Monday, March 6, 2017

Mythical Monday #68 - Where Weird Science Meets the Heroes Journey

Art work by: @Burntlaughter on Twitter

It seems there are many books influenced by or based on Myths and Mythological Beings.

There are many different Mythology's and Mythological Beings recorded. Some are very popular and well known, others not so much. There are many similar beings, yet different depending on the culture it’s based in.  The definition of Myth covers about anything in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy realm to me.

I’ve invited authors to share briefly the Mythological being or Myth that influenced their character(s) or story, or what their character(s) are based on influencing their books.  Hosting here, one author and being or myth per week.

Where Weird Science Meets the Heroes Journey

There's a place where the boundaries of science and fantasy blur. Where the more you study one aspect of something, the less you know about the rest of it. Where something can be two things at once. Where simply observing what is happening changes the outcome. Where an object on one side of an impenetrable barrier can suddenly be on the other side. Where you can entangle two things and once they are separated, no matter how far apart, doing something to one instantly affects the other.

It's called quantum mechanics, describing actions at the smallest scale of matter. Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle is part of it. Light photons are both particles and waves. The Observer Effect changes what is observed. Tunneling can cause a particle to vanish from one side of that impenetrable barrier and appear on the other side. Entanglement links two particles somehow, instantly communicating changes in one to the other.

Einstein didn't like the quantum world, because it was so random and weird. Not neatly ordered like Einstein's universe, where math could work everything out in advance and predict outcomes. Einstein spent the last part of his life trying to prove it wasn't right, arguing that "God does not play at dice." The physicist Niels Bohr responded that he wished Einstein would "stop telling God what to do."

We observe these things in experiments, but we have no idea why they work the way they do. How can something be both a particle and a wave, and how can a single particle interfere with itself as if it formed many waves? Einstein labeled entanglement "spooky action at a distance," pointing out that there wasn't any explanation for what was happening. We know it happens. We don't know how. We do know that the quantum world is a place of probabilities, in which even an electron doesn't occupy any particular spot, just a sphere of probable places it can be all at once.

But it's bigger than even that. Quantum mechanics tells us that nothing is real. Honest. It says exactly that. One of the big foundations of modern science declares that everything is wave functions and probabilities, a universe of illusions that our senses pretend to see and understand. Sounds like fantasy, doesn't it?

What does that have to do with writing fantasy? Fantasy portrays things happening in the larger world that actually occur in the quantum world, and if quantum mechanics is right (and even Einstein couldn't prove it wrong) the whole universe is just something we create every time we measure something. What if that quantum weirdness could somehow could be generated on a much larger scale and play out in the larger world, occasionally causing, say, an object to be somewhere else than where it should be? To link two people far from each other so one is aware of what happens to the other? To make things that are obviously this also be that at the same time?

Thinking about that is one of the things that led to my Pillars of Reality series, where Mages see the world about them as an illusion. And if that world is made up of illusions, why can't other illusions be created for a short time? The illusion of a door in the illusion of a wall. The illusion of a dragon. Not real, but temporarily just as "real" as the rest of the world. Which is why the Mages say "nothing is real." And why the engineers in that world, the Mechanics who believe in solid objects and reality, don't like Mages very much.

It also led to The Sister Paradox, the story of a teenage boy, an only child, who suddenly finds out he has a sister even though he's never had a sister. She ends up in the wrong world thanks to something like tunneling, where her presence begins to cause problems because her brother is still linked to his non-existent sister. Her world has unicorns and dragons because that's the way everyone sees things there. But she really belongs here, with a brother who has to be convinced that a sword-wielding sister raised by unicorns should be part of his family.

About Author:
Jack Campbell (John G. Hemry) writes the New York Times best-selling Lost Fleet series, the Lost Stars series, and the "steampunk meets high fantasy" Pillars of Reality series. His most recent books are The Sister Paradox, Vanguard (the first book in The Genesis Fleet), and Daughter of Dragons.

Find Author:

Fans of the Lost Fleet

Amazon author page

Author Site

Purchase The Sister Paradox:
Barnes & Nobles

Publisher's Weekly review


  1. Oh I like science based fantasy. Surprisingly I have read very few that felt solid in science. Curious about this one now.

  2. I love it when these aspects are successfully fused - The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin is an outstanding example - as is Adrian Tchaikovsky's Spiderlight.


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