Dragonsplat: Who Wins? Technology or Magic?



At FantasyCon 2014, an astute panelist brought up an idea that I’ve thought about from time to time but haven’t given serious consideration to … at least not in terms of writing a new book.  The idea is to pit technology against fantasy.  I explore that somewhat in Moon 514 … and I’m not the first to do so.  As the above image shows, the idea isn’t exactly new.  However, the idea hasn’t been explored thoroughly.  Comedy blog posts ask if Mr. Scotty were fighting Valdemort, who would win? or Superman versus Batman: Who Wins?  But no one seems to have taken the question to its logical extremes.

I’m writing a new book entitled Unproven.  In the book, I’m tackling the question head on and I’ve found it to be quite dicey … but that is only because I want the fantasy race to win this particular competition.  The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that technology would probably win the race unless the magical culture was much far advanced in what they could do.  Mr. Scotty wins because the phaser is faster than the wand.  The dragons arrival is announced long ahead of time by satellites or sonar or something.  Batman wins because Superman is allergic to magic.  But these are only representative examples.  What do you think?  Who wins: technology or magic?


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2 Responses

  1. A major consideration in such a contest is the limits of the magic and technology in question. I think there is a tendency to view technology as practical, because most of our technology was made to serve a specific purpose as efficiently as possible. This may make technology seem more powerful. Magic on the other hand is such a big topic, and there are so many different theories about it, that is can often be considered more mysterious than practical. For this reason spells seem slow and cumbersome, and thus less powerful. But when looked at from another perspective magic is not just cumbersome technology, it instead determines the rules of the contest itself. My view always weighs in favor of Magic because magic is more like destiny. It is an infinite and inexplicable force. Against such power all attempts to fight it only lead ever more powerfully to their self fulfillment. The words of the oracle cannot be revoked by money or power. If Caesar, even with all his wealth and power, could not change his fate, why would his having a laser gun make any difference? So if the contest is simply if a magician or a starship can make a fireball faster then we are missing the essential difference between technology and magic: Technology is physical affects brought about by physical principles, magic either forms the basis of the laws of physics or bends them to its will. Against a power which can alter or supersede the laws of the physical universe upon which the technology is based such technology would be of no use at all.

  2. True enough – I’ve considered some of these thoughts as well … but they may still beg the questions of how long does it take to make the magic work and how advanced is the technology? For instance, if the technology allows for attacks from unseen satellites, the magic system has no possible way of even knowing an attack is coming – nor would the mages know the nature of the weapon attacking them to properly mount some sort of defense. For example, if their magical force field can stop any solid, organic projectile, they may not need advanced warning that an attack is coming … unless the satellite attack sends a laser beam or plasma beam. Valdemort can only stop Scotty’s beam if his magic is fast enough to block any incoming projectile. On the other hand, if Valdemort needs zero preparation time, Mr. Scotty is in a world of hurt (apart from children’s fairy tales though, most all magic systems require some degree of preparation and/or thought before they materialize). The curse example you offered was the “first strike” so their was no time for Caesar to respond before it was too late. If you fought a spaceship against a magician and they both fired at the same time, the magician still takes the damage from the fireball even if he disintegrates the spaceship unless he has instantaneous defense against all projectiles … a rare talent that is typically only found in younger children’s magic systems. Hence, my befuddlement…

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