Magic versus Science

Occasionally I write essays for my website, and I decided a while ago that I would start posting them here in first-draft form, thereby to get any commentary people feel like providing, before putting them up on the site permanently. So here’s the first attempt at that.

At the World Fantasy Convention this year, there was one panel titled “The God or the Machine?,” which addressed the division (or non-division) of magic or science. It was, hands-down, the best panel I went to that weekend, because it got me thinking, and left me with useful thoughts. I like entertaining panels as much as the next person, but this kind’s even better.

Let me start with the things that I don’t think usefully distinguish magic and science from one another. (Top of the list is Frazier’s approach, where you’ve got magic when you’re a primitive society, religion when you get a little more advanced, and science when you reach the top. But enough about nineteenth-century armchair anthropology.)

I don’t think it’s useful to say that science works within the laws of nature, while magic violates them. Whose laws? What nature? This view takes modern, rationalist Western science as the default, which is problematic not just on our own planet (where there are plenty of people with other opinions) but in invented worlds, where the laws of nature may be whatever the author pleases. “The supernatural” isn’t a word I particularly like; if it exists, how is it not a part of nature, in the non-environmentalist sense? If it doesn’t exist, then doesn’t “the supernatural” really mean “the fake”? Bleh. Sure, magic may violate the laws of scientific nature, but you could just as easily say science violates the laws of magical nature. A dead-end, to my way of thinking.

Then there’s the idea that magic operates by/is a manifestation of will. While there’s some truth to this, I can poke two holes in it. First, a lot of magic systems require more than just will; even David Eddings’ Belgariad is based on the Will and the Word. Usually you need to do something. Second, isn’t there an element of will involved in science, too? “It is by will alone I set my mind in motion,” Piter de Vries says in Dune, but Mentats are human computers more than magicians. I’m also reminded of Apollo 13, when Jim Lovell says, “From now on, we live in a world where man has walked on the moon. And it’s not a miracle; we just decided to go.” Sure, they had to do more than just make the decision; they had to build things and develop technologies and work out mathematical equations. But so do magicians, much of the time. It may not take as many people, as much time and money and experimentation as the space program did, but both of them are based on an element of deciding you want to do something, and then doing what you have to in order to make it happen.

So what are you left with, at this point? Most of the time, we make the distinction based on trappings. If you chalk a circle on the floor, burn herbs, chant arcane mantras, et cetera, then you’re doing magic. If you take measurements and draw graphs and solve equations, then you’re doing science. Or we distinguish them by their effects: demon-summoning and fireball-throwing are magic, while genetic engineering and lasers are science. But I think we can agree that this is a pretty sloppy way to separate the two.

I never had a good answer to the question until Ted Chiang made a comment, during the WFC panel, that turned on the proverbial light-bulb over my head. He was talking about alchemy, which is a classic case of fuzzy distinction between magic and science; it has elements of both, and sort of slipped from one to the other over the course of centuries. What he pointed out was the idea, once common in alchemy (but lost by the time alchemy turned into chemistry), that the process of alchemical transformation was also a transformation of the alchemist, that the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone was also a process of spiritual refinement.

I thought through the real-world magical systems I have any familiarity with, since I’m of the opinion that any division between magic and science ought to hold true in our reality, not just made-up ones. And it seemed to me that every one I could think of includes some kind of element — call it spiritual, call it moral, call it personal — some element that influences the act based on the actor. Who is performing the steps matters, not just based on their knowledge (whether they do things correctly), but based on some more intangible quality. People are born with magical talent. People undergo spiritual training to acquire magical talent. People can only work magic if their hearts are pure (or foul). People form contracts with other entities which grant them the power to work magic.

Science, on the other hand, will work for anybody who knows what they’re doing and has the right equipment.

If you remove that personal element, making the procedure something anyone can do, then you have science, not magic. Even if it doesn’t obey the laws of science as we know them, it’s imaginary or invented science, not magic. Some parts of alchemy didn’t work in the slightest, but that didn’t stop them from being scientific in their approach. And you could write a very passable world where they do work.

I tend to be utilitarian when it comes to theoretical constructs; for me, the test of an idea is whether or not it clarifies things for me that were muddy before. And in this case, it does. I’ve always had an odd relationship to China Mièville’s Bas-Lag novels; theoretically they’re fantasy, and he says things in various places about thaumaturgical energy and the like, but it never felt quite right to me. I like my fantasy, my magic, to have a numinous quality — but lacking a way to codify what I meant about “the numinous,” it was hard for me to say how and why I found it absent in that setting. Looking at it in this light, I can see exactly what I was missing. When parts of Armada are mining ore that they refine to produce that thaumaturgical energy, when the process can be automated and industrialized, divorced from the people involved, then you can call it by magical terms all you like, but it feels like science to me, not magic.

