sci-fantasy

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!

Either explain it or don’t.

When authors include things that don’t fit within the real world–magic, time travel, anachronisms–there is an impulse to explain how it works. Which can be fantastic for worldbuilding, but if you don’t know what you’re talking about, it can make more problems than it solves.

Stephenie Meyer tried to explain some bizarre thing about chromosomes, and it made the biology of vampires and werewolves make no sense. Suspending disbelief worked better in that case before she tried to ground it in the real world.

Lemony Snicket, on the other hand, just has random anachronisms that are never explained, but because there’s nothing even close to resembling an attempt at an explanation, we can just shrug and go, okay, that’s how it works. The magic in Harry Potter seems to basically not be grounded in anything, but we can believe it within the context of the story because she doesn’t try to ground it in anything.

In Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera, on the other hand, he goes into a lot of magic theory, and it gives us a strong feeling of worldbuilding. There’s enough logically coherent explanation for it to feel grounded within itself.

It is possible to go too far (see: Orson Scott Card’s Xenocide and Children of the Mind) where the plot ends up so tied in the reader understanding intricately detailed scientific and pseudo-scientific minutiae that the story is incomprehensible without it.

Generally, though, if you’re going to make something up, either say it exists and leave it at that, or entirely figure out how it works. Halfway is always less believable than nothing at all.

While we’re having a lot of lovely discourse on here about how Joss Whedon writes heroines and how people in general write heroines based on the leaked WW script, I’ like to actually address another part of the problem: how you write the dudes in the story. Because the guys will inevitably interact with the heroine and therefore their writing has an effect on how the film views her.

“Feminist Fantasy” is a term I sometimes see used to describe fantasy/sci fi/supernatural stories that have powerful female characters. Thing is, feminist fantasy, much like feminist theory, evolves as time goes on. What would still be acceptable as FF back in the 90s may come across as cliche or even regressive today because opinions change as time goes on. And that’s a huge part of why the leak WW script rubs people the wrong way, especially how the guys act and how they impact Diana’s role.

The idea of “prove the boys wrong” is one that has been done to death since my childhood. It’s a typical plot or subplot. Girl wants to do X thing, boys say she can’t since she’s a girl, girl proves boys wrong, boys learn their lesson. Here’s the thing: that is no longer feminist fantasy. Because that is real life for so many women, having to constantly prove themselves to men over and over and still be looked over next time due to being a woman and have to do it all over again. Feminist Fantasy has moved into the realm of Fury Road and Wonder Woman 2017–where the woman never has to “prove” anything, at least not to the men on her side. She’s accepted as a capable human without a whole arc proving herself such.

Max never questions Furiosa or even the wives because they are women. The times he does argue or question are purely logistical and have nothing to do with belittling them or asserting his preconceived superiority as a man–he’s usually just checking the plan. While Capable does comfort Nux, it’s Nux who proves himself to the wives by getting the rig rolling again. While Nux learns to see them as people, the onus is not on the wives and other women to make that happen. Steve only offers the barest concern for Diana being a woman, mostly just related to how she dresses in London. Other than that his main issue is the Ares thing which he does not ever use to declare Diana naive and in fact it’s noted in-universe that she may even have a point before Ares shows up. He doesn’t just humor her about Ares, its treated more as a conclusion he disagrees with but can’t prove wrong so they simply operate based on their differing conclusions (Diana’s of “Ludendorf is Ares” and Steve’s of “idc if he is or not we’ve got to stop the chemicals”) until the Ares question becomes unavoidable. The other men similarly don’t belittle Diana or creep on her, the most we get is Sameer’s “ both frightened… and aroused ” joke when she beats a guy up and Sameer jokingly commenting on wanting to see her island.

How the men act is important compared to the WW 06 script, because the 06 script is much more regressive. Both the heroic and villainous men act like creeps and belittle Diana, sexualize Diana, lecture Diana. Essentially, guys treating Diana badly is a thing both the bad guys and the good guys do and she just has to deal with it. Which is just shit, from a feminist perspective. The idea that the guys who are heroes are going to treat women as badly (or even just almost as badly) as the bad guys and the only difference is the heroic guys are the ones who change their minds when she “proves herself” is really, really old. It’s simultaneously discouraging to women and insulting to men by saying that all men are pigs and women just have to deal with that, and it’s the “strong” women who do and change the mind of the “good” men…who are still going to be pigs but maybe less so towards you since you proved yourself. The idea of a guy who’s not a pig is not a thing.

Feminist Fantasy has moved beyond that. Feminist Fantasy is no longer where women are able to constantly prove men wrong–it’s when they don’t have to prove men wrong before being taken seriously as people. Because that shows a future, a past, a world where a woman can simply be accepted as a potential expert, or a warrior, or whatever else the character is doing without having to “prove” it to any man in the vicinity because that still places the men as having power over her. It’s not that they can’t prove men wrong–some still will sometimes and all of them could if directly challenged to–it’s that they don’t have to. Guys who are on their side simply accept that yeah, a woman can be that badass while guys who aren’t on their side, well the opinions those guys have a) don’t matter as much and b) because they’re the bad guys, she’s more focused on stopping their plans than proving her worth to them.

Women having to “prove” ourselves more than men before being taken seriously is not aspirational fantasy anymore–it’s where we are, more often than not. The fantasy is that we only have to prove ourselves to the same degree as any man written in the same situation would, and be treated equally to them. We already know the real world is not there yet (see every “Rey is a Mary-Sue compared to Luke and Anakin” argument ever) but the idea that escapist fiction can’t be a bit ahead of the curve on that should be eyeroll inducing at this point.

youtube

This is the first “Trailer” for our fantasy world. We’ll be doing mostly animation to start with, but this is a little taste of what live action could look like if we find the budget for it!