Is Science a Nuisance?

Science Fiction Writing

I have degrees in physics and mathematics, so my training in science is fairly extensive. So when writing stories involving magic and other fantasy elements, does science get in the way? Wouldn’t it be better to just throw science out the window?

I do not believe so. We all have a sense of what is plausible, and as long as the fantasy elements are not utter chaos, science helps maintain the layer of plausibility. In my first novel, Forest of Lost Secrets, scientific concerns do not play a big part. Magical elixirs do not obey the modern laws of science. The main task is to keep everything logically consistent. In later novels, especially Eden’s Shadow, scientific plausibility is a big concern. How fast could an alien population reclaim the land of our planet and convert it back to its native state. Biological laws limit this. And spacetime anomalies must be consistent with what modern science knows about the nature of space and time.

Yet, it is interesting to note that there comes a point where it becomes difficult to distinguish between advanced technology (maybe from an alien culture) and magic. If the science behind the advanced technology is comprised of scientific laws and principles we have not yet discovered, we can never know if the ray that shoots out from the end of a walking stick is magic or just some development of future science. So, as long as all the other stuff in the story is plausible, this is an interesting overlap between fantasy and science fiction.

Oh, the Intricacies of Science

Of course, there are other differences, associated with the so-called “tropes” of the story. Fantasy often has swords and kingdoms. Science fiction often has space travel and aliens. But the same considerations that make a story with advanced (and unheard of) technology plausible also make magic plausible. Just make it fit as well as possible with what we do know. Do not violate a law of nature with one’s magic spell, unless that is specifically what it is supposed to do. If a magic spell allows you to fly high about the clouds, then fine. But don’t forget about the lowered oxygen levels and dropping temperatures. Having to deal with problems when one wields magic is often part of what makes it interesting. Science is our friend, not a nuisance.

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