(Whether or not that means I think his novels are SF instead of fantasy is a complicated question, and one for another post.)

This still doesn’t make the line between the two absolutely clear; alchemy, as I’ve said before, is a good example of something that is neither fish nor fowl. It holds more water, though, than any of the approaches I’ve heard bandied about before.

0 Responses to “Magic versus Science”

  1. nconstruct

    This reminds me of a couple of old table tops. Shadowrun and Earthdawn. Those were some damn good dice games.

    • Marie Brennan

      I think this model also goes some way toward explaining why a lot of RPG magic systems don’t do much for me. Because they’re systematized on an OOC level, they often come across as feeling scientific on an IC level, unless the designers have done a good job of promoting the “feel” of the magic beyond its mechanics.

      • nconstruct

        There is always the golden rule: There are no rules and anything can be adapted. Thats how we played and it was very fun indeed.

  2. jamesenge

    Mathematics of Magic

    Lines, circles, scenes and characters:
    ay, these are those that Faustus most desires…

    I know what you mean about wanting a numinous quality in magic, but I don’t know if that feeling is a reliable guide to whether something is magic or science. A gifted writer can make the natural world seem numinous (e.g. Loren Eisley), whereas a talentless writer can make any exhibition of would-be-wonder-working an exercise in soullessness.

    Some forms of mathematics seem inherently numinous to me, particularly geometry. But, of course, there’s a big overlap between math and magic. (See, of course, the famous Pratt/DeCamp novelette whose title I stole for this message, but also the career of Gerbert of Aurillac.)

    As far as literature is concerned, I’d say the division lies simply in possibility: is the action/result possible in the real world or not? If it’s impossible, it’s magic. If it is possible, it’s something else. Vergil’s Aeneas and Homer’s Odysseus both use rituals to enter the world of the dead. But Vergil obviously does not believe in such things, whereas Homer may believe they are at least possible. So Vergil’s Aeneas is using magic in a fantasy world, whereas Homer’s Odysseus is using religious knowledge (I hesitate to call it science) in a possible world.

    I’m not saying this is the only way to look at it, just that it’s the way I do.

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: Mathematics of Magic

      I know what you mean about wanting a numinous quality in magic, but I don’t know if that feeling is a reliable guide to whether something is magic or science.

      Nor do I, which is why I was happy to come up with a more rigorous way of looking at it.

      As far as literature is concerned, I’d say the division lies simply in possibility: is the action/result possible in the real world or not?

      I think I’m too much of an anthropologist for this approach to work for me; I know too well how much people disagree on what’s possible in the real world. I also don’t necessarily know what the writer of a given text believes (which appears to be one of your criteria for evaluation), and as for basing it off what the narrative voice appears to believe . . . plus, the issue of science fiction containing tropes that some scientists might say are impossible, and the habit science has of deciding every so often that it was wrong about what was and was not possible.

      But if it works for you, go ahead; this is definitely a “your mileage may vary” kind of thing.

    • green_knight

      Re: Mathematics of Magic

      is the action/result possible in the real world or not?

      That depends on which corner of reality you inhabit. There are people right now who believe in magic (or various deities) and whose realities contain such things.

      And there is more.

      Take acupuncture. You stick a needle into your foot and a headache goes away. Surely that’s magic?

      If you write about it in theory, it sounds totally absurd, so it must be magic. And yet people do it, and empirical observation (which is just as scientific an approach as the rational one) says that, yes, when you stick a needle _just there_ you get a result that’s theoretically impossible. Until, that is, theory catches up and finds out that it *is* possible, by which time the action becomes science.

      Homeopathy is another branch of ‘magic’ that is on the verge of becoming ‘science’. It turns out that water *is* more complex than previously thought…

      I personally think that homeopathy might _be_ the closest we have to a concept of working magic. You need to be tuned into the system, and you need to approach every case in a highly individualistic manner. A GP, when presented with five persons with exactly the same symptoms will consult his books and come up with the same medicine for each of them, and if it’s the right medicine for one, it’s highly likely to be the right medicine for the others. The homeopath knows that the right remedy for person A is unlikely to benefit the others to the same degree.

