Magic versus science, references to in fantasy fiction

I sometimes feel like I’m nitpicking with some of the science comments I make about shows, but this is probably a good way to point out the problems with perceptions about science. So, onward.

Once Upon a Time has been fantastic this season, by the way. In one episode, “The Evil Queen”, it did briefly misuse the word science. The Queen gets a magic nullifying bracelet put on her by an enemy. The enemy, in response to her calling it magic: “It’s not magic. It’s science.”

Oh, Once Upon a Time. No, it’s probably not science. Or are you trying to tell me that the magic that the Queen uses has known mechanisms/properties, such that someone could even come up with an idea about how to go about nullifying it? Because if so, then hey, her magic is kind of science too. Science countering magic in a story would make more sense if science was countering known effects of magic, rather than trying to block it from happening. The entire point of magic is that we don’t know how it works. (Magic could also be defined as something that exists in fantasy fiction but not real life, but you can’t apply a meta definition like that in-story without doing crazy stuff to the Fourth Wall).

Borrowed from

Amazingly enough, I’ve come across a magic/science reference that I actually liked before, from the ever amazing Girl Genius. The webcomic did a side alternate world pseudo-Cinderella story. Agatha, the protagonist, fixes her fairy godmother’s broken wand, and the fairy godmother doesn’t understand. Agatha responds, “Any sufficiently analyzed magic is indistinguishable from science.” Much better.

In fact, I’ve heard scientists refer to processes we don’t yet understand as magic. So this statement fits in much better with what I know and what I’ve heard.

Anyone come across any other such references to science in media lately? Or any references you have any questions about?

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2 Responses to Magic versus science, references to in fantasy fiction

  1. Psycho Gecko says:

    The live action movie version of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice made it a point to evoke the idea that magic and science are one in the same somehow. Kind of like science being the slower way that more mundane people can access the same powers.

    There is also this idea of these people in Babylon 5, don’t remember the term they used, but they were considered somewhat similar to mages, even though they were known to use science and technology. It was a literal case of sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from magic, though there was also supposed to be some sort of lesson there about the idea of magic in the universe. Also, they supposedly knew certain words that could make someone fall in love with them and then more words to make them leave without it being hurtful. Might have just been called technomages.

  2. Marie Erving says:

    This is kind of making me wonder, in a world where magic exists and is known to exist, why would the people in that world think that magic is special the way we do? It would be just like some people being more athletic, or naturally better at chess. Some people have magic, some people have double joints. That kind of thing.

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