)

[This message has been edited by bemused (edited May 02, 2009).]


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TaleSpinner
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If magic is about defying the laws of nature that bind us mere mortals, I believe that magic could easily sabotage technology -- and would; magicians would preserve their power over the rest of us.
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Robert Nowall
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They say if it can't be quantified, observed, or duplicated, it can't be science.

Say that magic is an observable phenomenon. Postulate, say, a gear, one of many, that can move at X revolutions per minute, but no faster or it will fly apart. Postulate that magic either (a) makes it move faster and destroys it, or (b) makes it move slower and makes everything slow down.

Say observation and study eliminate every other factor but this magic. Wouldn't the designers and builders of the gear take steps to prevent magic from fouling things up? Surely if magic can sabotage technology, it could also protect it.


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TaleSpinner
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Hmm ...

Could magic protect against every conceivable attack?

Suppose the gear box is part of a clockwork tank. I could sabotage it by magicking sand into the gearbox oil, or hexing a spanner into the gears, or turning the spring into string, or throwing flames into the ammunition, or charming a tree down the gun barrel, or enchanting the ground into a hole fit for a tank, or tossing fireballs that blind the gunner and driver, or...

To protect the tank against magical attack, and assuming magic has a price and is not infinite, the crew would need to be magicians. If they can magically speed wheels up or slow them down, why build a clockwork tank? If to carry weapons and stuff too heavy to magick around, fair enough -- but why not eliminate the vulnerabilities of a complex engine and gearbox by just turning the wheels direct with magic?

Or, better, fight magic with magic? It would surely be easier to combat my simple attacks on the machine with direct magical attacks on me.


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Robert Nowall
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Perhaps a form of magic protection that works "first time, every time." Start it going, then forget it.
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rich
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Don't know if it's been brought up (I skimmed this thread), but Fables is a neat comic series about the real life Big Bad Wolf, Snow White, Prince Charming, etc., living in NY in their own little section of the city. At one point in the series, there's some theorizing on what would happen if Magic warred with Technology. Good stuff.
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