      Magic contains a higher degree of failure potential than science. If you push a lightswitch, the light will come on every time. If you call a light with your mind, it might not come.

  3. moonandserpent

    “Science, on the other hand, will work for anybody who knows what they’re doing and has the right equipment.”

    Well so, to be fair, will Magic. While I think that distinction does hold true for fictional real world magical systems, the entire modern Western Ceremonial Tradition (dating back to the 1600’s) or so hinges on repreducability and scientific inquiry. It’s just that sometimes the observer has a huge impact on the results (or perceivable)… like quantum mechanics.

    Personally I’ve always been a subscriber to Schmidt’s Corallary to Clarke’s Law: “Any sufficently advanced magic will be indestinguishable from technology.”

    • moonandserpent

      “In this connection there was also the point that I was anxious to prove that spiritual progress did not depend on religious or moral codes, but was like any other science. Magick would yield its secrets to the infidel and the libertine, just as one does not have to be a churchwarden in order to discover a new kind of orchid. There are, of course, certain virtues necessary to the Magician; but they are of the same order as those which make a successful chemist.” — Al Crowley

      And while I don’t agree w/ scads of what the old man had to say, this is one of those things I pretty solidly agree on.

    • lillornyn

      Personally I’ve always been a subscriber to Schmidt’s Corallary to Clarke’s Law: “Any sufficently advanced magic will be indestinguishable from technology.”

      Funny, I thought I heard you unsubscribing from this just the other day. 😉

      • moonandserpent

        When observed from the outside? Remains true.

      • moonandserpent

        injokes ahoy! (a digression)

        Actually strike that:

        I do still stand by that statement. However, I no longer practice magic as defined by the western ceremonial tradition. Were I someone else, I’d say “There is no such thing as magic. You already know this.”

        But I’m certianly not anyone else 🙂

    • Marie Brennan

      Your start point, of course, coincides with a broader scientific movement. I’m not up enough on my history of the subject to debate details with you, but I will note, at least, that my subjective impression of western ceremonial magic feels very science-y — which is part of why it’s not the tradition that interests me the most. (Just ask Kyle.)

      • mindstalk

        I don’t know much about this stuff, but I have _The Devil’s Doctor_, a book on Paracelsus. The very beginning has some pages on science vs. magic, at least in the sense of 15th century alchemists, noting that the prior scholastics were quite *rational* in the sense of logical, but also very a priori, and science needed the empiricism, and skepticism, of the magicians, who looked for what would work, within a coherent system of Christian natural theology, and would infer occult forces in the sense of hidden forces — just as much of physics and chemistry is hidden to our everyday senses. “credulous skeptic” is a phrase Philip Ball uses of them. We look back and say “those bricks were science, those others were magic” but to those of the time all the bricks were part of one edifice, and without the magical ones the project would have come crashing down.

        So yeah, magic blending into science, with the difference being I guess one of more effective empiricism, and a leaching out of the theology and symbolism — though is that necessity, or simple consequence of the empirical fact that theology and symbolic manipulation weren’t needed/don’t work? Might not be the magic you’re interested in, but if they called it magic, is it useful to rename it?

        I don’t remember all the book; I think it says Paracelsus did talk about what the doctor needed to be like, which might be like your magicians needing to be pure of heart, or refined. OTOH, he may have also said elsewhere that various remedies should Work… clarity and consistency aren’t notable features of his writings.

        • lillornyn

          …simple consequence of the empirical fact that theology and symbolic manipulation weren’t needed/don’t work?

          I don’t know if I’m taking your point correctly or not — but this, to me, is deeply ironic, since on a quantum level almost everything exists as nothing *but* symbolic manipulation. 😉

  4. elizabethcbunce

    This is a really interesting discussion, and you touch on something that has fascinated me since reading William Sanders’s “Going After Old Man Alabama” in THE YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION back in college. This is a story that involves using Native American ritual to effect time travel, and the discussion was: is that science fiction, and what makes it so? My thought was, sure it is. Nobody said the science in SF had to be of the Western variety; the “rituals” in GAOMA are reproduced, by different parties, with the same results. According to the scientific method, that qualifies.

    But you were asking what makes magic magic, not what makes science science (in a literary sense), so I’m stepping down now.

    • Marie Brennan

      It’s both questions, really — what makes science science is its impersonality — what I’m not trying to tackle in this post is what makes fantasy fantasy and science fiction science fiction. (That’s another post.)

