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 Science Fiction vs Fantasy in Weird Fiction 
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Joined: Mon Jul 23, 2012 12:04 am
Posts: 17
A sort of general note on a place where I respectfully disagree with our esteemed podcasters. There's frequent reference in the casts to the distinction between Science Fiction and Fantasy in stories particularly how that ends up boiling down in terms of things like magic or science, gods or aliens. But I'm not clear why that split is something we should be assuming exists.

Particularly with respects to the Gods/Aliens of Smith they may be aliens in the sense of being from planets remote from Earth who then traveled here, but why does that mean they aren't gods? The various cosmic Buddhas of Buddism such as Aksobyha and Amitabha mostly inhabit remote worlds with strange laws, but they are also objects of veneration. They aren't gods in the sense of being a Judeo-Christian deity, but Tsathoggua wouldn't seem too out of place in many real world mythologies. Alien also at times seems insufficient to beings that are often as far beyond us as we are beyond ants.

With respect to magic, Lovecraft wrote a story that took as one of its primary conceits that contemporary (in the 20s) mathematics was, literally the same thing as the spells of witches, leading to a character experiencing a journey to a remote world. (Dreams in the Witch House). Thus also the wizardy of Eibon is understood as wizardry since strange creatures from the stars are as much its domain as ones from "hells."*

Further one of the influences that stands over these Weird stories are the cosmological visions of the Theosophical Society which saw itself as bringing science and religion back together as a single integrated field of knowledge. When I read of the scientists of Voyage to Sfanamoƫ, I see a vision of an Ancient world where that lore also held. I envision that the Poseidonian list of sciences probably included Alchemy, Numerology, Geomancy, and the like. Especially since, in the real world, the idea of science (as opposed to natural philosophy or occult disciplines like alchemy or trades like clockmaking) is an early modern development.

*On an irrelevant note I am reminded that in an early issue of the Silver Surfer, a group of dabblers in magic accidentally summon Abomination (A creature that is a product of Gamma Radiation like the Hulk, but totally awful) out of an alien zoo ship with their magic.


Sun Mar 17, 2013 5:18 pm
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Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:15 am
Posts: 58
I think it's a given that, if Picard and crew were to fire up the Enterprise and shoot back in time to ancient Rome or Egypt, their technology would see them lauded as gods. In other words, their technological know how and skills would look like nothing less than magic. One of the most intriguing ideas concerning alien visitations is that these "aliens" are, in fact, us, only from the future.

As far as "bringing science and religion" together, this was merely a literary device. I can't think of any writer of weird tales who was seriously involved in "the occult". The fact of the matter is that ancient theurgy simply has no basis in fact, i.e., it doesn't work. This doesn't change the fact that plenty of ancient philosophers, theologians, scientists, and medical practitioners thought otherwise. It simply means that they were mistaken. Modern science and religion are diametrically opposed in their methods and aims precisely because of the recognition that they simply no longer share a single vision of physics (what the world is composed of and how it works).


Wed Mar 20, 2013 11:35 pm
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Joined: Thu Jul 12, 2012 11:52 pm
Posts: 28
Snoop D. Doom wrote:
I can't think of any writer of weird tales who was seriously involved in "the occult".


Arthur Machen and The Golden Dawn.


Sat Apr 20, 2013 9:09 pm
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Joined: Wed Aug 15, 2012 6:17 am
Posts: 35
Algernon Blackwood, Wm. Butler Yeats, also Golden Dawn alums.


Thu Sep 18, 2014 2:50 am
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Joined: Mon Jul 09, 2012 9:02 am
Posts: 52
Hmmm. Surely the distinction of Science Fiction is it's emphasis on science: a man travelling to Mars is Fantasy because it's not something that actually happens in the real world (at least, not as such) -- if he travels on a magic carpet -- that's Weird, but for it to be Science Fiction he needs to go in a spaceship because spaceships conform to the laws of physics. Of course the Sci-Fi sub-division is not hard and fast -- faster-than-light travel goes against physics as it currently is, but is a requirement of narrative. However, true Science Fiction rather than Science Fantasy tries to extrapolate from real science. If the fiction is unconcerned with this mechanic, then it's probably not Sci-Fi. In fact most of what is called Sci-Fi is Science Fantasy -- "Star Wars" is the prime example, but you can point to "Doctor Who" and others to see that scientific accuracy is not and issue and is often violated.

If Picard and crew were to fire up the Enterprise and shoot back in time to ancient Rome or Egypt from their prospective its Science Fiction/Fantasy as there is a future science that allows then to go back in time. From the prospective of the Egyptians or Romans its straight Fantasy because a bunch of magic men have appeared from nowhere.

Take Poul Anderson's "The High Crusade". In this novel an alien spaceship crashes in medieval England. The locals take the aliens as devils, destroy them, take the space ship and travel to "heaven" to spread Christianity through the stars with fire and sword! It's a Sci-Fi novel because the reader is made clear that these are aliens and spaceships, but to the medieval characters, these are devils and sky ships.


Thu Jan 22, 2015 6:53 am
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