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NOW the last one. Can I get to bed before 1 a.m. before the day with three programming items? Why am I doing this, anyway? (Because if I don't know it won't get done and I have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility. Alas.)

Erik Amundsen, David Bowles, Rosemary Kirstein, Naomi Novik (leader), Nnedi Okorafor
Specialized and secret fields of knowledge create barriers to understanding and can become mechanisms of cultural control. They can also be foundations for resistance. They can support or destroy communities and instill gratitude or resentment. All these things could be said of both magic and science, and the wielders thereof. The tradition of pitting magic and science against each other goes back to Tolkien's anxieties about industrialization, but today's speculative works have moved beyond it to recognize that the two can coexist and are often used similarly as metaphors. We'll examine Guest of Honor Naomi Novik's mix of historical technology and dragons, Guest of Honor Nnedi Okorafor's mix of futuristic technology and sorcery, and other successful amalgamations and integrations.

Intros: Erik: when use magic & science, throw into salad, more interested in texture than saying anything profound (chewy bits, crunchy)

David: Mexican-American, upbringing was suffused with belief in shamanism & magic, side-by-side w/science, interested in exploring as writer. further informed by studies of indigenous Meso-American beliefs and history, where (someone whose name I missed b/c someone came in room) was engineer and warrior and (philosopher?), all at once.

(David says on Twitter that "The figure I mentioned at first was King Nezahualcoyotl, who was a tlamatini or knower of things.")

Naomi: one of things likes to do in work is use tech & science either overtly or intuitively,for self, to make easier for modern-day reader to swallow the magic. Ex Temeraire, tried to make tech used on/around dragons realistic to the period, to make suspension of disbelief easier

Nnedi: difference between magic & the mystical, blurry to me, always will be; refers to own work in terms of mystical, embodies both existing belief systems and things creating in fiction. scientific & mystical co-exist for me, always do, so don't think in terms of blending; writing African SF, part of definition, that co-existence of mystical + mundance + technological in same story. Not taking things seen as separate to bring together.

Rosemary: Steerswoman series, close to heart because seem to write fantasy but actually writing SF. Sufficiently advanced tech etc. but have nothing against actual fantasy in science fiction!

Naomi: favorite examples, inspirations?

Erik: though weakest of series, Peake's third Gormenghast book introduces lot of seemingly high-tech elements into what seemed much lower-tech setting. Series taking swerve 2/3 way through, made it more interesting & grabbed waning attention

David: Latinx SFF near to heart, one comes to mind is INK by Sabrina Vourvoulias, control via tech + indigenous magic being used to keep practitioners safe, very powerful blend especially with regard to current political anxieties. Also recs HIGH AZTECH by Ernest Hogan, futuristic blend of tech & Meso-American mythology.

Naomi: Aliette de Bodard's Obsidian and Blood trilogy

Nnedi: Octavia Butler, WILDSEED. Tech used to heal protag, so close and organic almost seemed like magic. KINDRED, time travel presented almost like magic, no explanation, see the fluidity of it, could be labeled multiple ways. Magic as unknown as well as future tech. (I am not actually sure what that last sentence means now, sorry)

Erik: have term "automagically" for stuff don't need to know how to explain, just happens

Naomi: buy wand at World of Harry Potter, move in specific pattern at designated places and feather moves (infrared character tracking reflector in tip) tech to create illusion of magic; why do I think that moving wand is magic, and IR camera is science, when all part of same system? we've been taught to think of science as bright lights, hard; lush carved piece of wood, obviously can't be tech

Nnedi: father was cardiovascular surgeon, tell stories about keeping gunshot wound victim alive with his thumb, taught that science not cold, science is a process, you have to work at it, trial and error; father's stories taught that gray area between science & mystical, literally saving lives. also aware of gaps in scientific knowledge, therefore feel comfortable with idea that science and mystical not that different, matter-of-fact acceptance

David: grew up 10 miles from Mexican border, tradition in family that when got sick, go into Mexico; seemed that doctors had acceptance that some things better treated through other processes (one example may have been herbalist, but could be wrong at 12:47 a.m.).

