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Science and Sorcery

Entry updated 30 May 2014. Tagged: Theme.

Item of Terminology introduced in this encyclopedia for the genre-blending juxtaposition of sf and Fantasy settings, often presented as Parallel Worlds between which crossings may be made, and distinguished therefore from Equipoisal tales where any "crossings" tend to be integrated into the address of the tale, rather than working as transitions. (This use of crossings is distinct from the very common fantasy trope of access via portal to a world of Magic; such stories normally contain no sf elements.) Examples include Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept sequence, opening with Split Infinity (1980), Stephen R Donaldson's Mordant's Need diptych opening with The Mirror of Her Dreams (1986), and Justina Robson's Quantum Gravity sequence, opening with Keeping It Real (2006). In the first, high Technology is inoperative in the magic world and vice-versa, a convention established in L Sprague de Camp's and Fletcher Pratt's The Incomplete Enchanter (May, August 1940 Unknown; coll of linked stories 1941; vt The Incompleat Enchanter 1979); in the second and third, rather more typically of this subgenre, science and magic can coexist so that futuristic Weapons and a Cyborg heroine continue to function in Donaldson's and Robson's fantasy realms respectively. Elements of science-and-sorcery are also found in the Well of Souls books by Jack Chalker, beginning with Midnight at the Well of Souls (1977) – certain regions of Chalker's Well World being governed by laws of Magic rather than science – and Michael Scott Rohan's Spiral sequence opening with Chase the Morning (1990). In Fred Saberhagen's Empire of the East sequence, beginning with The Broken Lands (1968), Earth itself has been transformed into a fantasy-like world by the agency of a Computer whose influence, among other effects, causes an exploding nuclear fireball to stabilize as a powerful, sentient "demon". The Earth of Roger Zelazny's Jack of Shadows (1971) has ceased rotating: fantasy rules the night side and science the day; the same author's Changeling (1980) features a fantasy-world clash between Technological (imported from our world) and sorcerous mindsets.

The science and sorcery trope appears routinely in Comics. Magic is one of Superman's long-established weaknesses, much exploited by his tiresome prankster foe Mister Mxyzptlk (or Mxyztplk) – introduced in 1944 – who hails from a fantasy "fifth Dimension". More recently, Alan Moore has mixed sf devices (an alternate New York of aircars and science-dependent Superheroes/Villains) with deeply mystical fantasy in the comic series Promethea (1999-2005). This blurring of genres is particularly common in Games, such as Chrono Trigger (1995), Final Fantasy (1987), The Longest Journey (1999), Septerra Core: Legacy of the Creator (1999), Shadowrun (1989) and Torg (1990). [DRL/NT]

see also: Sword and Sorcery; Technofantasy.

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