Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Magic and Technology

Oh boy.  Magic and technology.  Wow.  That’s a tricky subject.

There are a lost of ways to play the relationship between magic and technology.  There’s what I call the Inverse Law of Magic and Technology, which is the idea that magic and technology somehow interfere with each other.  The more technologically advanced a society is, the less magic will work, and the more magical a society is, the less technology can be developed.  There’s the fact that sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, and sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.

But for whatever reason, magic tends to exist primarily in medieval settings (with plenty of exceptions).  And in most of those medieval settings, there’s very little advancement in terms of technology, culture, government, etc.  It’s called Medieval Stasis, and it’s something I really want to avoid.  The reason for that is that, if we think of magic as a science, we can compare it to science through history.  New methods and applications of magic can be discovered.  There’s potential for a magic-based industrial revolution.

And yet, there are only two series that come to mind that avert this medieval stasis thing: The Last Airbender and the World of Shannara.  The latter has a political struggle involving the rise and fall of the Federation that spans multiple series, as well as the order of the Druids.  There have also been developments in airship technology.  And, of course, there’s the fact that this is a post-apocalyptic earth and there are a ton of chances to show off lost technology and its interaction with magic.  The latter does it even more impressively, with the world going from having some rudimentary steam technology to flat-out steampunk, bending being implemented into a professional sport, and metalbending and lightningbending becoming more common in just two generations.  And the whole transition somehow feels completely natural.

So anyway.  I’m struggling with how to work the technology in Warrior, Wizard, and it’s consequently going to sound like a lot of anachronisms if you’re not paying attention.  You see, due to enchantment (one of the four primary schools of magic), things can be made to act like items in our world, and it can be done more simply.  Here, someone said “hey, wouldn’t it be great if there was a device that would keep things cold?”  And then we spent a lot of time and effort developing the technology needed for the refrigerator.  There, someone said “hey, wouldn’t it be great if there was a device that would keep things cold?”  And then an enchanter spent some time enchanting a wooden box so that it would keep whatever’s in it cold.  Boom.  Invention of the coldbox.  Enchantment isn’t an easy process, but it basically allows objects to do something a mage could do, only a bit more efficiently.  So instead of light bulbs, they have light orbs.  There’s water running through pipelines, but the process of transporting it is different.  So what happens is I end up with a society that is, for all intents and purposes, a medieval world.  Swords and sandals and sorcery.  But it’s a world where there appear to be eclectic lights, refrigerators, running water, and the like.

And that’s the issue I run into.  How do you explain this magic technology without going on a huge discourse about it?  And really, the only thing I can think of is that I…don’t.  I just let the technology speak for itself since I don’t have room to speak for it at this point.

No comments:

Post a Comment