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  • Karina Sokulski

Pseudoscience in Fantasy


As I continue trudging on through my first manuscript for my fantasy-horror genre project, I've come into an interesting discovery in my world building. After days of grasping at the straws of mythological lore (and yes, grasping because no productive research was done) I found myself at a stalemate. Here are the facts: my world has quickly zeroed in on an intense need for researching alchemy, and I've been looking in the wrong place to do it.

I spent so much time researching mythology from the cultures relevant to the ones I've based my characters on, achieving very little progress on how to pull off the incredible things I wanted to. This was especially frustrating when this stalemate was still occurring after my attendance to the speculative fiction panel as a fellow panelist. I heard many other talented authors on this panel discuss the differences of magic, magic science and dozens of other variants of fantastical elements that can be found in the fantasy and sci-fi genres. So here I am, wracking my brain the next day wondering, how can I still be stuck after learning about all of this knowledge that is encouragingly related to what has me so stuck?

I was ready to throw in the towel-yet again-and try the next day when my lovely husband comes in and, with his attractive chortle tells me, "no wonder you're having so much trouble with research. Alchemy isn't magic or mythology. It's Pseudoscience."

This would have been the appropriate time for me to face-palm so hard my forehead would have changed colors, but instead I chose to be mind blown.

(Honest representation of mind-blown moment)

Well. What a lovely little term this is. I should have known this term a lot earlier in life, but hey, now my research has become all the more easy. I'll happily welcome the relief that comes with it.

Which of course, brings me to the very purpose of this post. Of all the exploration we did of science and magic blending int he genres of fantasy and sci-fi, pseudoscience was never mentioned. Of course, thinking back, it was totally implied. I'm wiser now, but intend to type an opportunity to share this information I've learned about the term and how it can be used in writing.

Let's begin tackling this with a definition:

Pseudoscience is a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method.

You know how many talented authors say that you really don't need to waste time with explaining how your world has magic (or exceptionally futuristic sci-fi tech)? Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to disagree with them here. You really don't. It's just, I'm me, and me wants to write magical systems that look deceivingly scientific. In other words, I want to overly complicate my life but feel ridiculously proud when I pull it off. That's the hope anyway.

For those who want to tackle the same challenge I am, there is a plethora of examples of pseudoscience out there. Alchemy in a fantasy world is the one I'm tackling but many others exist out there, very commonly in Hollywood nowadays too. The astrological signs are a huge one, being that we practically utilize the signs as labels for character tropes. Another example involves the ever famous paranormal investigate tool, Electronic Voice Phenomenon (or EVP) that gets used so constantly in any horror story that focuses in on the paranormal.

The list goes on and on, but I've found its definitely not a bad place to search for a nugget or two of inspiration. I know I'll be going down a few lists as soon as my time frees up from the research that is about to recommence.

#pseudoscienceinfantasy #research #fantasy #writing #creativewriting