Monday, May 23, 2016

Space wizards

I picked up a Kindle book the other day, and I've already read half of it.  It was a free sample, but it's only the first of a (so far) nine book series.  Here's a trailer for the series itself.  I should point out that the first novel has been re-titled; instead of being called A Pilot's Pilot it's now Salvage Trouble.

To me, the most interesting thing about it is not that it's being compared to Firefly (which I never watched; and which seems to borrow from a bunch of older tropes anyway.  It felt more like a homebrew Traveller game fiction in some ways to me.) or even Star Wars; rather, it's the admission that given the General and Special Theories of Relativity, faster-than-light travel is impossible (Alcubierre's calculations notwithstanding which violates quantum physics anyway).  Most science fiction writers come up with some kind of handwavey approach to bridge this obvious difficulty, usually by referring obliquely (but without any serious discussion of the science involved) to hyperspace, or some other such standby.

Author J. S. Morin makes an intuitive leap to saying; look, all of those science fictional explanations for how FTL travel are really ascientific.  Let's go all the way and suggest that it is actual magic that makes it happen.  Artificial gravity, FTL travel, etc.—all of it, requires a wizard.  There's no scientific way to do it, so you need someone who already defies science to make it happen.

This cognitive leap isn't really unprecedented.  The Warhammer 40,000 setting has what is basically magic, and wizards and daemons which power their warp space travel.  Although Star Wars uses a semi-science fictional hyperspace explanation, the Jedi are basically space wizards, and Ben Kenobi is even referred to specifically as one in the first movie by Uncle Owen.  In the D&D milieu, from which the author admits to coming, it's even more explicit, with settings like Spelljammer and Dragonstar.

I'm giving serious thought to incorporating a similar idea now into my AD ASTRA campaign setting.  What would this change?  Surprisingly little, except that I may want to incorporate some kind of class that creates a wizard (to serve alongside my psychic ersatz Jedi).

As an aside; the author's homepage:

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