Science Fiction vs. Fantasy

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    The Last Archide is a work of fiction. Science-fiction, as a matter of fact. Growing up as a kid, sci-fi was my favorite genre to watch on TV or in the theater. I spent hours building Legos with Star Trek, Star Wars, Space: Above and Beyond, The Fifth Element and many more in the background. The idea of what could be was always fascination (to quote a certain Vulcan).

    Let’s face it: fantasy on TV and movies during the 80’s and 90’s was average at best. But, when it came to reading, I preferred fantasy. Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Shannara, Willow and so on. I loved to read about sword and shield, bow and arrow, dragons, and magic. The romanticism of what was captivated me, too.

    I’ve mentioned it before, but Last Archide began as a fantasy story. Mostly because that’s what I liked reading, so it made sense. I got a decent way into writing it before I changed my mind and switched to sci-fi. What caused me to make the switch is truly juvenile, so I won’t make more fun of myself than I need to.

    Science-fiction turned out to be the perfect medium for that story so, in hindsight, I made the right call. But, the desire to want to tell a fantasy story never left my mind. After Archide was over, I set my sights on doing just that.

    Now, I’m in what I believe will be the final Volume of Legends of Vandilor. Like Archide, it’s been a ride and it has come with its own set of challenges. I won’t get into all of them, but I wanted to discuss one specifically today and that’s science vs. magic.

    In writing sci-fi, things have to be plausible. Not exact, but plausible. I’m not a physicist, nor a scientist of any kind, so my knowledge of how things work is pretty basic. But, I know enough to be dangerous. I included some theory and some technology that is based on my very limited knowledge of how more complex systems would work. I have no doubt that, if held to scrutiny, the science of The Last Archidei would crumble pretty quickly, but that’s the beauty! I don’t have to know it all, I just have to build a world strong enough that you think, “is that possible?”

    The creators of Star Trek: The Next Generation didn’t know tablets and iPads would be all the rage in 2020, but they made cool gadgets that looked futuristic. Smarter minds than me watched the program and though, “is that possible?” then went out and proved it was. Therein lies the burden of science fiction. It has to be probable, though not provable. When it stops becoming provable, it ceases to be science and becomes fantasy.

    Fantasy is a whole other animal to write. Why? Mostly because I need not explain why something happens. I don’t have to make you consider the plausibility of what the characters are doing. I can chalk it up to magic. That’s it. You don’t get a say because I said it’s magic and magic does what I want when I want to drive the story. It’s a wonderful thing!

    Tolkien illustrates this perhaps better than anyone I can think of. In his books, magic does whatever it needs to whenever he needs it to. He limits it as needed, enhances it as needed, and so on. This is not to say what he did was wrong, but if you really think it through, magic just comes and goes without a single explanation of how it works, why it works, or why some people can use it and not others.

    Easy example: In The Silmarillion, Elrond’s father, Earendil defeats the great black dragon Ancalagon during the War of Wrath in a flying vessel. How did he get one of those? And, why are there no more? Magic worked there because he needed it to, then it never appears again. The same can be said of Galadriel’s defense of Lothlorien using her ring Nenya. The elves drive back an assault from Dol Guldur three times using that ring. How? Why? Why didn’t she do anything else with it?

    To emphasize: Tolkien was a genius. His work is the best there is.

    My challenge to myself is to marry magic with science. I’ve spent some time defining magic, what it can/can’t do and some other surprises along the way I hope you all enjoy as you read it, especially if you’re a fan of The Last Archide. I’ve done my best to define magic with science, even though the users of magic don’t understand the science. Hopefully, that comes across as you read it!

    Thanks again for everything you do, for reading my insanity including this blog!


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