Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Magic And Science

A good fantasy author writes logically and plausibly about a familiar idea. For example, if giants existed, what would they be like? In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts And Three Lions (London, 1977):

"...we of the Great Folk sit in our halls throughout the endless winter night of our homeland year after year, century after century, and pass the time with contest of skill. Above all are we fond of riddles. It were worth my while to let you pass, could you give me three new ones of which I cannot answer two, that I may use them in turn." (p. 75)

- which explains why a giant at a bridge asks a traveller three riddles.

Of course, Anderson applies scientific principles. A fire breathing dragon retreats when a gallon of water is thrown into his mouth, generating steam in his hot interior. A giant is squat and short-legged in proportion to height because he needs enough cross section to bear his weight. Gold stolen from a sun-striken giant is cursed because, when carbon becomes silicon, there are radioactive isotopes. Maybe it is the actintic radiation in sunlight that adversely affects Middle Worlders?

Since I am still rereading Three Hearts..., I will look out for any further scientific rationalisations.

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