  5. nicked_metal

    (linked in by )

    The way I define it, magic is when you know how to produce a result, without knowing how the result is produced. So, by that definition, acupuncture is magic – acupuncturists know how to produce certain results by doing certain things, but the honest ones admit that they don’t know why they get those particular results.

    • mindstalk

      Wouldn’t that make most technology ‘magic’ until sometime into the Scientific Revolution? “If you chew willow bark your headache will go away. I don’t know why.” People knew how to make steel but nothing about carbon atoms.

      As for the original post: how would Circe, Medea, Merlin, or various tribal witches/sorcerers be classified this way?

      • nicked_metal

        People knew how to make steel but nothing about carbon atoms.

        They also conducted all sorts of elaborate religious and magical rites to consecrate a forge. If you read Mircea Eliade’s religious history of the blacksmithing profession, you’ll see that it was a profession strongly associated with magical ability.

        I suppose that you could say ‘invoking a spirit’ means that you have a theory as to how something is done – someone else does it for you if you ask them nicely enough. But since you don’t understand how it is that they do whatever they do, you’re still manipulating power you don’t really understnd, so I think my definition holds.

        Circe, Medea, Merlin, and tribal sorcerors manipulated power that others didn’t understand, but the others accepted the power as real. That’s why those others called them magic workers. Maybe they saw what they did as magic, maybe they saw it as something else.

        • Marie Brennan

          I’m under the impression that there are things even today which scientists haven’t yet got explanations for, but know for sure work. Certainly it’s true in medicine; I’ve been recommended a medication for scar treatment where the dermatologist said flat-out, “this was developed for something else, it also works on scars, we have no idea why but give it a try.” The presence or absence of explanations may simply be a matter of time. Also, it excludes the possibility of magical theory — or else puts all rigorous magic into the domain of science.

          • mindstalk

            Well, ultimately, we don’t have explanations for how quantum mechanics and general relativity work; we have equations which describe what happens, but we can’t say *why*. Even if we manage to unify the two theories, we’ll probably still be left with “this is the way our world works, but it could be some other way…”

            And of course there were the elves of Lorien, going “magic? That’s the deceits of the enemy. We don’t do magic, we just make very good cloaks.” Though I guess they were right, in your sense, if they were applying what they’d been taught of the Music of the Ainur, knowledge anyone could use. Vs. the force-of-will which was the other component of Tolkien’s “magic”, and would be more about innate power.

            “People form contracts with other entities which grant them the power to work magic.” Isn’t forming contracts potentially something “anyone could do”?

            I’d agree with Bas-Lag being arguably fantastic science; probably also much of the magic of Discworld. McKinley’s magic often seems a lot more numinous and wilful, though that might be due to the ignorance of characters such as Aerin and Harry.

          • Marie Brennan

            Contracts are a fuzzy case, depending on the nuances of how you represent it. If it’s the sort of case where you summon a demon and control it by your power and force of will, then not everybody could do it; even if they know how to get the demon there, they don’t have the innate qualities it takes to get a benefit from it. If it’s a simple matter of an exchange (I give you blood/one small child every year/my soul, you give me eternal youth/super strength/some other form of power), then the magical result is actually the demon’s doing, not yours, and power is something which comes from demonic nature. But then there’s the question of how you got the demon there in the first place.

          • nicked_metal

            I don’t believe in a particularly clear line between magic and science, which certainly informs my definition.

          • moonandserpent

            The current “sleeping pills for coma patients” thing is a good example. As is “LSD cures cluster headaches/migranes”. These things work but no one knows why, yet.

            Another favourite quote:

            “The problem for scientists is that they are observing and trying to describe effects due to something which they refuse to believe can exist. The problem for magicians is that they refuse to believe that the effects they create or observe could be due to something for which equations could be written”- Peter Carroll

          • lillornyn

            Okay, that quote I like. Word. 😉

  6. dsgood

    There have been stories in which magic turns out to really be science-based technology. And at least one (Evelyn E. Smith’s “The Martian and the Magician,” I think) in which a throwaway background detail is that “scientific” technology is really based on magic.

    So far, I haven’t seen any stories in which both are true: what we think is science is magic, what we think is magic is science.

    • Marie Brennan

      Pern’s a fine example of the former; until she explained the dragons with genetic engineering, they looked like pretty standard magical creatures.

  7. 1st_law

    Sorry if I’m intruding. I was just browsing LJ when I can across your interesting discussion.

    I think the primary distinction between magic and science is magic relies on meaning as far a humans are concerned.

