MAGIC AND MACHINES

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Arthur C Clark gave us this thought and I like it.

At a very low level, stage magicians with the ‘sawing someone in half’ trick or the ‘disappearing person from the box’ trick use a manipulation of mechanics to give the appearance of supernatural powers and channeling the beyond. We can consider the daily lives we all lead through the lens of someone with no knowledge of how cars and phones etc function and it’s easy to imagine that they could fall down on the side of witchcraft.

So it made me think, a dangerous proposition I know but, when I write, where should the lines potentially be drawn in terms of magical powers or technology?

I’m working on a short(ish) story about a future set space adventure but having looked into a great chunk of the science we have available as a species, I’m effectively making things up in terms of the machines, but who’s to say that in the future, some of what I’m making up doesn’t come to be? We’ve all seen the technology which was used in Star Trek which now exists in reality. Hyposprays and hand held communicators were the stuff of science fiction back in the early sixties but here we are in 2015 and almost everyone has a mobile phone and all those phobic of needles have an easier way to have a ‘jab’.

The number of inventions which have come about because people looked beyond where we are at any given moment in our history is gargantuan. In fact, it has to be all of them. Someone has always had to push the boundaries when it comes to what we all have in our daily lives.

Deep space travel is currently limited by many factors meaning we can only reach so far away from our planet, at least in person, and indeed our technology still hasn’t traveled that much further. But, five hundred years ago, the thought of supersonic air travel, in fact flight in general, was nothing more than science fiction, yet today we can easily jump on a plane and travel close to the speed of sound, through the thin air all the way up there without asphyxiating, freezing or just suffering death in general. What could we do in five hundred years time?

Another of Arthur C Clark’s laws is “The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible,” and that just shows that everyone could make up the great idea which pushes the envelope. One idea from a story could be something which fires the mind of a particular person to actually build it.

The ideas in so many stories are so outlandish to many but you never know, there may be one little object or system which could be the vital part of advancing the human race, just nudging someone in the right direction to then do all the hard work. Having read my own story about space, it would be interesting if any of those things come true.

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CHOICE

Think of a number.

Now multiply that number by two.

Now add ten to your total.

Now divide that total by two.

And finally, subtract the first number you thought of from your current total.

Using the immense magical power I can wield through the connections of the internet I can divine that you have been left with …………………. 5!

Yes, yes, I will be willing to sign autographs but I’m sorry that I won’t be able to just perform further feats of amazing mind reading.

It sounds good doesn’t it? Of course, whatever number you start with in this chain will deliver the same result and that’s the point. The first question is offering you a choice, giving you the chance to start a situation from wherever you want without the other side being able to influence you in any way.

But.

Regardless of what choice you make, you’re going to end up in the same place.

This is something that I’ve had to have in mind when I’m putting the stories together.

I have an idea where I want to go in the narrative, drawing a loose map of the route I’m going to follow to arrive at the final destination, but I have to always make sure that I’m not slavishly forcing characters and situations into the wrong size boxes just to make sure I end up where I first thought.

I have found myself needing to dive back into what I’ve put together either in the planning stage or in the draft of the book to amend details because the characters need to be doing the opposite to be able to maintain who they are. If you imagine any of the characters from your favourite books suddenly doing something which is completely out of character just to advance the story, it drags you out of the story and you don’t believe what’s going on. I certainly feel that way if I come across this.

So what are the choices I make when I write?

I need to decide who says and does what. Where things happen and why.

So I have the ultimate power over all of the detail of the narrative. I can make everyone and anyone dance to my will. Can’t I?

I can make any choice but the rules surrounding who I’m working on are always there. My choices are curtailed each and every word as I write. I have to make sure that I keep control of what I’m saying to keep the word train on the tracks. My choices are things that have to be controlled.

And that’s the way for all of us.

We have choices offered to us all the time. The easy ones like what channel to watch on the TV all the way through the best and worst ends of the spectrum. And it’s these choices that keep the narratives out there interesting. Will the hero cut the red or blue wire? Will the child chose to open the door? Will the killer turn left or right? As a reader of the books out there, we all wonder over these things as they unfold. We are dragged into the tension and we can enjoy what’s going on but only if we believe the choices being made are consistent.

So, all in all, we all have every choice open to us but we all function within a framework which will draw us in certain direction. I just have to make sure that all the characters I make up do the same thing.

It’s not easy.

And I chose to do it!!!!