(On Twitter, David says "In MX, drs. refer to shaman")

Rosemary: PK Dick? quote about whether science/magic depends on what kind of explanation primed for.

Naomi: a lot of us invested in idea that it is mechanical, go to dr, want to feel that is A Right Answer that will fix problem

(something I missed)

Rosemary: magic systems sometimes not accessible to all.

Naomi: yet feel in IT, are lot of systems where guru knows how system works and no-one else allowed to touch! Erik: and sometimes do same thing and get different results. David: IT people cultivate air of mystery about their jobs.

Naomi: brings to part of description re: specialized, secret abilities, fields of knowledge, as barriers & means of cultural control. Erik: returns to David, Rosemary comments on surveillance state: access to that information critical, and via science, so magic becomes potent counter to that.

David: intersectionality important: science, tech, not actually unbiased and objective; access to learning limited in first place for marginalized; also reception if/when can access; may be reason for people to turn more to mystical

Naomi: often find that kind of power of magic = way for someone outside social order to break into, using class ex. in UPROOTED

Nnedi: secrecy, science, magic: Henrietta Lacks: one story that embodies all of this (there's an HBO show about her); when writing BOOK OF PHOENIX, was thinking a lot about her when created character, find fascinating that dealing w/mystical & scientific in story, continuing immortality via cells

audience (may be relevant that was wheelchair user): do we think that tech replaces us, and magic augments us? says last Temeraire book has really unsettling moment when one dragon points out forthcoming Industrial Revolution will make dragons obsolete; but that's not magic v tech, that's humans (me: fuck capitalism)

Rosemary: doesn't find support for idea that tech will turn people into replaceable meat; audience member, yes, but the fear and anxiety (are real, I think). panel: may stem from aspects of automation, capitalism as tech

audience: Dresden Files, lot of stories treat tech & magic as opposing or mutually exclusive; Erik thinks partly hardboiled hard-luck flavor

audience: suggests Laundry Files as counter-example (see also Stross' list of books that share some aspects, including obvious Rivers of London (to my surprise, not mentioned at all))

audience: concerns about treatment of science in conversation, science is about looking to experts for consensus, all levels of knowledge (I don't know what that last phrase referred to now)

Nnedi: is idea that science has the answers, that we know. Always like to remind people that science isn't perfect, which is what makes it science

Rosemary, panel: science is method, process. Naomi: yes, but audience comment is true of way we experience science

David: and how science is deployed

Erik: "of course science doesn't have all the answers. When it does, it will stop." -- a stand-up comic

audience: in context of literary devices, feels like put scientific veneer for particular kind of authority, magical for (other effect) David: two levels (paraphrase strongly) what depth of worldbuilding/craft, and how do I want to see worldview reflected in my work?

audience: how do your works use scientific method WRT magic? ex: UPROOTED has experiments, repeatable results for magic

Naomi: trained as scientist, use sci. method as way to approach life, so in UPROOTED, tension is that one kind of magic is very repeatable and one is organic, instinctive, artistic, and not so scripted. Both magic, but trying to bring emotional connotations of science into 1st

Rosemary: Steerswoman series is basically about scientific method and epistemology

David: story in Apex, shapeshifter gives birth to triplets while in animal form, shaman has to figure out way to bring babies to human form, so kind of fun to have that experimenting, refining in stories

audience asks Nnedi to talk about Binti through lens of conversation, seems like SF novel w/magic

Nnedi: talking about v difficult, hard to hold magnifying glass up and deconstruct in very--scientific way! Example came up with mathematical state that character goes into (treeing), b/c obsessed with math & fractals, then mystical aspect of it, in tennis use "treeing" when playing & could do no wrong, everything was perfect. so that's where idea came from of falling into trance where could see everything clearly, with fractals and math in everything

And that was the end.

Just under the wire before 1 a.m., go me!
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