Science Fiction Repair Shop: Wave A Wand And We Got The Bomb

By Serdar Yegulalp on 2022-07-07 21:00:00 No comments

A great quote from Wiliam Gibson:

I've never really been very interested in computers themselves. I don't watch them; I watch how people behave around them. That's becoming more difficult to do because everything is "around them".

That reminds me of another quote by Koyaanisqatsi director Godfrey Reggio: "We do not use technology so much as we live technology." Even relatively less developed societies than ours live to some degree in a technological envelope, if only as a way of staving off absolute privation.

What always struck me about the use of magic in a fantasy setting is how there is almost no discussion of the idea that the introduction of such a thing would have the social impact of the invention of the atomic bomb.

One of my future projects, tentatively titled The Fire Of The Mind, is about this idea in a somewhat roundabout way. Imagine a society on the technological and social level of 18th century France, which experiences two massive upheavals. One is akin to the French Revolution. The other is the introduction of magic. Clearly these two things feed into and amplify each other.

Maybe the reason most fantasy stories have magic as a settled part of the setting is because all that upheaval already came and went; it's old news. In that case, why would we have a society that remained at a roughly medieval level of technology for centuries or millennia, as is almost always the case in such stories? Add magic to an 18th-century way of life and you could go from men on horseback to the space shuttle in a decade, assuming everyone didn't kill each other first.

You can see why I want to tell this story. It's a chance to metaphorically explore the way society could be upended and transformed by the introduction of a technology — and not just any technology, but one specifically intended to be democratized. In this setting, magic is something within reach of most anyone who wants it, not just a select few. Clearly any society that is not designed from the inside out to sustain such power will be torn apart by it, and there is no guarantee a better one, one more suited to the task, will emerge from what remains.

It's a great idea, although one I need to mull over far more thoroughly and in greater detail before I can even think about writing it. But I've added it to the "must-do" list. Even the most superficial implications of the idea, when explored that way, make me want to dive in and start swimming.

Tags: Science Fiction Repair Shop fantasy