Magic versus Technology: Setting the Rules for Your Fictional World

Today the terms “fantasy” and “science fiction” are becoming broad, catch-all terms that encompass a wide range of sub-genres. Most people don’t just write fantasy, they write urban paranormal romance or YA epic fantasy. The same with science fiction: there’s everything from space fantasy to steampunk to retro-futurism. This is a good thing, because the person who likes fairytale retellings with a dark urban flair may not be a fan of epic high fantasy. There’s room for all of the sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative sub-genres, and all their mash-ups and cross-overs, too.

But even with all of the genre-crossing, I believe it’s still important to define whether your world is magic-based or technology-based.

This does not mean that anything with magic is automatically fantasy, nor does it mean that anything with technology more advanced than the steam engine is science-fiction. I believe the distinction lies is how the world of the story is governed. More to the point, it’s how you as the writer establish the rules of your world. A magic-based versus technology-based world has more to do with the culture of the characters and how they interact with world around them, and less to do with whether the characters wave magic wands or fly around in space ships. Continue reading

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