I want to build a world, probably modern, basing most of the built world on Earth, just with different countries, history, etc.

What I would like is to find a way to give people their powers, but without basing in Magic, the will of Fate, Gods, and not delving incredibly into any particular science.

Could this possibly work?


closed as primarily opinion-based by JBH, Cort Ammon, Cadence, Blade Wraith, Separatrix Sep 3 '18 at 11:24

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    $\begingroup$ Please read our meta posts about high concept questions and open-ended questions. The problem with questions like this is they are not objective and you've provided no criteria for judging a best answer. Please remember that SE is not a discussion forum. $\endgroup$ – JBH Sep 3 '18 at 4:46
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    $\begingroup$ Wolfgang, by definition, "supernatural abilities" are those granted by deities, fate, magic, etc. Are you asking about "garden variety" superpowers (for example, Superman and Spiderman have super powers, but they aren't supernatural)? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Sep 3 '18 at 4:46
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    $\begingroup$ Why can't people just be Super? The incredibles two managed to incorporate supers without having to explain how people have super powers and its done amazingly and been very well received by audiences. Otherwise, your going to have to throw in magic words like genes, radiation or struck by lightning in there. $\endgroup$ – Shadowzee Sep 3 '18 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn I suppose you could put it that way. $\endgroup$ – Wolfgang Yharnum Sep 3 '18 at 5:15
  • $\begingroup$ Could you give us more details about what means "super natural" to you? $\endgroup$ – Hedufigo Sep 3 '18 at 10:36

It depends on what you mean. You will have to use magic or science as the basis for superpowers, but that doesn't mean you have to be superdetailed about either one. And it's kind of a false-choice, anyway.

By "powers" I'm assuming you mean special abilities that we would consider fantastical. E.g. making things move with your mind, or walking through walls.

There's a lot that we would have once considered to be magical, like you staring into a glowing box, hallucinating words based on a series of pixels generated by someone half a continent away. But that's what you're doing right now.

The old axiom of "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistiguishable from magic" is absolutely true. Even the fantastical and magical are actions and technologies that are based on different framework. In a world of magic, the process of bartering with gods, or using your aura, or harnessing unobtanium is a science, that we simply call magic because it operates on a totally seperate set of physics.

The digging into science bit is simply what that looks like with our set of physics, and in our universe.

By definition you'd either have to deal with the fantastical in our world (science), or in another world with different rules (magic).

How far you delve into that science is totally up to you, and generally you'd only want to delve as deep as the reader needs. Does the reader need to actually see my back-end calculations on the Aetheric Tables? No. They need to know that my MC doesn't have the magic juice to pull down a skyscraper with their mind. I only explain to them just enough so they understand what is and isn't possible, so the plot and challenges can be contextualized and have real stakes and comprehensible, satisfying, solutions.

You're overthinking this, homie. Start with the heart of your art, and build out whatever magic, or tech, or fairies help you tell that story, and keep it as simple as you can.

  • $\begingroup$ In this world, everybody 'thinks' or 'believes' that their powers are miracles of Gods or Demons. But in actuality, there are no Gods, or Demons, or magical fairies. Just powers based from almost anything. Your breakdown is immensely helpful, and I'm not entirely opposed to science-based explanations. Or simply science-fiction powers, using B.S. science to explain something. $\endgroup$ – Wolfgang Yharnum Sep 3 '18 at 5:21
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    $\begingroup$ @WolfgangYharnum In most cases, BS science is more suspension-of-disbelief-breaking (and more annoying to people who know even an educated layman's level of the relevant science) than no explanation at all. In most cases, you can just not explain it. If you have to explain it, use completely invented words for your technobabble. Don't resort to saying "quantum" without knowing what it means (or, worse, knowingly misusing it) unless absolutely necessary. $\endgroup$ – abarnert Sep 3 '18 at 5:46
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    $\begingroup$ @abarnert I see. So, I can be "scientific", without actually being scientific. Or am I missing something? $\endgroup$ – Wolfgang Yharnum Sep 7 '18 at 6:07
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    $\begingroup$ @WolfgangYharnum Yeah, that's about it. If you're Robert Forward or Greg Egan or something, and can actually be scientific, that's great, but most SF authors aren't. $\endgroup$ – abarnert Sep 7 '18 at 17:17

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