I talked last Sunday about science engaging with the supernatural in fiction and the worldbuilding stuff that can be generated from that. In this article I’m going to talk about the opposite end of that spectrum. The supernatural engaging with science. This is where I bring up Alchemy. Now, historically alchemy was a branch of natural philosophy which was sort of a forerunner of what we today call science. The main purpose of the alchemist was to purify, mature and perfect certain forms of matter.
The transmutation of base metals, a process also known as chrysopoeia. The creation of remedies that can cure any disease. The creation of elixirs that can bestow immortality. The creation of an alchemical Magnum Opus that could purify the body and soul. The mythical Philosopher’s Stone was said to be able to achieve all of these projects could this matter be located or produced. Both islamic and european alchemists developed basic laboratory techniques, theories and terms from all this, some of which are still in use til’ this very day.
The late medieval alchemy played a key role in the development of modern science, particularly in the field of chemistry and medicine. All this sounds quite amazing taking in that some of these things that we take for granted today came from a philosophy that made so many of its projects sound like a very think-think form of abrakadabra. Which is why it to me feels like it could, particularly in the world of fiction, be translated into a scientific form of magic.
This I feel becomes all the more clear in works such as Full Metal Alchemist. I haven’t read the entire manga series, but I did read a few of the first volumes of it back in the day. Set in a steampunk-like world where goverment employed alchemists have the ability, with the help of patterns called transmutation circles, to create almost anything they desire, provided that they possess something of equal value in accordance to the Law of Equivalent Exchange.
And so we get these epic alchemical battles with the main protagonis, Edward Elric, transmutating his surroundings as weaponry from that. Teamed up by his brother who is spiritually fused to a near invulnerable metal armor. It is essentially magic, but with a heavy logic attached to it. It’s ”magitech”, like Usedbooks coined it in her comment on the last article, bringing up JRPG:s where they have modern machines that is powered by some kind of spirit force instead of plain electricity .
And just like with science incorporating the weirdness of magic, I believe it is a concept that has the potential of generating tons of cool stuff and thinky-fluff. Like another example: The Science Fantasy tabletop RPG Numenera, and its world full of nanites that certain beings in that universe can tap into and control, making technology so advanced in that world that it is indistinguishable from magic. I’ll close this off by bringing up an example of how I intend to use scientific magic myself in my own works.
In my comic Imsies: the Imthology there is going to be a story involving a race of Imsies that takes these cute, little rock-shaped imsies and magically transforms them into spiritual augmentations and prostethics that they replace their original bodyparts with. The rock-imsies still being alive and now fused to another entity. They also have this magical process where they take out a fellow kindred imsie’s essence of being, his/her soul if you will, and places it in a body that is a ragdoll made out of sown together cloths, and this ragdoll imsie is thenafter part of a servant race of ragdoll imsies serving that imsie race. And with that I rest my case.
So what do you guys think of it all? Is magic with some kind of crazy science attached to it a thing that appeals to you, or does it sound like bogus? Have you incorporated magitech (Or mathemagic) into your worldbuilding perhaps?
Let me know in the comments. And also let me know if any of you have found or invented the philosopher’s stone yet, and we’ll use it to transmutate the stupidity of the world of today into a brighter future.
Andreas_Helixfinger at 12:00AM, March 20, 2022
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