Sci-Fantasy and Technomancy
Creating a world where magic and technology co-exist
Mixing science fiction and magic can be tricky; if everyone in the world is capable of teleporting anywhere at anytime, it probably won’t make much sense for people to own cars, for example. Blending these two forces leads to countless exciting possibilities, but it can also end up creating some inconsistencies that your audience will pick up on if you don’t think things through well.
I have several tips and things you should think about if you want to build a world that mixes sci-fi and fantasy. Ultimately how detailed you get with it is up to you; maybe you want to plot out ever single tiny aspect of how your world works, or maybe you just want to have robot dragons and to hell with whoever disagrees! It’s a story of your making; if you and your audience are having fun with it, that’s what I consider most important.
Either way, here’s some things to think about!
- Of course, it helps to start off with the usual integral factors that tend to define societies; things like geography, language, religion, laws, agriculture, philosophy, etc. Before you even start throwing magic/tech into the mix, what does your world look like? What does it sound like? What does it taste like??
- How does magic work in your world? Is it a gift only available to a select few, or can pretty much any Average Joe summon a fireball? Are all mages Clerics (with magic derived from a powerful entity), Wizards (with magic learned from studying), Sorcerers (with magic just as an innate trait), or a mixture of these (and other?) things?
- How does technology (generally) work in your world? How widely available is it? How well is it understood? What level is it at; are there nanobots in everyone’s bloodstreams, or is a bronze sword considered “high technology”?
- How well do magic and technology (generally) mix in your world? Are they both just two different tools for solving problems, or opposed forces? Can one be used to study the other? Can someone be an expert on both things? What problems have been solved (and created) from blending the two?
- Are either things taboo? How much social friction do either things cause? Is the use of one meant to be secret or forbidden? Why?
- Are tech-favoring people/societies generally on equal footing with magic-favoring ones? They don’t have to be! The world being skewed in one side’s favor could be a great source of conflict!
- What can only be done with magic? What can only be done with technology? Consider the limitations of both forces in the world. Does one force typically work better in some or most ways than the other? What things simply can’t be replicated by one side?
- Consider how advanced each side is. What methods of communication, transportation, education, fuel consumption, medical care, etc are available to magic-favoring societies and which ones are available to tech-favoring societies? One side may not be exclusively better than the other; a tech-favoring society might have much faster land transportation in the form of huge cars, but a magic-favoring one might be able to magically tame huge creatures that can walk on walls and reach places tech can’t easily get to.
- (When it can,) how does magic solve the same problems as tech and vice versa? A magical stone of far-speech can fill the magic-equivalent role of a phone, for example. A manufactured chemical packet could function like a certain spell. Of course, if one side’s method is so ubiquitous and accessible, it’s more likely that all people’s will favor it.
- On the other hand, the different perspectives will likely produce entirely different problems and methods of solving them. Beyond one side being unable to replicate certain things from another, they may not want to. Mages may have no interest in creating an internet analogue they instead have access to some great collective unconscious tech-favoring people can’t access. How might one describe these things to the other? This is where the real creative world-building comes in; not every problem should be solved by just having an equally viable magic or tech version of it. Different cultures will value things differently, and exploring that leads to lots of creative worldbuilding and conflict!
- Consider what divisions might exist within societies. There are always subdivisions within groups; not all mages are as powerful, knowledgeable, or experienced as one another. Some subgroups may think themselves superior in some way, and/or might look down upon others within their own circle for all kinds of reasons. No group is a hivemind (unless they literally are); groups are made up individuals!
- Lastly (but possibly most importantly), DON’T GET TOO CAUGHT UP WITH HOW COOL YOUR WORLD IS! Consider exactly what information is relevant to the audience and what interesting ways you can show/explain it. Remember that the focus should generally remain on the characters; there’s nothing wrong with having lots of extra world-building details, but they can bog down the story in minutia if you get too off track! You can always explore and explain deeper lore in side material!