The Science of Magic

Can magic exist without science?

I love that my first post here with the beautiful Spellbound Scribes is part of the magical-theme.  I love that, when I thought about it, I realized don’t do magic very well at all. This is forcing me to take a look at what I do write, and how it relates…because man, when you write paranormal, horror, or sci-fi, no matter what: magic is everywhere.

For me as a writer, magic will always be science-based. Although I love to read about magic that is not (George R.R. Martin is and always will be my hero for his portrayal of Arya and the changing faces at the guild, because the idea of changing my own face to something completely different has always appealed to me), I prefer to think about why something would happen, and how to make it reality-based.  That means that, though I love to read about characters like Pennywise the Clown, I prefer to write someone like the Swamp Thing…because, you know, with a little bit of toxic sludge, or even some Gamma rays, anything can happen.

Swamp_Thing_Dick_Durock
Just look at what toxic sludge can do! Swamp thing! (Photo credit: examiner.com)

Right?

Right.

For me, this meant deciding the zombies created in my first book came from a virus.  This isn’t a new or original way to handle zombies by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the way in which I could take a supernatural creature and ground it in reality. It also gave me a way to establish some rules: zombies don’t live forever, at least not in my world. The virus eventually leaches so much from the body, the body can’t go on. It gives my characters hope for a zombie-free future…and there’s nothing more fun to do when writing than to give your characters hope, and then to shatter it…again, and again, and again.

Keeping my magic based in science also meant writing a novel about a modern-day Frankenstein instead of about a ghost. It meant researching chemicals which could be used to conduct electricity throughout a human body if that body was powered by a central battery instead of a heart.   It meant reading about decay, and how a body would fall apart without constant maintenance and upkeep, assuming that body ran on chemicals instead of food and blood.

chemicals_toxic
Mmmm…I spent a lot of time researching chemicals with THIS for a label

But I do have to face facts: nobody’s coming back to life strictly based on science. There has to be magic at play, even for me, writing sci-fi. There’s a bit of a giant step to take from using plausible chemicals, to having a walking, talking corpse.

And it’s in that blend where I am happiest.  A little bit of science, a lot of supernatural giant steps – it helps me create worlds that I find interesting, and that I am terrified to actually inhabit.

And if you think about it: when Thomas Edison first invented the light bulb, didn’t people think it was magic? Didn’t electricity seem like magic, back when Benjamin Franklin first flew that kite with that key?

And don’t we all need a little more excitement – a little more magic – in our lives sometimes? I know I do.

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6 thoughts on “The Science of Magic

  1. Yay for an awesome first post! Scientific “magic” is awesome because it’s so plausible. I feel the same way about zombies as I do when I read books about genetically altered people. Spooky heebie jeebies, which, of course, is the best feeling in the world. 🙂

  2. Shauna Granger

    Welcome, welcome!

    I fully agree about science being included in magic, especially for sci-fi. I always say, if you want people to believe your fiction, your non-fiction has to be accurate.

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