    A magician might recite an incantation. The words used may be fixed and might be in a particular language but they have a definite meaning. They aren’t random sounds which just happen to be in the range of human vocalization.

    A magician might specify the area of effect of a spell with a ritual circle or rely on some symbolic relationship to define the effect or the subject of the ritual. These are meanings that are given to their actions by human (or possibly human like intelligence). Similarly if you’re going to implore some other entity for aid you have to communicate with it.

    In science things are fundamentally without meaning. An electron just is. It has a number of ways it interacts with other electric charges but that’s it. There is no symbolic meaning behind the fact an electron is attracted to a proton, it just is. This gives you atoms which have no meaning or purpose either. The way atoms interact give you all of chemistry and biology and life itself but at no stage in the process does any of it mean anything. It’s just stuff that happens.

    We use maths to describe it but the maths has no meaning either. Maths is just a the study of self consistent logical systems, we just pick the ones that seem to apply.

    As you say both might have repeatable results that can be incorporated into theories about how the universe works but magic is the more human centered approach as only humans (or possibly spirits with human like intelligence) can give it meaning.

    • Marie Brennan

      If I didn’t want passers-by to show up, I would have locked the post. Welcome!

      What you’re describing touches on the post I’ll make at some future date, about distinguishing fantasy and science fiction (and also horror). Like all such attempts, it isn’t perfect, but the short form is: if the universe (whether in the person of gods or whatever) is, as a general rule, benevolently inclined toward humanity, then it’s fantasy. If the universe is disinterested and neutral, it’s science fiction. And if the universe is malevolent, then it’s horror.

      • wordweaver

        What if the universe is interested in humanity, but neither benevolently, malevolently or neutrally inclined?

        • Marie Brennan

          I’d be curious to know what stories you feel represent that setup. Much science fiction tends to inhabit an atheistic universe, but you could also have a god who just doesn’t feel inclined to intervene, or who intervenes according to whims that don’t favor certain outcomes over others.

          Perhaps it might be more correct to say that in fantasy, good is privileged; in horror, evil is privileged; and in science fiction, there aren’t any inherent moral judgements (though the characters may certainly make judgements of their own). I’m still chewing on the right way to phrase what’s in my head.

  8. mildmannered

    This is brilliant. Rosenbaum’s Corrolary: “Any sufficiently debased magic is indistinguishable from technology.” This is exactly what I was thinking about.

    It also reminds me of Sturgeon’s classic “A way of thinking,” where the protagonist happens upon the one voodoo doll that really works, whether or not you believe in voodoo…

  9. prosewitch

    I think you’re on to something with the sometimes-enforced division between who is doing and what is being done. In science, the scientific method prevails: results can be gotten in a certain way that must be empirically documented, able to be reproduced under the right conditions, and so on. Basically, the scientist is supposed to be objective–at a distance, separated from whatever he/she is observing.

    Thus, in magic–to extend this heuristic–the process is more subjective. The magic-user or -doer may have internal qualities that must come into play for the magic to work, or the magician must make a sacrifice, or be willing to be affected, or… something. The self/Other divide is less absolute. It gets tricky, of course, because scientists *do* give of themselves when they study or create things, even if it’s simply giving of their time and energy. But due to the scientific method, I don’t think they go into the process expecting to be changed, whereas I think that magic practically demands transformation of its users and makers. I’d link that trait to the numinous, the sense of mystery that effaces boundaries of self and Other, but now I’m rambling my way into another way of defining magic…

    • Marie Brennan

      Ooh, I like the addition of objective/subjective. Must chew on that some more.

      • lillornyn

        I think the problem with this binary is that as one approaches modern quantum physics, even the scientist is more prone to ask “What objectivity?” You simply *cannot* observe “at a distance, separated from whatever he/she is observing” — the very act of observation changes, well, everything.

        We can talk a lot about how magic (or magical technology, or whathaveyou) is approaching something more akin to science these days — but really, I think science is just as quickly becoming something more akin to magic. 😉

  10. houseboatonstyx

    Just a quick comment…. In FRP terms, I’d say that if an artifact can be alignmment-specific, then it’s Magic*. If it works for Good or Evil characters alike, then it’s Techno.

    But I’d take it further, and say that a magic event depends not just on the alignment (attitude, motives, etc) of the user — but is also connected into the larger moral or karmic or destined situation.

    *Or has a magic trigger, or someone has put a spell on it. 🙂

    • Marie Brennan

      Or has a magic trigger, or someone has put a spell on it.

