I read an excellent article yesterday talking about “space wizards” in general, and Spock in particular. It got me to thinking about something that’s always seemed obvious to me: there is a fine line between science fiction and fantasy. They’re really two sides of the same coin. Magic and technology – they’re not so different, really. You can make amazing things happen either way. One is usually portrayed with shiny buttons, gadgets, and cool looking space toys. The other is portrayed with wands, natural forces and willpower. But the net effect is the same: things that are out of the norm occur.
The typical hero’s quest story always contains a wise wizard figure. Whether that’s Gandalf, Merlin, Dr. Who, Spock, Yoda, or Dumbledore, they’re always there. Whether they weild the force and a light saber, or wave their magic wand. Whether they cite magical incantations or blurt out technobabble, they serve the same purpose. To guide the young hero towards the big bad to save the world.
I imagine a universe where there are civilations that take both evolutionary paths. Some go down the road of science and technology. Some take up magic. You can travel around the universe in a shiny metal spaceship, a small blue box or just teleport yourself wherever your thoughts can take you. But just because some planets have wizards doesn’t mean that others can’t have spaceships.
Just imagine writing a series of novels where the two co-exist, and maybe even interact for the first time. What happens when the enterprise bumps into Sauron? Or when crashes on a planet and gets kidnapped by elves? There are some very interesting cross-overs that could occur.
Some wizards already blur the line.
Yoda. He lives in a very science-fiction universe. He uses a light saber and flies around in spaceships. Yet he also weilds a magical force that let’s him move things around with his mind, shoot energy fields and lightning bolts from his fingertips, see visions of the future, and commune with the dead.
Q. He (and the entire Q race) live in a very science-fiction universe. But they seem to have magical powers. They snap their fingers and can travel across the universe. They can manipulate time, create alternate realities, wisk things into and out of existince on a whim, and generally alter the fabric of reality all with their mind.
So what is Q, what is Yoda? A wizard? A space wizard? Spock and Dr. Who are more traditional space wizards. They use their extreme intelligence and combine it with technology to do amazing things. Gandalf and Dumbledore are more traditional fantasy wizards who cast spells and use their arcane knowledge to do amazing things.
But in the end, they all serve the same purpose and they’re all wonderful and amazing.