      Indeed. There’s some partially technologized magic in Doppelganger — spells originally cast by individuals who possess the necessary personal qualities, but imbued into objects that can be used by anybody who knows how.

  11. eclectician

    I’m currently reading Charles Stross’ The Atrocity Archive, which takes science and magic and twists them together in interesting ways.

    What he winds up with is science – consistent methods, objectively obtainable results, but a science whose methods are so intimately bound with things we might consider universally morally objectionable (human sacrifice, torture), that you wonder, for all that the process is detached and objective, whether it can really be detached from the character of the practicioner.

    N.B. The book is consciously based o the structure of a technothriller, and so may do unhappy things to your gender alarms. That said, it’s much better than the other Stross I’ve read.

    • Marie Brennan

      Dr. Mengele was a scientist. One can be immoral with one’s science, without the result of said science depending on one’s morality.

      • eclectician

        What he pointed out was the idea, once common in alchemy (but lost by the time alchemy turned into chemistry), that the process of alchemical transformation was also a transformation of the alchemist, that the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone was also a process of spiritual refinement.

        What I’m getting at is the idea that science can affect you too. Think of the classic falling into dark magic, and apply the same slow moral conversion as increasingly repulsive scientific procedures become increasingly justifiable.

        Sure, the moral position might not be an integral part of the procedure, but when the abyss stares back and starts affecting you, it doesn’t matter if you think of the abyss as a black hole.

  12. diony

    introducing myself

    Hi there! I wandered over from , was happily fascinated by this post, and after perusal added you to my reading list. I am introducing myself as requested in your profile. I don’t know your fiction, but am putting it on my Big Big List of things to read when the semester is over.

    I think this distinction between science/magic is going to be very helpful for some pieces of the novel I am trying to write.

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: introducing myself

      Good to meet you! (I just put up that request in my profile today, so it’s good to know it’s serving its purpose.)

      Your comment about your novel just made me think that I may have handed myself the key to improving a novel I wrote some time ago that still isn’t where I want it to be. The first draft stank on ice; the second is better, but I said to my agent, and she agrees, that it isn’t ready to see print (or even editors) yet. One of the problems has to do with the world, and I think paying attention to this distinction might help me out. So thanks for the assist on that lightbulb. 🙂

  13. snickelish

    Another introduction

    Hello! We’ve met through (I’m the Sarah who was commenting on your creative writing class).

    This distinction between magic and technology would seem to divy up fantasy and SF rather differently than usual. Perhaps a lot more of what we call fantasy might be safely considered, er, something else under this definition. You mention China Mieville. Another good example would be Ted Chiang’s “Seventy-Two Numbers,” although I think people have been defining that one as science fantasy all along, anyway.

    • Marie Brennan

      Re: Another introduction

      Nice to see you here! 🙂

      One of the things to consider, I think, if you use this as a means of drawing genre boundaries, would be whether the works that end up switching sides are ones that people have always found kind of borderline anyway (like Mieville).

  14. Anonymous

    Interesting thread. You wrote that a division of science and magic based on real-world possibility doesn’t work for you because you’re “too much an anthropologist.” I guess my question is, as an anthropologist, do you see a division between science and magic as being a universal one, cross-culturally, or are these very concepts and any potential division between them characteristic of a particular set of cultural beliefs?

    • Marie Brennan

      The question of its universality is a complicated one, since “science” tends to mean “Western science” pretty specifically, and therefore is already grounded in a particular constellation of related cultures. I do think this applies well for the division between Western science and magical paradigms from around the world, but my anthropology fu is insufficient, I’m afraid, to let me make any confident statements about non-Western scientific paradigms.

  15. Anonymous

    I know Belloc’s in it. I remember reading something that said the script is going to make him related to Indy… which I hope isn’t true, because that would be unbearably lame.

    I’m a bit leery, too… I loved the original movies, and I’d hate to see a Star Wars prequel scenario happen. It might be fantastic, though. We’ll have to see.

  16. Anonymous

    Not certain if you are still looking for something, but you might try Nox Arcana’s “Gregorian Hymm” from their Winter’s Knight album. I am not sure if it is heavy enough on the bells for you but it is certainly ominous.

    ITunes has the album and you can listen to a sample.

    Hope this helps.

  17. Anonymous

    That’s awesome! (Also, I live up the road from the real version! It does not normally feature GIANT SANTA; at least not ever when I’ve cycled over it.)

  18. Anonymous


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